Bad Hair Day(s)

The Mountain Farmgirl is running out of luck with her hair.  She’s burned it, vacuumed it up, had a run-in with a burdock patch and dumped a bucket of oil-based stain over it. Fortunately, her hair seems to have nine lives! Have you ever had a REALLY bad hair day?

I think my hair is jinxed. It started back when I was a little girl with baby fine, mousy brown hair. Though it may not have been carrot red like Anne Shirley’s, I could always relate to the ‘hair’ scenes in Anne of Green Gables. To compensate for my innate shortcomings in this department, my mom kept my hair cropped short in a pixie cut. “So it doesn’t get straggly”, she would say. My grandmother, always less tactful, spoke two sentences that devastated me at the time, but which my sister and I laugh at hysterically and tease each other about to this very day. Patting my little sister’s dazzlingly blonde head, Grandmother said, admiringly, “Such beautiful, thick hair.”  And then as an afterthought, she very undiplomatically slicked back a strand of my less attractive tresses, and remarked in passing, “Eew, so thin and greasy,” … and then walked away as I stood with my mouth gaping!!  We’ve managed to get a LOT of mileage out of that insensitive verbal zinger; what a hoot to think of it now!! But as if in retaliation, I’m happy to say that my hair didn’t stay unappealing forever.  As a teenager, I let it grow long, and suddenly, with the help of healthy young  hormones, it became bouncy, wavy, and perky to boot! By my twenties, it became “a real handsome auburn” all on its own, and I almost considered Rachel Lynde my benefactress as well as Anne Shirley’s, for that cherished prediction.  Suddenly there were  rich red highlights which gleamed  in the sunshine. Finally, at long last, here was my curly mane’s ‘day in the sun’, so to speak. But wait, that’s not the best of it  … my PREGNANT hair … oh my! During each of my five pregnancies, it became the THICKEST, bounciest, shining-est most wonderful hair of my dreams. (If pregnancy could only last more than nine months!).  Alas, after each precious baby it lost its luster and fell out like the driven snow. Still, during those 30- and 40-something years it still managed to look nice. And, with a decade of babies trading places in a backpack that would soon become a permanent appendage on my shoulders, I wore my hair up most of the time anyway, in self-defense. That is, until one fateful day … the day that marked the beginning of my dreaded  Bad Hair Days.

It happened like this: my baby Noah had fallen asleep in the backpack, and I put it down to give both of us a momentary rest.  My hair was inexplicably down that day, and I got it in my head to do a little work on the wooden beams my husband and I had milled for the post and beam house we were building. They needed to be planed (smoothed) before I could oil them. As every Farmgirl mom knows, we have to take advantage of all spare moments, no matter when they appear, and so I quickly grabbed the electric planer, bent over the beam and went to town planing off all the rough surfaces. Before I knew what happened though, my long shiny locks slid over my shoulder and got caught up in the electric motor of the tool. Thank goodness it wasn’t scalped; but It all happened so fast it you could say it made my hair spin! Instantly it got wrapped ‘round and ‘round inside the motor.

As fate would have it, my guardian angel planned a rescue for me in the form of a poor unsuspecting person who just then happened to show up to drop something off on my doorstep. “Help!!” I implored him, having just unplugged the planer cord from the wall outlet. “I’m stuck”!!  I must have made quite a sight standing there with the planer right up tight against my scalp, shaky hands still holding it in place. This kind gentleman, whose name I have long since forgotten, but whose face and long ponytail are forever emblazoned in my memory banks (his long hair, come to think of it, making  him perhaps especially empathetic to my plight), did what any knight in shining armor would do for any damsel in obvious distress. “Do you have a screwdriver?” he asked … and then set right to work taking the blasted thing apart and unwinding my entangled tresses. Surprisingly, very little had to be cut free, although my hair one that side of my head looked like I had just stuck my finger in a light socket! I do not recommend getting a Planer Perm, gals! If you really want curly hair, just “Eat the crusts of your bread,” as my dear Grandfather liked to tell my sister and me.
The horror of that event stayed with me for some time after that, and the mere  recollection of it kept my hair neatly up and out of the way most of the time. Time does, however, have a way of making memories fade, and I’m sorry to say that eventually I let my guard down, and ultimately my hair as well. Sadly, the ‘Planer Incident’ was not the only one of its kind.

