Hell No, We Won’t Go – Franklin Farmer
The judge looked down from his bench at the and sternly read the sentence, his cold steel grey eyes stared into each girl’s eyes. “Disturbing the peace: 60 days in the county reformatory for women, we are not going to tolerate any of these so-called peace demonstrations here in this county.” Then he said, “Matron remove the prisoners”.
The prisoners were four college girls, hardly hardened criminals or radicals who were arrested at the county draft board. They knew that their act might well land them in jail, but they hadn’t thought it would mean spending their summer in jail. They looked at each other in shock as the matrons handcuffed them and led them to the waiting van.
“Let’s go, let’s get it moving, we have to make a stop before we check you gals in.” Grace, the eldest and the leader of the campus committee to end the war, started to cry as she led the girls out of the courtroom. The other girls soon lost their composure as the realized that they would be in jail for the summer.
The matron, a heavy masculine woman, said, “Well, we have to make a stop before we get to your new home, we have a real surprise for y’all.” Grace and the other girls already demoralized by the sentence and the humiliating experience of the arrest could hardly imagine what was in store for them.
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The girls sat on the hard steel benches in the back of the enclosed van as they bounced across the dirt roads leading out of town. As the van rolled to a stop, the matron said “O.K. gals, who’s gonna be first? How about you, Joan Baez,” looking at Grace, whose long straight black hair framed her dark face. “Then you, blondie,” looking at Dawn, who thick straight honey blond hair hung down to her slim waist. “Then you red,” as she looked at Jess, her flaming red hair in a thick plait hanging halfway to her waist. “Then you, you squaw,” as she looked at Wendy, a dark skinned half Indian/half black girl whose black hair hung like a black blanket on her slim shoulders. Then the matron attached a chain to their handcuffs and opened the van door.
The sign over the door read “HENRY’S BARBERSHOP”. The matron led her charges into the empty barbershop. A middle-aged black man in a white jacket said, “They called from the reformatory, and told me y’all was coming. Let’s get started.” The matron said, “Here’s your surprise, when you leave here you’ll look like Marines.” The girls looked at each other with confusion. What did she mean?
“OK, you, into the chair!” and with that she literally lifted Grace off her feet. Grace was in shock as she was hoisted into the barber chair. The barber wrapped a sanex around her neck as he lifted up her thick mane. The matron said, “Henry, you know what to do.” The girls who were awaiting their turn in the chair tried to avert their eyes as their comrade was prepared for her ordeal. Henry said, “Don’t worry, missy, it’ll grow back when you get out, but you’ll be much better without it in jail.” With that he turned on the clippers and lifted up Grace’s mane. With no further ceremony he pushed the clippers up her neck all the way to her forehead. A long black lock dropped onto the cape and Grace let out a blood-curdling scream. The matron said, “Take it easy,” as she held the trembling girl in the chair. Henry’s clippers cut swath after swath exposing more and more pale scalp with each pass. As Grace’s head of hair was slowly and methodically reduced to a fine fuzz. Henry said to the matron, “Hold her head still so I can finish up. With that he removed the guard and shaved her scalp bald. The matron said, “Henry that’s fine,” as she ran her hand over Grace’s scalp. Henry finished up with the clippers, leaving Grace’s scalp completely bald. Grace opened her eyes and looked at her egg-shaped head in the mirror. She was in shock.
The matron said, “Next!” as she grabbed Dawn. “OK, blondie, no surprise for you, get into the chair.” Dawn sobbed and slowly got into the chair. Henry draped the cape over her and wrapped a sanex around her neck. Then he turned on his hungry clippers and attacked her wavy blond locks. Henry was enjoying his work, a subtle smile came over his face as he let a thick lock drop onto the cape. Dawn writhed in the chair and sobbed inaudibly. Henry continued clipping as lock after lock hit the cape. Within 10 minutes and numerous passes of the clippers, Dawn’s hair lay in the cape. Henry continued to shave her scalp bald. The matron looked at Jess, and said, “You’re next Red.”
Jess tried to run out the door. The matron grabbed her by her hair and screamed, “Get in the chair, goddamn you or I’ll shave you bald every day with my razor.” With that the matron pushed her into the chair, and said to Henry, “Take your time with this one”. Jess’s eyes were clenched shut as Henry wrapped the sanex around her neck and draped the cape over her shoulders. Henry brought the clippers up to the nape of her neck. Taking a firm grip on her head he pushed the clippers up to her forehead, leaving a swath of fuzz in its path. Buzz, buzz back and forth across her scalp. Each stroke dropped thick red locks on the cape and the floor below the chair. Henry unceremoniously held her head as she struggled. The mound of hair on the floor was almost three feet high. Jess’s struggles were to no avail as Henry removed the guard from the clippers and shaved off the red down that covered her well formed head.
Wendy slumped down into the waiting chair, trying somehow to disappear, when the matron yelled “Next, that’s you.” Wendy looked down at the pile of shorn hair on the floor and after a few sobs got into the chair without assistance. Henry surveyed his handiwork and said to the matron, “Just as clean as a baby’s ass and no razor.” The matron said, “Yeah Henry, you do a good job, we’re gonna bring those whores from the roadhouse in tomorrow, the judge wants to put them out of business and nobody wants a bald whore.”
Henry wrapped a sanex around Wendy’s slim brown neck and draped the cape over her shoulders. Then he held her head forward. Wendy was trembling like a leaf, but offered no resistance as Henry pressed the cold steel clippers to the nape of her neck. As the clippers started to move up her head she screamed, “No, No, No!” Henry proceeded unfazed, starting from the back of her head and moving to the bangs, pass after pass exposing swath after swath of brown scalp. Her sobs become more and more muted as the pile of shorn hair on the cape grew. Then after reducing the thick head of hair to stubble, Henry removed the guard from the clippers and buzzed the remaining black fuzz from Wendy’s scalp leaving it completely bald. “Now there we go, how’s that?” The matron said, “All right, gals, for the next 60 days you are guests of the county, if you give me any shit you’ll be right back here.” As they shuffled out the door, the matron said to Henry, “See you tomorrow afternoon, I bet you have a crowd for the roadhouse girls, every wife in town will want to watch those haircuts, some may even give you a hand.”