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Janey and I grew up like sister and brother.  Her family lived half a mile down the road from our place which made us next door neighbors.  Janey’s father, Big Bud Collins, ran nearly five hundred head of prime Charolais cattle on his twenty-five hundred acre ranch.  Our spread was strictly small potatoes-only a hundred acres.  Although Dad liked to pretend he was a cattleman, like the big shots in our small town, if it wasn’t for the barbershop, we would have been on welfare.  When he was in the service, Dad learned how to cut hair and that’s how he kept our family fed. 

Janey’s mother, Miss Ellen-everybody called her that-and my mother delivered us on the same day back in 1959.  One of my earliest memories is the big birthday party Miss Ellen threw for the two of us when we turned four years old.  She had a special birthday cake made at Buster’s Bakery in town.  One half said "Jimmy" in white letters spread across bright blue icing; the lettering on other side spelled "Janey" over pink icing.  My side had four candles and Janey’s had four more.  After we blew out the candles, everyone asked, "What did you wish for?"

Janey spoke first: "I wished for a pony that can run fast as the wind."

"What about you, Jimmy?  What did you wish for?" they called.

"I wished that Janey would let me ride on her pony."  Everyone laughed and thought my answer was real cute, but I was just being realistic.  Even at that young age I realized that my folks could never afford to buy a pony.  Catching a ride on Janey’s pony was the best I could hope for.

And that’s just the way it happened too.  Before she was six, Janey had a buckskin mare named "Buttermilk" just like the horse Dale Evans rode on TV.  It wasn’t long before she was galloping all over the ranch.  Sometimes she let me ride Buttermilk alone, but usually I hopped on behind Janey and held tight around her waist.  She flew across the fields as we pretended to be pioneers escaping from hostile Comanches.  After we saw the young Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet, we imagined we were riding in the Derby. 

I spent a lot of time with Janey’s dark red hair bouncing in my face.  When we were young she wore it long, usually in two pigtails that hung to the middle of her back.  Sometimes she let me undo her braids and brush her silky locks.  As we got older she taught me how to weave French braids, the best way to gather up a pony tail, and how to fix a French twist.  "Jimmy, what do you want to be when you grow up?" she asked one day.

"I dunno," I answered honestly.  I hadn’t given it a thought.

"You should be a barber like your dad.  You’re really good with hair," she said.  I couldn’t find the words to tell her that hers was the only hair I longed to touch.

Janey was a tomboy and a natural athlete.  She ran faster and hit a baseball farther than I could.  She held her breath under water longer and when we wrestled, she usually wound up on top.  I never envied her talent; I just accepted her superiority as part of the natural order of things, just like her folks were well off and mine weren’t.  I just was happy that she was my best friend. 

During the school year we rode the bus into San Angelo with all the other country kids to attend Jim Bowie Elementary School.  Janey won top prizes in school just like she did in barrel racing competitions-she always got A’s.  I got mostly B’s and C’s.

Our friendship began to change toward the end of sixth grade.  That was the year Janey shot up five inches and began to develop breasts.  She wasn’t big-breasted, but definitely needed a training bra.  Miss Ellen insisted that she stop wearing blue jeans to school and start wearing dresses.  That summer she also got her hair cut.  I suppose her haircut was connected with developing breasts and wearing dresses.  Now that she was becoming a young lady, Miss Ellen decided she needed a more feminine hairstyle.

One August afternoon about a week before the start of school Janey rode up to our house on her new quarter horse, Lightning.  Usually she wore a cowgirl hat while riding, but today she was bareheaded.  From half a mile away I could see that her hair was different, it bounced around her head in a cluster of tight curls.  I was shocked.  Usually we shared everything, but she had told me nothing about an impending haircut. 

Janey reined to a stop at our porch and hopped down in front of me.  "You got your hair cut," I cried in dismay.  Somehow I knew that her curled hair signaled a change in our relationship.

"Yes, and I got a permanent wave too.  Mom took me into the beauty salon this morning.  She says it makes me look grown up."

Even at the tender age of eleven I knew that a man was supposed to compliment a woman whenever she appears with a new hairdo.  "It looks real nice, I guess," I stammered half-heartedly.

Janey always could spot my lies a mile away.  "That’s not what you really think, is it, Jimmy?"

I had to admit she was right.  "I think it looks yucky; and it smells bad too," I blurted out.

"The smell is from the chemicals they use to make it curl.  Mom says it will go away in a day or two."

"Why did you do it Janey?" I cried. 

"It was Mom’s idea.  She said I was time I stopped looking like a tomboy."

"Does this mean we can’t be best friends anymore?" I asked.

"Of course not, silly.  You’ll always be my best friend, Jimmy."

But things were different after that.  We still rode the school bus together, but Janey sat with a bunch of her girl friends.  They were the ones who urged her to try out for the junior high cheer leading squad.  Like everything else she tried, Janey excelled at cheering.  In ninth grade she was elected captain of the cheer team.  On Fridays in the fall she wore her blue and orange uniform to school.  The short skirt showed off her shapely legs and the tight-fitting sweater revealed her perky breasts.  Her hair was longer now, hanging past her shoulders.  Thankfully, the perm had grown out and she never got another one.

In my dreams I wished that I was one of the football stars that Janey cheered for, but I was too scrawny to even think about trying out for the team.  Besides, I had to help Dad at the shop after school.  He kept me busy sweeping the floor, washing windows, and carrying deposits to the bank before closing time.  Many evenings, as we drove back home, Dad told me how he hoped I would take over the business when he was ready to retire.  I always made the same joking reply: "You’ve got a lot of years left, Dad.  You’ll probably be cutting hair when you’re ninety."  I knew how much he counted on me following in his footsteps, but being a barber was the last occupation I wanted to follow.