Once I was doing some housecleaning up at my log cabin, in anticipation of a woman’s weekend workshop I had designed.  Giving it the finishing touches, I got out my wonderful new vacuum cleaner and gave the carpets a thorough going-over. Something seemed wrong with the head at the end of the wand, however. It wasn’t picking up the dirt; obviously something was stuck.  Bending over to take a closer look at the still-running vacuum cleaner, there was still enough suction to send my hair round and round the beater brushes in a ‘Planer-de ja vu’. Before I knew what (literally) hit me, the beater brush wound its way up the length of my long hair, ending up smack dab on the top of my head! “Don’t Panic,” I tried to reassure myself in my calmest, most ‘in-control’ voice. I turned off the power, extricated the head attachment from the wand, and laying my head on the kitchen table, I tried valiantly to pull my hair free of its many rollers and brushes … all to no avail. By now I was visibly sweating – and I NEVER perspire! I managed to dial my future daughter-in-law, who was working for me at our Lodge down the road. “Help me, honey … I’m stuck in the vacuum cleaner,” I implored her in my best I-Love-Lucy voice.  Her reassuring reply, “Do not fear … help is on the way!!” was like music to my ears. Minutes later she flew into the driveway and helped to get my entangled mop free of the big bad beater brush which had devoured it.

Between these isolated incidents, I’ve had a few other close calls over the years.  As an amateur blacksmith, I’ve spent many hours at the anvil near my forge, where my bangs have been singed on more than one occasion. For many years I was a chef at a restaurant I started in a post and beam  art gallery. Years of working over a commercial stove, pulling baked goods from a mighty-hot oven, have singed my brows and lashes as well. Then there’s the time back when my husband and I lived in New York on our farm, when we had a couple of horses who had a knack for finding wild burdock patches. Burdock, in case you didn’t know, has burrs that stick in your hair with a vengeance.  In fact, scientists got the idea for making Velcro from them. The horses needed to be retrieved, so off to the field I went, with my waist-length hair blowing freely in the wind … not so freely on the return trip, however! WHAT WAS I THINKING?? My hair got tangled up with burdocks into a mat that took my husband a solid week to untangle before we gave up and cut the rest out!

Last summer was the final straw, however … or so I thought until I more recently tried to ‘cover the gray’ with a bucket of oil-based stain; but I’ll get to that one in a minute. Sometimes at our Lodge I find myself in the position of having to blow up an air mattress or two for guests who have more children than will fit into their beds.  I was in the act of doing just that very thing one evening, crouching on the floor behind the front desk, when, once again a large chunk of my very long hair decided to take a ride up into the motor of the electric air pump I was using. This was the final blow (no pun intended). In exasperation and panic, I tried desperately to work it free before anyone came to the front desk and saw me in such an undignified pose. Unsuccessful in my attempt to free myself, to my horror the front door opened and two people came walking in.  Fortunately they were also Guardian angels, my son Noah and his fiancé, Dana. Seeing me in this all-too-familiar sit-com pose on the floor, they set to work and rescued what was left of my hair. 

Which brings me up to last week, and the latest (and hopefully last) of the Follicle Follies. I was 2 stories up on a ladder, staining the thirsty, weather-beaten exterior logs of my cabin.  I had just climbed back up to the top with my re-filled bucket of stain, when the ladder unexpectedly shifted. Fortunately, I wasn’t thrown off; the ladder caught itself on a knot-hole. Unfortunately, it scared me to death in that micro-millisecond as it hiccupped to a stop, and I ended up accidentally pitching the contents of the stain bucket over the left side of my face and into the left half of my hair. It was an absolute nightmare, though I didn’t yet know quite the extent of the damage!  Once I worked my way down to terra firma, mopping my dripping locks with a towel, I ran my eyeball under running water until it stopped stinging. Next came the first of several turpentine shampoos, all unsuccessful I might add -- except the final one my husband gave me a week after the fact. I spent those days in between quite distraught at the fact that my oldest son’s wedding was only 3 weeks away. At best my hair was a gluey sticky mess. I was one unhappy camper, I can tell you!

Contrary to all above indications, I am not a klutz; it just seems like it when many years get condensed into one story! People often say “Three strikes and you’re out” … but fortunately, my hair seems to have nine lives. Sometimes, when disaster strikes, the best we can do in certain situations is to just sit back and laugh at ourselves! Such are my Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Hair Days. But am I alone?  Surely, someone else must have a ‘hairy’ tale to tell!  Come on gals … keep me company by sharing your very worst bad hair day!

