Just the Other Day: Cowlicks

We were on a mission to find a different pickup truck to pull our Scamp fifth wheel. We wanted a particular brand and model year truck, so it took a bit of looking. After a search spanning from southern Texas to northern Minnesota, we finally found one in the small town of Defiance, in northern Iowa. It wasn’t far from Omaha. The man we bought the truck from told us the highway we were on was the one Bob Seger sang about in the song, Turn the Page.


The first line of that song is: “On a long and lonesome highway east of Omaha, you can hear the engine moanin’ out his one note song…” I love the part where Bob sings about stopping at a café. It was in the early seventies – the hippie era. The locals would look at him; a stranger with long hair, then ask one another, “Is that a woman or a man?” I can relate to parts of that song – especially about being on the road.


The following week, I would take the truck to the Scamp factory to have a hitch installed. It’s a bit of a drive, but that’s no problem. I like to drive and it’s always a pleasure to visit the people at Scamp.


Rather than leaving at 4:30 in the morning, I hitched our 16′ Scamp to the truck, then headed out around eight pm. I would arrive in Backus, Minnesota between 11:30 and midnight. Perfect! I would sleep in the Scamp, then already be in town to drop off the truck at eight-o-clock the next morning.


Arriving in Backus, I pulled into the local restaurant parking lot. There are always semi-trucks parked there, so I just nuzzled right in with them. I climbed into bed in the camper, fell asleep and slept like a baby all night.


If you’ve never been to Backus, Minnesota, it’s worth the drive. It’s a small town of just a few hundred friendly people. Some would say there’s nothing to do in Backus…but then, some people can go to the Mall of America only to find themselves bored, with nothing to do. Personally, I like small towns.


About 5:30 in the morning, the little town begins to wake up. A semi started his engine, warmed up, then drove away. I laid in bed with the covers pulled up, counting as he shifted through the gears. I got to seven before he was far enough down the road that I could no longer hear him. I went back to sleep.


Just before 7a.m., I rolled out of my bed that was so cozy and comfortable I was reluctant to get up at all. After washing up and brushing my teeth, I challenged the cowlicks in my hair. I wetted my hands with water, then tried to smooth my hair, without success. The cowlick was strutting like a rooster on my head. I did the best I could trying to fix my hair, then went into the restaurant for breakfast.


The waitress greeted me with a smile and a very pleasant voice, “Good morning!” Each time she looked at me, she smiled even bigger. It was obvious she found me irresistibly handsome. I thought she was flirting with me. If she asked me out on a date, I would have to break her heart, wave my wedding ring finger and say, “Sorry, ma’am! I am spoken for!” Well, that’s what I thought at first. Then it occurred to me, the rooster on my head was causing her smiles. Stupid cowlick!


I ordered the breakfast special: a ham and cheese omelet with a side of homemade wheat toast and a cup of coffee. The waitress walked by with a plate of sausage gravy and biscuits for another customer. I began second guessing my choice.


I thought about changing my order and I did. “Ma’am, could I add a half order of biscuits and gravy to go with my omelet?” I asked? “Sure thing.” She said, as she kept walking in stride, looking back over her shoulder and smiling at me again.


Breakfast came and I ate…and ate…and ate. Partway into the biscuits and gravy, she stopped by the table, filled my coffee cup and asked, “Did you get enough to eat?”


I answered, “You should have stopped me at the omelet!”


“I’m not your mom.” She replied, laughing, “If I was, I would have told you to fix your hair before leaving the house.” We shared a good laugh about that. I left her a nice tip since she humored me.


I arrived at the factory at eight-o-clock sharp. They got me right in, installed the hitch perfectly and had me out the door in far less time than I expected. Since I had extra time, I asked them to install a new kitchen faucet in the trailer. Perhaps with a new faucet, I could better wet down my head and control the cowlick in the future.


While they installed the new fixture, I stopped into the office. I wanted to toss my name in the hat to possibly deliver Scamps in the future. “Anywhere around the country would be fine with me.” I told the man. He seemed distracted but still smiled as he said, “We have plenty of drivers right now.” He was smiling and yet giving me an odd look at the same time. Maybe I just caught him at a bad time. I gave him my contact information, then headed out the door.


Back in the driver’s seat, I started the engine. I looked up to adjust my rearview mirror – although I don’t know why. The only thing I could see in the mirror was the front of my camper…and the hair standing straight up on my head. Good Lord! It looked like a plume on the headdress of a Las Vegas showgirl. No wonder he was distracted. I licked my fingers and tried to smooth it down with my hand as I drove off the lot, turning north on Highway 371.


I only got about seven miles up the road when I came into the next town and I saw the sign for Viddles and Joe. I don’t know why, but this place always reminds me of my friend, Joe. Hackensack, Minnesota claims to be home of the Sasquatch. Most of the stores in town sell some sort of Sasquatch memorabilia and there are numerous life-size, metal cutouts of Sasquatches around the town. Joe is a fan of Sassy. I think he would like it here.


The café has good food – especially their pie. I thought about stopping but it was only 10:00 – way too early for lunch. I turned into their parking lot anyway. I could have coffee and write for a while.


Inside, I sat at the horseshoe-shaped counter, where I ordered a slice of blueberry pie and a cup of coffee. The waitress sported a big smile as she tried to talk me into ice cream. Pie a la mode sounded tempting, but I refrained. “Just the pie, please.” She smiled again, then went to get the pie. I opened my iPad and started writing.  She returned and smiled as she set the pie plate in front of me, asking if I needed anything else.  I smiled back. “No. Just the pie, thank you.” She kept smiling as she walked away.


With each bite of the pie my tastebuds danced with delight. Each dance step was overshadowed by another thought: I should have stopped at the omelet. Whew! I was stuffed! I closed my tablet. It was time to get going.


When I paid my tab, the waitress gave me a big grin and wished me a nice day. I returned her salutations and was ready to go, but before leaving I stopped in the restroom to wash my hands. I looked in the mirror and saw my cowlick still standing up. “Oh my gosh! It’s still there. No wonder the waitress was smiling.” I cupped my hand, filling it with water, then leaned over the sink, dousing my hair in an attempt to tame the wild beast on my head. After repeating the process several times, I dried my hair with a paper towel. I managed to get the unruly hair to go from vertical, to laying downward but still sticking out from my head at a forty-five-degree angle. It looked like a wing window on a camper.


Unable to get my hair to cooperate, I walked through the restaurant as if it was supposed to be that way. I felt like everyone was looking at my goofy hair. I complained to myself, “I’ll bet no one laughs at a Sasquatch if he wakes up with bad hair.”


I thought about Bob Seger’s song again; how back in the early seventies he would walk into a small-town café as a stranger with his long hair and the locals would ask one another, “Is that a woman or a man?” I chuckled thinking, if anyone asked me what was up with my hair, I would look at them and say, “It’s a cowlick!” Then I remembered, Bob sang in his song, “… and you always seem outnumbered, you don’t dare make a stand…” I didn’t need to say anything, the people were all friendly, I was just a little self-conscious about my hair.


I got in my truck and pulled onto Highway 371, headed north. After pushing a couple buttons on the stereo in my truck, the lonely sounds of a solo saxophone came wailing through the speakers. Bob and I sang together: “On a long and lonesome highway east of Omaha, you can hear the engine moanin’ out his one note song…”