In high school Janey and I continued to be close friends.  Most evenings we talked on the phone for half an hour or so, exchanging answers for homework assignments, making snide comments about our teachers, and gossiping about whom of our classmates was dating whom.  In our sophomore year Janey b
egan asking me about Bobby Briscoe, the junior quarterback for the Central High Bobcats.  Did I think he was the best player on the team?  Would he win a scholarship to play at the University of Texas?  Did I think he was handsome?  It wasn’t hard to tell she was infatuated with Bobby, and by the beginning of our junior year she was wearing his class ring. 

I wish I could say that Bobby was a dumb jock who didn’t deserve a girl as wonderful as Janey, but that would be a lie.  In addition to being a superb three-sport athlete, Bobby was intelligent, good-looking, and a decent human being.  All the other guys at school called me "Squirt" or "Shorty" because of my underdeveloped physique; Bobby always called me "Jimbo" and made me feel like his trusted pal.  Because I was Janey’s oldest friend, he included me in their plans.  At Janey’s urging, I began dating her best girlfriend, Mary Alice Shuefelt.  Mary Alice wasn’t nearly as talented or beautiful as Janey, but she had a good personality and seemed to like me.  Mostly, I went out with Mary Alice so I could be close to Janey.  I got my growth spurt late, but by seventeen I was nearly as tall as Bobby.  He outweighed me by fifty pounds, but at last people stopped calling me "Squirt."

Bobby did win a scholarship to UT and every Saturday there was a home game, Janey drove to Austin with her parents to see him play.  He didn’t see much action as a freshman, but Longhorn fans agreed he had a good chance to play regularly the following year after the star quarterback graduated.  Of course, there never was any doubt what Janey would do after high school-she would enroll at Texas, join a sorority, and try out for the cheer leading squad.  Going to the university was out of the question for me.  I spent a couple of semesters at San Angelo State, but never really fit in with the college crowd.  I got a summer job on a construction crew; the money was good and that fall I decided that a college education would be wasted on me.  I bought a used red Camaro and spent Saturday nights drinking beer and driving too fast.  I still saw Mary Alice who worked as a medical technician at the San Angelo Community Medical Center.  We weren’t really in love, just comfortable around each other.

When Mary Alice told me she was three months pregnant, I panicked.  I was only twenty-one and not ready to be a husband or a father.  I briefly thought about leaving town, but my folks insisted that I do the honorable thing.  I didn’t really have much choice-if I wanted to stay in town, I had to marry Mary Alice.  The wedding was a small affair at the Methodist church, mostly my family and hers plus a few high school friends.  Janey couldn’t make the ceremony-there was a big game that weekend-but she sent us a silver serving dish as a wedding gift and a card wishing us a "lifetime of happiness."  Mom and Dad gave us a check to cover the down payment a small two-bedroom house, not far from the railroad tracks, and we began fixing a room for the baby.

Mary Alice was six months pregnant with our second child when Dad had his heart attack.  I was out of work at the time; there weren’t many construction jobs that year.  We were barely getting by on my wife’s earnings and our meager savings, but we knew that wouldn’t last.  It was Mom who insisted that I take over the barber shop.  "Jimmy, I know it’s not a job that you like and the money ain’t great, but the work is steady-people always need their hair cut.  When your dad is feeling better you can go back to construction work or do whatever else it is you want to do."  Reluctantly, I agreed to take his place.  Dad had begun teaching me how to cut hair soon as I was tall enough to reach the customers’ heads, and I knew most of his regulars from my years working in the shop after school.  The transition from the building trades to barbering was easy; there was a sense of inevitability when I put on the white barber’s smock and opened the shop door that first Monday morning.  Dad came back a couple of times to check on me, but his health steadily declined and before six months had passed we buried him.  At the ripe old age of twenty-four I had a wife, two kids, a mortgage, a widowed mother to support, and a small business to manage.  I had to grow up in a hurry.  Most weeks I worked Monday to Saturday from eight in the morning to six in the evening.  For one week in August the shop was closed for vacation; for the other fifty-one weeks, I was cutting hair.

Meanwhile, Janey was headed for bigger things.  She dropped by the house when she came home for vacations to visit with Mary Alice and see how much the kids had grown.  By that time she and Bobby were engaged.  Bobby never quite had the great football career everyone had predicted for him.  He spent most of his four years as the back-up quarterback-there always was another guy with a stronger arm or a more accurate delivery.  He did start two games in his senior year when the star was out with an injured knee, but his dream of playing for a the Dallas Cowboys never happened. 

Everyone in San Angelo expected that Bobby would become a high school coach like his dad, but he surprised us by joining the Marine Corps.  Janey explained that Bobby had plans to enter politics; an outstanding military record was a big asset for any Texas politician.  So was a beautiful, intelligent wife.  It seemed like the entire town was invited to their wedding.  Bobby looked more handsome than ever in his Marine dress uniform, but Janey stole the show.  The tight-fitting satin wedding gown she wore highlighted her hourglass figure.  It was the age when Farrah Fawcett set the standard for feminine beauty, and Janey’s auburn hair was styled in a perfect imitation of the actress’s famous style, with fat waves cascading down her back.  I sat next to Mary Alice in my cheap suit at the back of the First Baptist Church, looking at this dazzling couple, and marveling at the different roads we were traveling.

We didn’t see much of Janey after that.  She finished her senior year at UT and then followed Bobby to a succession of military bases until he completed his three-year hitch.  The next thing we heard, Bobby had finished his training with the Texas Rangers and was assigned to rural postings around the state. In every community where they lived Janey found a job teaching elementary school.  We read in the Standard-Times how Bobby received a commendation for bravery for subduing a gunman who robbed a liquor store.  I wasn’t surprised.  If anyone was cut out to be a Ranger, it was Bobby Briscoe.