Until next time,

Mountain Bounty, Mountain Blessings,

Cathi, The Mountain Farmgirl



By: Marji
On: 06/13/2011 08:09:29
Oh my I feel your despair at having a bad hair day. When I was a teenager my best friend and I rode back home in the back of her fathers pickup from a day at the lake. I had long waist length hair and didn't bother to tie it up. When we got home I had real "dreadlocks". Now this was the 60's and no one had even heard of them at that time. It took my mother and me 2 days to untangle that mess. I wouldn't even go outside of the house until I was brushed out. What a nightmare. I must say I never got my hair caught in a machine and your words of warning will remind me to be careful. Great stories. Thanks!!
By: Lynn
On: 06/13/2011 08:14:53
I enjoyed your article today! : ) I too have long hair. When I had a toddler in tow...I was cleaning a friend's living room, helping her get ready for a ladies Christmas get-together. Here I was vacuuming away when I saw a hairpin (was it mine?) on the carpet, so bent down to pick it up. Well, you can guess what else got 'picked up' ! My hair! It rolled right up into the head....up to MY head! My friend came to my rescue and as we sat at the kitchen table, ( my head had to lie on the table ) she unwound the hair after taking the vacuum head apart, which took the most time. I didn't want to ruin my hair and didn't have to cut it at all, thanks to my friend. She laughed alot harder than I did but we certainly had a good laugh and for many years afterwards!

I can relate to your article on many angles. The stain being one of them! Oh well, it goes with 'being active" and a good thing!

Enjoy your blog!
By: Dianne
On: 06/13/2011 09:31:27
Cathi, Well I certainly can't compete with your hair adventures. I cannot imagine the oil stain in your hair and how you ever got it out. My hair also is stick straight and thin. Mom always kept our hair short. Yuck. I longed for the day I would have long locks. I always dreamt of long "curly" locks. Time and time again I would get a perm and the results were NEVER those of my dreams. Lately, I have thought about cutting my hair. I have made two appointments, but called and canceled both. Being 61 I hear everyone say long hair on older women ages them. Well, for now I will keep what little long hair I have. I think you should stay away from electrical tools, and oil bases stain. Thanks for your stories. I love them Best Regards Dianne
By: Rebecca
On: 06/13/2011 13:13:47
Dearest Cathi,

What a wonderful lunch break I had reading your post and howling with the visions I imagined! My stories cannot match those, ever so slight mine are but I remember my grandmother always finding my hairs, as she knitted one afghan after another, and finally quit pulling them out of her creations, and just kept knitting away as the strands land where they may. I was used as a guinea pig for a cosmetology class and had every color hair in the book and then it was cut off to reduce the "green" cast, that it eventually succumbed to from too much torture. I cried, it grew back and life went on. I often let my wee charges now play with my hair, which is another chance I take as they come up with a nine ponytail doo...and I shriek as I can't get the hairbands out realizing they didn't use the covered once but the ones off the newpapers. Eeek!!!! Of course between my daughter and I. I am always cutting hair out of the roller on the vacuum cleaner and we discuss who has more hair in there to make a wig or create a new pet. Thank you for putting a smile across my face. There are always wonderful stories to tell...especially for those of us who refuse to cut our hair and take the chances of disaster from time to time!! I think many times about "going shorter" but can never manage the nerve.

Blessings, and thank you!

By: Brittant Lamotte
On: 06/13/2011 14:00:50
For the Millennium, my sister and I (aged 10 and 13) decided to try a hair-dye recipe we'd found in a teen magazine. I had plain brown hair and she has the prettiest, fiercest ketchup-red hair you've ever seen! I went with the yellow Kool-Aid packet and she with the green Kool-Aid packet while our mother was at work. Of course, my hair didn't lighten or yellow a bit but my sister ended up with a green skunk-stripe down the part.It ended up being the biggest event of our Y2K!
By: Christine
On: 06/13/2011 19:28:32
Loved your blog!My mom always kept my hair short too. But after I got out of school, I started letting it grow. I have long hair now too. Always cutting the long hairs twist around on my sweeper and finding toe tanglers as my friend calls them! My husbands bad about rolling over on my hair in bed. In the car with the windows down and my hair will be blowing around and then when the windows go up along with my hair. Had a cat once that if my hair hung over the back of a chair would jump up at it. We just never know what will happen next! God bless you.
By: donna
On: 06/19/2011 11:37:19
That was a very amusing story :0). The only hair story I can share is one I am SURE we have all experienced at one point or another...the "communion bang" as we love to call it amongst my friends. You know....the one that starts with the mom saying "Oh let me trim those up for you before we head to the church" and ends with "Well, I didn't THINK they would be that short when your hair dried!!!" Maybe it was only something that happened in the 70' Brooklyn, NY where I am from. But I think that possibly, this has occurred in other places as well!
Glad your hair did not fall out!!!
By: Kristy
On: 06/21/2011 06:48:09
Donna's communion bang story reminded me of a memorable Sunday morning when I had just finished 6th grade. We had spent much of the week picking raspberries and had been "bugged" with insects that had seemed to be really attracted to the hair on our arms. On Sunday morning, when she was brushing out my hair, Mom noticed the bugs on my head and shrieked "She's got lice". Still had to go to church, though I offered to stay home. Had to sit in the absolute last pew so no one would notice.

