I thought about him today. I could not help but wonder what happened to him. Where is he? What is he doing? It has been more than forty years.
I grew up in the sixties in a small, conservative, southern town. I attended a high school with about 200 students. The “hippy” and “anti-Vietnam” movement was on in the cities but none of that was seen in our little town. I do remember, however, my U.S. history teacher explaining on the chalkboard, in great detail, why we could not win the war in Vietnam. I had not heard anything like that before. The teacher did not stay long at our school. Fifty years later, I realize that she was absolutely correct.
I do not recall seeing a dress code written down anywhere. But we all knew what it was. The principal would explain it orally at an assembly at the beginning of every school year. He was a tall, slim, former basketball coach. He had a crewcut and wore a white shirt, black pants, and skinny black clip-on tie everyday. He usually had a large, wooden paddle in his hand as he walked around campus. The dress code was simple, at least for the boys. I do not remember ever hearing one for the girls. At our school, “men will look like men, by god!” We would be clean shaven (most of us didn’t have to worry about that); no beards or mustaches. Hair would never touch the collar of our shirts.
I always got a kick out of the term “clean shaven”, obviously inferring that beards and mustaches are dirty;sorry about that Abe and Jesus. And Washington, Jefferson and Ben Franklin would have had difficulty with the hair length.
That is where Danny comes in. He was older than me and a straight “A” student. But his hair, in the back, lay on his collar. He had been called to the office several times and told to get a haircut. Danny refused. There was even a parent meeting but Danny’s mom would not make him cut his hair. Once the principal threatened to tie Danny down and cut his hair himself. That never happened. Eventually Danny was kicked out of school. I think it was his senior year. I never knew him well.
I only saw him once after that. I was too young to drive. My mom was taking me to the next little town, nine miles away. There was Danny, out in the middle of the country, hitch-hiking. I convinced my mom to give him a ride. We dropped him off in the next town. He still had not gotten a haircut.
And so, from time to time, I wonder. Did he ever graduate from high school? Did he get an education? Did he get a job?Did he go to Vietnam? Did he get a haircut?
Occaisonally I pull out my yearbook. I look at Danny. I think about all the sixty year old men I see now with pony tails and beards. I think about how long my hair was in college. By today’s standards Danny’s hair would be considered quite short.
And I think about this country. For all the wonderful things we do, we have a history of majoring on the minors and minoring on the majors. We become obsessed with things that no one will remember five years from now and ignore those things that will still be important five hundred years from now.