Twelve years after his last game for the Longhorns Bobby and Janey moved back to town.  George Blaine, who had been sheriff for twenty years, announced his retirement and the gossip around the barber shop was that he had picked the former quarterback as his successor.  Everyone in town knew that Big Bud, Janey’s father, was one of Blaine’s strongest backers.  Bobby apparently learned about the sheriff’s plans months before anyone else and, by the time the news reached the public, he was well positioned to run for the office.  Tall and handsome, a star athlete with a sterling military record and law enforcement experience with the state’s legendary police force-the other candidates didn’t have a chance.  Bobby won the election in a landslide and at thirty-six became the youngest sheriff in the state of Texas.

We saw Janey around town on a regular basis n
ow.  She taught second grade at Jim Bowie Elementary School, the same one we attended twenty-five years earlier.  In addition, she served on the Library Board and the steering committee of the United Way campaign.  She and Bobby built a modern ranch house on ten acres her father gave them as a wedding gift.  Everyone in town expected the perfect couple to start making babies, but none came-they were too busy, I guessed.  My mother said she saw Janey out riding nearly every day when the weather was decent.  Occasionally she waved to me as she strode down the sidewalk in front of my shop.  She always remembered my girls’ birthdays, but we no longer traveled in the same social circles.

I didn’t see much of Janey until Mary Alice was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I don’t know how she found out so quickly, but she was the first friend who came to the house while we were still struggling with the news.  "Anything you need, just let me know," she offered and we took her at her word.  Whenever my wife had to go to Dallas for chemotherapy, we dropped off the kids with Janey and Bobby.  The girls loved visiting their Aunt Janey.  She taught them to ride and gave each one a pet kitten.

Despite the treatments, Mary Alice’s cancer spread rapidly.  Soon we realized she only had a few weeks to live.  Janey came every day after school and sat with Mary Alice so I could get some relief.  During her last days Mary Alice shared her thoughts with me.  "Jimmy, you’ve always been a good husband to me and a good father to the girls and I love you for that.  I know you love Janey better than me, but we can’t always have what we want."  I started to protest, but she raised her finger to silence me.  "Shhh, Jimmy.  You know I’m right.  Just promise me you won’t stay single after I’m gone.  Our girls need a mama and you need a wife." 

It’s a sad day when you bury your spouse, especially when she is thirty-six years old and you have two daughters who are beginning to blossom into young women.  I sold our house in town and moved the girls out to the country to live with my mom.  She needed my help keeping up the place and loved having her granddaughters under her roof.  Living at the old homestead brought me back in regular contact with Janey and Bobby.  Sometimes when Bobby was out on patrol, Janey rode by the house and we chatted like we did when we were school kids.  We talked about nearly everything.  Janey told me that she and Bobby were trying to get pregnant, but he had a low sperm count.  "Don’t you dare breathe a word about this to anyone," she warned, but she knew her secret was safe with.  Six months after Mary Alice’s funeral Janey started arranging dates for me with some of the single women she knew in town.  Somehow, none of them worked out.  "You’re just so fussy, Jimmy," she scolded.  "Some day you’ll find another love."  I couldn’t tell her that the great love of my life was sitting beside me.

Being sheriff of Tom Green County is not the most difficult law enforcement job in the state of Texas.  San Angelo has no serious crime to speak of.  There are the usual Saturday night fisticuffs between drunken college students the Lone Star bar near the campus, a lot of driving while intoxicated, a few stolen trucks, and occasional reports of cattle rustling from the country, but nothing that requires a large police force or modern investigative methods.  That’s why the news of Bobby’s murder came as such a shock.

Janey was the first one to suspect something was wrong.  When Bobby did not return from his usual evening patrol she grew worried.  By midnight she was alarmed enough to call Charlie Robertson, the chief deputy.  Charlie assured her that everything was fine; Bobby probably was taking a drunk to the rehab hospital in Waco.  At two o’clock she called the office again.  This time Charlie promised that he would check the route Bobby usually followed.  Two hours later Charlie called to report that he had found Bobby out in the western part of the county by the side of the road next to his car with a bullet in his head.

San Angelo has never seen a commotion like the mob that descended on us that day-television stations from Austin, Abilene, and Dallas sent camera crews; Texas Rangers and a team of FBI agents arrived to take charge of the investigation.  It seemed that everyone wanted to find the culprits who murdered the popular young sheriff.  People could talk about nothing else.  Because Bobby’s gun was still in its holster, most folks agreed that he never realized that he was in danger.  Many of my customers thought that the murder was connected with drugs, but, aside from a few potheads cultivating small marijuana patches, there wasn’t much of a problem with illegal drugs in Tom Green County.  We were stumped and the various police agencies investigating the murder didn’t seem to be faring much better.

None of the local churches was large enough to accommodate the horde of mourners who came for Bobby’s funeral, so the Central High School gymnasium was used for the service.  Texas Rangers, sheriffs, and police chiefs from across Texas and neighboring states came to pay their respects.  The lieutenant governor joined the procession.  A Marine honor guard escorted the flag draped coffin.  I arrived at the gym two hours early to find a seat near the center aisle.  Janey sat in the front row flanked by her parents and Bobby’s folks.  Even with her face covered by a black veil, she was the most beautiful woman in the building.  Everyone wondered what she would do now.  No one ever guessed that she would be our next sheriff.

On a slow Wednesday afternoon, one month after the funeral, I was sitting in my shop, half asleep, when the jangling bell above my door startled me awake.  I was astonished to see Janey striding toward me.

"Wake up, sleepyhead," she called in the same teasing voice she used when we were much younger.

"Janey, what are you doing here?" I stammered.

