A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


There is a genealogical rumor in our family that somewhere – way, way back there – we have a Native American progenitor.

Maybe two.

I think the rumor has something to do with my mother’s maiden name: Arrowsmith. It just sounds Native-American-ish, doesn’t it?

This explains why, as a child, I felt that Tonto deserved equal billing with the Lone Ranger, and why I secretly hoped the Hekawis would take over Fort Courage on "F-Troop."

As an adolescent, it explained my sideburns – or lack of same. I mean, everyone knows Native Americans don’t do facial hair, right? So while my friends were growing the long, bushy sideburns that were so fashionable at the time, I was trying to make long strands of hair LOOK like sideburns – sort of a follically impaired teen version of the comb-over.

It wasn’t pretty.

I actually lost a junior high election because the opposition had these great sideburns and a cool Adam’s apple – and I didn’t. I SWEAR that’s the reason I lost.

Well, that and the fact that he was tons more popular than I was.

Throughout my adult life I have marveled at my brother-in-law, Brent, who can grow a full, luxurious beard between lunch and dinner. And now my son, Joe, occasionally comes home sporting a goatee or a clump of hair on his chin, depending on his mood. I rationalize his genetic ability to do this because he is a generation removed from our Native American ancestor.

Assuming, of course, that there actually IS such an ancestor.

Occasionally I have made feeble attempts at beard, moustache and sideburn growing. "Did you just eat a peach, or are you growing a beard?" someone will inevitably ask. Or they will chide me for not washing my face. Or they will suggest that I shave by putting cream on my face and letting the cat lick it off. Everybody is a comedian when it comes to CMFS (Chronic Male Facial Smoothness – give early, give often for Jerry’s Smoothies).

And now as I move ever closer to senior citizen status, even the follicle fairies seem to be getting into the comedy act. After leaving me destitute all these years, they’ve decided to torment me with an abundance of hair on places I’d rather not have hair – my ears, for example. Why am I suddenly sprouting long blond hair out of the tops of my ears? Why is there now more hair growing IN my nose than just UNDER it? After years of doing without socially acceptable facial hair, where is the justice in this?

The other day I was shaving and happened to notice how my eyebrows were poking up in every direction – sort of like Jack Elam on a bad brow day. So I decided to use the blade in my hand to do a little judicious trimming and I ended up nicking myself just above my eyebrow. Now I have badly trimmed eyebrows, PLUS I have to explain why I was shaving my forehead.

There’s probably a lesson in all of this. I should have been focusing on the advantages of hairlessness, like being able to skip a day of shaving without anyone noticing. Or never having to worry about crumbs of food in my beard or moustache. Or never being mistaken for Tom Selleck. And I should learn to accept myself for who and what I am – Native American or not. But I can’t help but wonder if my life would have been different if I had lived it less smoothly.

And more by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through