I started getting a few gray hairs during my first year in college. At age 18, I was married, taking a full load of classes, and also working full time to pay the bills. I assumed stress was causing the gray hair to appear.
After teaching school for a few years, the amount of gray remained about the same. But after I became a deputy on the Sheriff's Department, I noticed that the gray started increasing significantly. By the age of 40, I had more gray hair than my natural brown. "I can take care of that," my wife mentioned one day . . . "All you need is a little Lady Clairol."
Sounded OK to me, so I told her I would give it a try. One morning, my wife applied the hair coloring, and placed a rubber-like cap over my head, which was to stay on for an hour. "This is the same color as your natural hair, so you will look twenty years younger," she stated confidently. I was anxious to see myself in the mirror when the coloring process was finished.
Well, the hour finally passed. I went in to the bathroom, took off the cap, and looked in the mirror . . . I was stunned. OH . . . MY . . . GOD . . . My hair was ORANGE. I looked like a 40-year old Howdy-Doody. All I needed was a blue-checkered shirt and a red bandana. I yelled for my wife . . . "Look at this! I have to be at work at 7 p.m. What am I going to do?"
"I will drive to Hook's and buy another Lady Clairol. We have time to fix it," she said as she grabbed the car keys and headed out the door. An hour later, I was sitting in the kitchen with my second round of hair coloring soaking in under the cap. Time was getting short. I had to leave for work in less than two hours.
When the hour had passed, I proceeded to the bathroom, took off the cap, and looked in the mirror. Not orange, not gray, not brown. I don't know how to describe the color. It appeared to be a rusty brown with a purplish tint. Great. I grabbed my Sheriff's hat, which I hardly ever wore. "Well, this will be embarrassing . . . my fellow officers will have a field day," I stated as I got into my patrol car. "Maybe I can just join the freak show at the carnival."
When I arrived at the jail, I put my hat on and looked in the rearview mirror. Maybe no one will notice . . . I thought to myself . . . Sgt. Larry Lough and Ptl. Tom Horn were in the squad room, working on reports. It didn't take long.
"Why do you have your hat on?" they both asked as I entered the room.
As I started to remove my hat, I prepared for the worst, "Well, you might as well see this and get it out of your system." For a few seconds . . . silence. Then they both started laughing hysterically. Larry was laughing so hard he had tears in his eyes. When Tom stopped laughing, he stated, "Well, don't you look cute!"
I tried to explain what happened and shift the blame to my wife, but they knew better. Just then, I was sent on a call to Waynetown concerning an argument between two neighbors. I put my hat back on and headed out the door. My two buddies were still laughing so hard they just about fell off their chairs.
When I arrived in Waynetown, I spoke with both complainants. While I was talking, they both gave me a funny look. They knew I looked like a goofball, too.
When I was finished, I drove to Hook's and looked for anything that might make my hair normal again . . . BINGO . . . I bought three bottles of liquid White-Out and headed to the jail. I poured the liquid into a paper cup, dipped my comb in it, and applied it to my hair. When I was done, my hair looked somewhat gray again, but the White-Out had hardened and was flaking all over my duty shirt. Not good.
The next day, I washed all of the White-Out from my hair, and stared at myself in the mirror. There was no solution to my problem. I would just have to wait until my hair grew back again to its normal color. I wore hats for the next two months. When I could not wear a hat, I had to put up with the stares, giggles, and "wonderful" comments that became a daily occurrence.
I learned my lesson. I don't blame the hair coloring. But I vowed to NEVER try to color my hair again, although nowadays I would fit right in. I see people today with blue, green, bright red, pink, and almost every color of the rainbow. Now my hair is almost totally white. As long as I HAVE hair, I am satisfied. However, if I start to go bald, I am not using any chemicals to try to regrow it. And no hair transplants either. Not taking any chances. I will buy an Elvis wig or an old Davy Crockett coonskin cap and glue it on.

John "Butch" Dale is a retired teacher and County Sheriff. He has also been the librarian at Darlington the past 30 years, and is a well-known artist and author of local history.