"You look surprised," she observed.

"I am," I confessed.

"Well, the thirty-day official mourning period was over yesterday.  It’s time to get to work," she announced.

"I don’t understand.  What do you mean?"

"It’s time to find the bastards who murdered my husband."

"Isn’t that the sheriff’s job?" I protested.

"Come on, Jimmy," she chided.  "You know as well as I do that Charlie Robertson wouldn’t recognize a clue if one smacked him in the face.  Don’t get me wrong.  He’s as loyal as a hound dog and just as brave.  If I was going to arrest a drunken cowboy, I’d want Charlie by my side.  But an investigator he is not."  I had to agree.  We had gone to school with Charlie since kindergarten.  He was the dumbest kid in the class and also the biggest, so teachers were reluctant to fail him.  Each year they passed on their problem student to the next grade.  By the time he got to high school he was hopelessly behind the rest of the class.  If Lizzie Cunningham had not written all of his term papers, he never would have graduated.  Still, Bobby hired him as his chief deputy, partly out of a friendship forged during their football playing days, and partly because no one wanted to
tangle with this bear of a man.

"So what do you plan to do?" I asked.

"I’m going to run for sheriff," she announced in a clear, calm voice.  Charlie was filling the Bobby’s office on a temporary basis, but state law required that a special election be held to fill the vacancy.

"Did I hear you right?  You want to run for sheriff?  That’s crazy."

"What’s so crazy about it?  I know at least as much about being sheriff as Charlie does, and I’m a damn sight smarter.  If we’re going to catch these bastards, it will be brains, not brawn that gets the job done."

"But first you’ve got to get elected," I pointed out.

"And that’s why I came to you," she replied.  "You’re going to be my campaign manager."

"Lawdy, Miss Scarlet, I don’t know nothing about electing sheriffs," I screeched in my best Butterfly McQueen impersonation.

"Don’t sell yourself short, Jimmy.  You know nearly all the men in the county.  You’ve been cutting their hair for ten years now.  And I know most of the women.  If we can persuade even half of them to vote for me, I’ll have the election cinched."

"But are the good people of Tom Green County ready to vote for a woman sheriff?  A female mayor or state representative is one thing, but the sheriff has to be a big, tough guy."

"Well, I admit, it’s not going to be easy, but I owe it to Bobby to give it a try.  Are you with me?"

"You bet, Janey.  I never could say no to you."

We spent the next week building a campaign organization, raising money, and plotting our strategy.  Janey’s dad was a big help with finances.  Big Bud persuaded several of his well-heeled golfing buddies to donate a thousand dollars apiece.  Most of the people who worked to elect Bobby signed on to help Janey, although there were a few defections to Charlie’s side.  We were ready to announce her candidacy at a Thursday afternoon press conference.  That Monday Janey bounced into the shop carrying an armload of posters.  "Look what I’ve got," she proudly announced.  She held up a poster bearing the words, "Let’s finish the job.  Elect Jane Briscoe Sheriff."  Next to the slogan was a large photo of Janey flashing her most brilliant smile.  I studied the poster for a long time.  "What’s the matter?" she asked, sensing something wrong.

"It’s your photo," I answered.

"Why?  What’s wrong with it?  I hired the best portrait photographer in the state.  I think it looks damn good."

"And that’s just the problem," I replied.  "You look too good.  This is the photo to use if you’re running for homecoming queen or Miss Texas, not for sheriff.  The sheriff has to look tough, hard, almost mean."

"Hmmm, I see what you mean," she said thoughtfully.  "I suppose can shoot another photo and run off more posters, and this time I’ll look more serious."

"It’s more than that," I informed her.  "It’s the dress and your hair too.  You’re much too glamorous.  The Farrah Fawcett look is fine for a pin-up, but you need another style for this election."

"I suppose I could pull it back in a bun," she offered.

"That would help," I said without enthusiasm.

"But that’s not what you had in mind, is it, Jimmy?  You never were any good at hiding your feelings.  Why don’t you just tell me what you think?" she demanded.

"Janey, it hurts to say this, but I really think what you need is a different haircut-a no-nonsense cut that’s short enough to convince voters that you’re serious about this election."  I knew how proud Janey was of her stylish hairdo-no woman in San Angelo was more fashion conscious.  I cringed in anticipation of her reaction.

"You want me to chop my hair off? You’ve got to be kidding!"  Janey was shocked, as I knew she would be.  She was upset, but no more than any woman would be when asked to part with her crowning glory.

"Never been more serious, Janey.  I know it’s asking a lot; I’m afraid that’s what it’s going to take."

"Jimmy, I don’t think I can do it.  Cutting my hair would be like amputating a limb.  I can’t tell you how long it took me to get it looking like this.  Bobby loved this style.  He hated women with short hair.  Isn’t there something else I can do?" she pleaded. 

"Look, Janey, whatever you do, I’m behind you all the way," I assured her.  "Just remember that your chances will be a hell of a lot better if you get your hair cut."

When Janey left my shop she seemed dejected and defeated-completely opposite her mood of half an hour earlier.  I hated to see her so dispirited, but, as her campaign manager, I had to give my honest opinion.  She didn’t need to take my advice, but I was duty-bound to tell her. 

It was nearly midnight when my phone rang.  Only one person would call me at that hour-I knew it was Janey.

"Hello Janey," I answered.  "What’s the crisis?"

"No crisis, Jimmy.  Just thought you’d like to know I made an appointment to get my hair cut.  Martha agreed to fit me in first thing tomorrow morning, although she tried to talk me out of it.  Then I’m going to drive straight to Austin and have some new pictures taken-I’ll be looking more serious this time."  Everyone knew Martha Reece, owner of Martha’s Beauty Nook and the town’s favorite hairstylist.  She was responsible for Janey’s Farrah Fawcett locks.  Frankly, I doubted that Martha would give my candidate the major makeover she needed to win the election. 

It was nearly closing time when I spotted Janey’s red Jeep pulling up in front of my shop.  She marched in the door, stood in front of me and twirled around.  "Well, Jimmy, tell me what you think now," she demanded.  "Is this short enough to please you?"

Although her hair was still the same deep auburn shade, she looked like a completely different woman.  The long locks that cascaded past her shoulders were gone, replaced by a cut that ended just below her ears and bared her graceful neck.  Freshly cut bangs covered her forehead.  There was not a hint of a curl or wave.  Her hair had been shaped into a perfect copy of Dorothy Hamill’s famous figure skating wedge.  She still looked beautiful, however, and that was the problem.  She had traded one high fashion look for another.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that this haircut was not enough to change her image.

"Wow!  That’s quite a change," I exclaimed.  "Frankly, I didn’t expect that Martha would cut it that short."

"She didn’t want to, believe me, but I insisted."

"Well, she did a good job," I told her.  "Was it difficult?"

"Yes and no.  I’ve been wearing my hair like this for nearly ten years now, so I’ve grown used to the look.  I really didn’t know if I was going to like t
he result.  When Martha started cutting, I cried like a baby.  I’m glad you weren’t there to see it.  I certainly didn’t look like a tough Texas sheriff sitting there with tears rolling down my cheeks.  But another part of me was eager to make the change.  You see, the Farrah Fawcett look was Bobby’s idea, not mine.  That’s the way he wanted his wife to look.  At first, I enjoyed the favorable comments everyone made, but after a while I got tired of it.  Putting my hair up on those fat rollers every night was a real pain.  I must have used a can of hairspray a week to keep it looking good.  A couple of times I hinted that I wanted to cut my hair-convert to a simpler style-but Bobby wouldn’t hear of it.  So, I was kind of glad when you suggested that I get my hair cut.  It gave me the excuse I had been looking for."

 "But you did it and I’m proud of you," I said, giving her a congratulatory kiss.  To my surprise, she kissed me back.

"Now, let’s win this election," she declared.

Four candidates were running for the post.  Besides Charlie and Janey, there was Brad Foster, a rancher from the northern part of the county, and Dick Bacon, a long-time deputy.  Each candidate had a loyal following and most handicappers agreed that a run-off election would be needed. 

We stayed up late waiting for the results to come in on election night.  As expected, Charlie finished first with thirty-five percent of the vote.  Janey was second with thirty percent.  Foster and Bacon divided the rest of the votes.  We were pretty sure that Foster would endorse Charlie while Bacon would throw his support to Janey.  We needed to come up with a strategy to overcome Charlie’s lead. 

Five of us sat around my kitchen table brainstorming.  The run-off was four weeks away and we needed to do something dramatic.  "It all comes down to your being a woman, Janey.  There’s a lot of men, and some women too, who cannot picture a lady sheriff.  It just don’t seem right to them," explained Jeff Lambert, our most experienced campaigner.

Sid Anderson, who owned the local Chevrolet dealership, agreed with Jeff.  "Too many people around her remember you as that cute cheerleader and homecoming queen.  I’ve heard that Charlie plans to use your picture from the Miss Texas contest.  I can see his ads now, ‘Do you want a beauty queen or a lawman to be your next sheriff?’  That’s what I’d do if I was in his shoes."

"Okay, I’m a woman.  There’s nothing we can do to change that.  How do we convince people that I’m tough enough to be sheriff?" Janey demanded.

"From now until election day you can’t be seen in a dress," I suggested.  "Not even when you go to church-it’s jeans or pants suits."

"That’s a good start, Jimmy," chimed Jerry Murphy, our campaign treasurer.  "We all know Janey’s a great horsewoman and Texans admire skill with horses.  The rodeo parade is coming up next week.  That will be a great opportunity to show off our candidate on horseback.  Take lots of pictures and spread them around the county."

"That’s a great idea, Jerry," Janey applauded.  "Now we’re cooking.  Any other ideas?"

"We’ve got to show that our girl is more competent than Charlie," Sid added.  "What else can you do, Janey?"

"Well, I don’t like to brag, but I’m a pretty fair shot.  Daddy taught me how to use a rifle when I was just a little tyke," she offered.

"That’s perfect!" Jeff exclaimed.  "We’ll challenge Charlie to a shooting match during the rodeo.  If he ducks us, we’ll call him chicken.  It’s definitely worth a try."

"Anything else" I asked.

"I’ve got another idea, Jimmy.  What day of the week is your barber shop busiest?" Janey inquired.

"That would be Saturday afternoon," I answered.  "What do you have in mind?"

"You’ll see," she said with a twinkle in her eye.

The next Saturday my shop was crowded as usual.  That’s the day ranchers come to town to load their pick-ups with supplies.  Even if they don’t need a haircut, they drop by the shop to catch up on the latest gossip.  Half a dozen old-timers hang around because their wives shoo them out of the house.  Dads bring their young sons to be clipped.  I am busy from opening until closing time.

About three o’clock all heads turned as Janey entered the shop. It was pretty rare for an unaccompanied lady to stop by.  Sometimes a dutiful daughter would bring her elderly father in for a haircut or a harried mother would drag her protesting young son, but mostly it’s a man’s world.

Janey was wearing a plaid western shirt, snug-fitting jeans, hand-tooled boots, and a new cowgirl hat.  She was the picture of the perfect Texas woman-pretty and fit and ready to ride the range.  The Cattleman’s Association could have used her as their poster girl.  I expected that she would shake hands all around, pass out her campaign literature, and then continue on down the street.  Instead, she hung her hat next to the other Stetsons on the rack, shook out her auburn hair, and seated herself in the one empty chair.  "How’re you doing, gentlemen?  I’m Jane Briscoe and I’m running for sheriff," she announced.  Of course, everyone knew that already.  Many of the men were friends of her father; others had gone to school with her and Bobby; some knew her as the second grade teacher at Jim Bowie.  For the next forty-five minutes I continued to cut hair as Janey engaged my customers in earnest conversation about the problems of law enforcement in the county, the need to keep taxes down, the rising cost of feed, and the prospects for the Longhorn football team.  I wondered why she was spending so long in my shop.  Weren’t there other places she needed to be campaigning? 

Finally, as old Ed Murphy was paying for his haircut, Janey got up out of her chair.  Instead of taking her hat and leaving, she took Ed’s place in the barber chair.  "I believe it’s my turn," she announced.  I could see the shocked expressions on the faces of all the men in the shop.  They never expected such a move and neither did I.  In all the time my father ran the shop and in my ten years as proprietor, no woman had ever had her hair cut here.  I was dumbfounded; I didn’t know what to do.  Fortunately, Janey helped me out.  "I’ve got that shooting match with Charlie Robertson next Friday, and I don’t want hair falling in my eyes when I’m taking aim," she explained.  "I’d like you to cut my hair short, Jimmy."

What a stroke of genius, I thought.  Of course, everyone in town already knew about the unprecedented shooting match between the two candidates for sheriff.  Now interest in the contest would be even greater.  By getting her hair cut in my shop on a busy Saturday afternoon, Janey declared to the world that she was serious about winning.  That simple act guaranteed that tongues would be wagging all over the county by evening.

Janey turned and looked at me as if to say, "Well, what are you waiting for?"  I
had cut my daughters’ hair when they were younger, but had never given a haircut to a woman.  I wasn’t sure how to proceed, so I followed my usual routine.  I wrapped a white tissue around her slender throat and found a clean striped cape to throw over her shoulders and snap behind her neck.  I began combing the auburn locks I had dreamed about so many times as a boy.  It was only three weeks since Martha had administered her major makeover and Janey really didn’t need another haircut so soon, but I was happy to cooperate with her stunt.

Janey closed her eyes as I cut a straight line above her eyebrows and carefully trimmed half an inch from her bangs.  Then I continued snipping around the sides and back, removing only a minuscule amount of hair and leaving the basic wedge design intact.  I figured that was all she wanted, but I was wrong.

When I held up the mirror for her inspection, Janey quickly informed me that she wasn’t satisfied.  "Jimmy, you don’t understand.  I need a short haircut if I’m going to win the contest.  This isn’t nearly short enough."  My customers nudged each other in amazement and watched to see how I would respond.  This time I didn’t hesitate; I took another half inch from her bangs and chopped nearly an inch from the sides and back.  I kept the basic wedge design, but gave her a much shorter version.

By the time I finished, Janey’s ears were half exposed and her neck was completely bare.  The shoulders and front of the cape were littered with dark clippings from her head.  The second time I held the mirror, she paused to consider her new haircut.  Janey ran her fingers up through what was left of the wedge and seemed disappointed to find that so much still remained.  She took a lock from her crown and checked the length-it was about four inches long.  There was no mistaking her disapproving frown.

"Is there a problem?" I ventured.

"Still too long.  It should be about this length all over," she informed me, holding her thumb and forefinger about two inches apart.  I knew she wasn’t kidding, yet I hesitated.  "Use your clippers on the back and sides.  And part it on the side, not the middle," she instructed.  There was no mistaking her intention.  Janey was requesting a standard man’s haircut, the kind I gave every day but never dreamed she would want.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous about a haircut as I was when preparing to cut Janey’s hair for the third time.  She may have been anxious too, but she never betrayed any emotion.  She sat still and watched in the big mirror as I removed my clippers from their hook.  I switched on the juice and Janey bent her head forward so I could begin shearing the back of her head.  I slowly raised the clipper’s blades into her auburn tresses.  Large chunks of severed auburn hair dropped to the floor as I destroyed the symmetrical contours of the wedge.  When I finished with the back, the hair was barely half an inch long.  Janey raised her head and smiled bravely, although I suspected she was about to burst inside.  She caught my eye and smiled gamely, as if to say, "I know this is as painful for you as it is for me."  I continued buzzing around her right ear and carved a pointed sideburn above her cheek.  Then I did the same thing on her left side before silencing the clippers. 

Only the hair on top of her head remained at its former length.  I sprayed a fine mist of water over her head and began carefully clipping everything to the two-inch length she had requested.  I spent more time on the top than I did on the back, carefully tapering the sides so they blended with the short, clippered section.  When I completed working on the top, I combed her hair forward, and then drew a sharp part down the left side of her head.  Finally, I combed the shortened hair across her crown and handed her the mirror for the third time.

As I stood behind her, Janey carefully inspected her new hairdo.  It looked exactly like a man’s haircut-there was not a hint of femininity left.  The effect of the haircut was stunning.  In less than half an hour she had been transformed from a beauty pageant contestant into a serious, no-nonsense political candidate.  Of course, her high cheekbones, bright blue eyes, and full, red lips made it impossible to mistake Janey for a guy.  In my biased opinion, she looked as lovely as ever, but it pained me to think of what she had sacrificed.  I held the mirror so Janey could scrutinize the back.  She ran her fingers up the back of her head and nodded her approval.  "That’s more like it," she declared with feigned satisfaction. 

I removed the issue and cape from around her neck, sending a shower of clipped hair to the floor.  She handed me a twenty dollar bill, removed her hat from the rack, and called, "Afternoon, gentlemen," as she sauntered out the door.  For the next half hour Janey’s haircut was all the men in my shop could talk about.

It was after eleven; the girls and my mom were soundly asleep when I heard the knock at my front door.  There stood Janey with a brown paper bag in her hand.  She had restyled her hair with gel so it looked a bit less masculine than when she left my shop.  She wore a pair of dangling silver earrings and more makeup than usual.  It seemed that she had been crying.  "Good evening, sir," she slurred.  It was easy to see that she was slightly drunk.  "I’m going door to door taking a survey.  I’d like to know what you think of my new haircut."

"I think it looks smashing," I declared.  "Your barber must be an absolute genius."

"Yes, he is," she agreed, "and a pretty good campaign manager too."

I ushered Janey to the back yard and hauled out two lawn chairs.  We sat under the stars and took turns sipping bourbon from her bottle.

"You know, it wasn’t until this afternoon that I realized how serious you were about winning this election.  That was a very brave thing you did."

"Oh pshaw, Jimmy.  I’ll bet you say that to all of your lady customers."

"Nope.  Only the ones who are running for sheriff."

"So, you think I’ve got a chance?"

"A damn good chance.  All you have to do is whip Charlie in that rifle match next week."

"Piece of cake," she declared grandly.

The next morning my girls were surprised to discover Aunt Janey sleep on our sofa.  "My dear, what have you done to your hair?" my mother exclaimed when she first saw Janey’s new haircut.

"It’s for the election," she replied. 

"Well, I certainly hope it works," mom snorted.  You could see she didn’t approve.

We drank black coffee and ate grits and scrambled eggs together before Janey said good-bye.  "Gotta go home and get dressed for church.  Can’t wait to hear what the ladies at First Baptist have to say about my new haircut."

"I’m sure they’ll love it as much as I do," I assured her.

She kissed me tenderly on the cheek.  "You’re the best, Billy Barnes," she whispered in my ear.  "Always have been; always will be."

After Janey trounced Charlie
in the rifle match, there wasn’t much doubt about the outcome of the election.  She won handily with nearly sixty percent of the vote.  All of the big Texas newspapers and a couple of television stations sent reporters.  "Experts are calling your election one of the biggest upsets in Texas political history.  To what do you attribute your surprising margin of victory?" one veteran newsman asked.

"Well, the good people of Tom Green County decided they should elect their sheriff based on her ability and not her gender," she answered.

"Anything else?"

"Yes, I had the best campaign team anyone could ask for.  I want to thank all of them, especially my barber."  I could see that the reporters were anxious to follow up her last remark, but Janey quickly strode away from the microphone-interview over.

As soon as she was sworn in, Janey appointed Dick Bacon as her chief deputy.  She kept Charlie on because of his friendship with Bobby, but he no longer ran the office.  She promptly hired two experienced agents from the Texas Bureau of Investigation who began reexamining the evidence from Bobby’s murder.  They interviewed hundreds of people from the western part of the county, trying to discover who had a motive to murder the sheriff.  They began picking up rumors about a drug running ring hauling large shipments of cocaine across the Mexican border.  The smugglers used battered pickup trucks with false bottoms to transport their illegal cargo to Denver, St. Louis, and Chicago. The local cops believed that drug runners were tough young Chicanos driving big, flashy cars.  The beat-up trucks with their shabbily dressed drivers, loaded with feed sacks, and towing livestock trailers, never attracted attention.  The agents theorized that Bobby may have stopped one of the trucks to warn the driver about a defective tail light or faulty muffler.  Instead of accepting the warning, the nervous smuggler probably panicked and pulled a gun before Bobby had time to react.

While the theory was plausible, it took half a year of patient surveillance to catch the drug runners.  None of the informants could say when the next shipment would be made or what route it would follow.  Every night Janey stationed one patrol car on a different country road to watch for suspicious looking pickups.  Because she suspected the smugglers monitored police frequencies, her deputies communicated in code on walkie talkies.  Farther up the road, the sheriff waited at a roadblock with four heavily armed deputies.  After six months of surveillance and stopping hundreds of beat-up farm vehicles, they still were no closer to solving Bobby’s murder.  The strain of the search was beginning to show on Janey.  When she stopped at my shop for her monthly trim, she had dark circles under her eyes and the friendly banter we used to exchange was missing.  All she could talk about was her frustration at not being able to capture Bobby’s killers.

Then, shortly before Christmas, she hit pay dirt.  Beneath a load of hay, Janey and her deputies discovered fifty kilos of high-grade Columbian cocaine.  They took the two suspects to a remote substation for interrogation.  When the prisoners learned they were facing capital homicide charges for shooting the sheriff, they quickly implicated two of their associates.  Janey directed the pre-dawn raid on an old farmhouse that netted a pair of part-time cowboys, their false-bottomed truck, and the murder weapon.  When questioned, each one blamed the other for the shooting.

Soon after the killers were captured Janey disappeared from sight.  This didn’t surprise anyone too much because she always insisted her main reason for being sheriff was to make sure Bobby’s murderers were apprehended.  On several occasions she had said that when they were caught she was going to resign. 

When she didn’t show up for a week, rumors began to fly.  Then Ed Giblin, chairman of the county board of commissioners, received a letter from Janey containing her formal resignation.  She didn’t say when she would return but promised to be back to testify at the trial.  She recommended that Dick Bacon be appointed as her replacement.  The most interesting detail, however, was found on the envelope.  It bore several colorful stamps from the Republic of Mexico.  We traced the postmark to a small village on the Pacific coast.

We speculated that Janey had retreated there to recover from the strain of the investigation.  We wondered if she would remain in Tom Green County when the trial was over.  Perhaps she had decided to start a new life away from all the memories associated with Bobby’s death.

After six months most folks had almost forgotten about our former sheriff.  Then I began hearing reports that she was back in town.  Someone had seen lights on at her ranch house.  Sam Gowdy spotted Janey at the supermarket stocking up on groceries.  I wondered when I would hear from her.

One week later I got a call around nine at night.  "Hello, Jimmy.  I’m back," said the familiar voice on the other end of the line.

"Janey, is that you?  Where have you been?"

"I went to Mexico for a while.  I needed to get away."

"How are you?"

"Much better.  I feel like I’m ready to get on with the rest of my life."

"That’s great.  What are your plans?"

"That’s why I called, Jimmy.  Can you come over to the house?  I’d like to talk with you."

"Sure, Janey.  Mom can watch the girls.  I’ll be there in twenty minutes."

"Can you bring your barber kit?"

"You bet.  See you soon."

When I pulled into Janey’s driveway, lights were burning in the kitchen.  I went in the side door and found Janey sitting at the kitchen table, a cup of coffee in her hands.  Her skin was a darker brown than I had ever seen; her eyes a more vivid blue.  She looked like she had spent many hours on the beach.  Her hair was several shades lighter; the dark red was sun-streaked with blonde highlights.  It also was much longer.  The mannish haircut I had given her before the election had grown out several inches. The hair in back hung down over her collar.  She used a white headband to hold the overgrown bangs back off her face.  She looked at peace with herself.

"Hey, Jimmy," she said as I entered.  "Long time no see."  She gave me a long, lingering hug.

I stepped back and looked her up and down.  "Janey, you look great-a sight for sore eyes."

"Did you miss me?" she asked.

"Only every day.  Each morning when I woke up I wondered if this was the day you’d be coming back."

"Jimmy, you always know the right thing to say."

"Did you miss us?"

"Yes and no.  I didn’t miss the job, but I missed the people, some of them at least."

"Anyone in particular?" I asked.

"Yes, Jimmy, I missed you most, but I needed to get away for a while.  To get my head straight; to think and to contemplate."

"Where did you go?"

"To a little seaside village in Baja California.  I just drove down the coast until the highway ran out. Mo
st of the people in this town were fishermen.  They didn’t have a hotel, but I found a family with a room to rent.  For the first couple of weeks I just slept and went for long walks on the beach.  I’m sure everyone there thought I was loco.  Then I got bored.  I volunteered at the local school.  All the kids were eager to learn English; adults too.  It was fun getting back in the classroom with such enthusiastic learners.  Finally, I decided it was time to go home to take care of some unfinished business."

"Yes, I hear the trial is scheduled for next month."

"That’s not what I meant, Jimmy."

"What kind of unfinished business then?"

"Personal business.  I had to decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life."

"And what did you decide?" I asked expectantly.

"Well, for one thing, I decided that the best place for me is here in Tom Green County.  I thought about going away and starting over, maybe moving to California, but I realized that my roots here are too deep.  For better or worse, this is where I want to stay."

"And what will you do?  Will you go back to being sheriff?  There’s another election scheduled for the fall.  I’m pretty sure you could win again.  People were real impressed by the way you broke up that drug running ring."

"No, I don’t think so.  Now that Bobby’s killers are in jail the motivation isn’t there.  I could do the job, I suppose, but my heart wouldn’t be in it."

"Will you go back to teaching then?"

"Yes, I feel that’s what I’m meant to do-working with young children; helping them learn.  I can’t imagine anything more rewarding."

"I know Principal Mullins will be happy to have you back on his faculty."

"And what about you, Jimmy?  What have you been doing while I was gone?"

"Oh, not much.  Minding my shop.  Cutting hair.  Riding herd on my girls.  My life has been pretty dull since you left.  No interesting customers."

"That reminds me why I called you in the first place.  I’m glad you brought your barber tools."

"You want me to cut your hair?"

"You don’t mind do you?"

"No, of course not, but I hope you don’t want me to cut it so short again.  You are going to let your hair grow out, aren’t you?"

"What’s the matter, Jimmy?  You didn’t like my election special haircut?"

"Not really, Janey.  I mean, with your features almost any hairstyle would look terrific, but I think we can find a more flattering style than the last cut I gave you."

"I’m sorry I made you do that, Jimmy.  I hope you understand why it was necessary."

"Sure, I understand, Janey, but that doesn’t mean I enjoyed doing it."

"Okay.  That part of my life is done.  Now I need a new hairstyle for the next stage."

"What are you looking for?"

"Well, I really enjoy the freedom short hair gives me.  I don’t want to go back to all the effort long hair requires."

"So you want something short?"

"Yes, something short, yet feminine.  Something that makes me look like a girl again."

"So you’re not planning on going back to the Farrah Fawcett look?"

"Oh, heavens no, Jimmy.  I’m so much different from that person.  I hardly believe that was me."

"So what did you have in mind?"

"I’d like your advice, Jimmy. You’ve got a good eye for hairstyles.  What would look good on me?"

"Well, let’s see what I have to work with."

Janey pulled the band off her head and shook her hair out.  I stood behind her and began massaging her scalp, playing with her hair.

"Mmmm.  That feels wonderful, Jimmy."

I took a comb from my kit and ran it through her locks.  "I see you’ve been out in the sun quite a bit," I observed.

"Yes.  Every day.  Between the sun and the salt water, I’m afraid they’ve done a number on my hair."

"You haven’t been using conditioner either, I see."

"Nope, the bodega didn’t carry my brand-didn’t carry any brand, in fact.  What do you think, Jimmy?  Can my hair be saved?" she asked with mock urgency.

"Sure, Janey, but I’m going to have to cut off these split ends.  You’ll have to go quite a bit shorter, at least to start with."

"Yes, I figured you’d say that.  Any suggestions?"

"Well, you could go back to the wed the st85du

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