On the way back from church, we stopped at the drug store to buy a shampoo that killed lice and nits. It was nasty stuff but it did work. It killed both the bugs and the nits but those dumb eggs were glued on to the hairs. My brothers could all get a haircut before school started in the fall, but I wanted to save my hair. All summer my parents combed my hair for 30 minutes a day with a fine tooth comb to get those stupid nits.

I have set my hair on fire a couple of times also. It has always involved freshly washed hair, the resultant static electricity, and dinner candles. The guests have always been helpful with putting the fire out, but fresh burned hair stinks, and I've always felt the party was ruined. On the other hand a good brushing has gotten rid of the charred ends, shampooing gets the stench, and my hair is saved much less painfully then the year of the bugs.

The truly weird thing is that my hair is seldom more that shoulder lenght and I carry on like I am Rapunzel.
By: Rosalie
On: 06/29/2011 10:42:02
As a youngish, much involved grandmother, I was very actively assisting in the raising of 3 toddler grandchildren. Husband and I had them every weekend and lots of weekdays too, when work schedules permitted. Our tiny home was a very tight fit, so we took those dear kids to every event our small NH town offered.

One summer Saturday, our town had an Old Home Day, with Chicken BBQ by the Volunteer Fire Department, Pet Parade, carnival and Fireworks Display that evening. The artillery commenced at dusk, across the field at the elementary school from where we sat on blankets spread out on the grass. The weather was perfect, with only the slightest cooling breeze coming from the display area to our spot. Didn't we giggle when the ashes from the fireworks' casings gently floated down before us, like a private meteor shower. I got a big hug from the youngest grandchild with every loud report of the fireworks' shells.

The idyllic scene closed abruptly when the EMT behind us dropped her jacket over my head saying flatly, "Sorry Lady, your hair's on fire!" A glowing bit of cardboard debris had settled in my wispy blonde French twist and was just starting to flare up like a Pentacostal flame. What the jacket didn't smother was drowned out by a juicebox' contents. Husband expressed a little concern, but the kids seemed to think it was a riot!

A very short haircut the next day removed all but the mortifying memory. I went back to work with the shortest shearing I've ever worn, like Brittany Spears' shorn do. The kids are teenagers now, but still recall the fireworks in Grandma's hair.

Thanks for sharing your mishaps with machinery. Youngest grandchild recommends a long list of safety guidelines he had to be quizzed on before he was allowed to enter woodshop in Jr High. He would be happy to pass them along. :-)

By: Shery
On: 06/30/2011 11:00:28
I tittered to myself all the way down the page.

I was a coffee brunette for 50 years. Two years ago, I surrendered to the silver that I kept at bay for 15 years. I should have done so a lot sooner. There is no easy grow-out, no gray hair coloring to make it happen overnight. I opted to do it over the winter when I see the fewest people. I had skunk hair, it was awful and it took all the will power I could muster to see the grow-out through. One would think I wouldn't be so vain at 55, but I confess that I am. Once I got past becoming accustomed to the white haired lady in the mirror, I began to like the look. I got a short & sassy haircut and it is SO easy to manage. Blow & Go. Love it. Now & then, I miss that thick, dark brown braid down the middle of my back, but I lived long enough to now have a crown of white and I'm grateful for that.
By: Sharon
On: 07/04/2011 18:20:34
Oh my, this reminds me of a story too... although it seems I was never able to grow my hair past the middle of my back, I have a best friend who had hair down to her butt when we were younger. At one of our sleepovers, I decided to curl her hair (all of it) with my mom's electric rollers. Unfortunately most of my friend's long hair got stuck in smaller rollers. Fortunately, we were able to save all but a few strands of hair, and we Never did that again!! Thanks for sharing, this brought back many wonderful memories for me!

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Cathi Belcher

Cathi Belcher,
an old-fashioned farmgirl with a pioneer spirit, lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. As a “lifelong learner” in the “Live-Free-or-Die” state, she fiercely values self-reliance, independence, freedom, and fresh mountain air. Married to her childhood sweetheart of 40+ years (a few of them “uphill climbs”), she’s had plenty of time to reinvent herself. From museum curator, restaurant owner, homeschool mom/conference speaker, to post-and-beam house builder and entrepreneur, she’s also a multi-media artist, with an obsession for off-grid living and alternative housing. Cathi owns and operates a 32-room mountain lodge. Her specialty has evolved to include “hermit hospitality” at her rustic cabin in the mountains, where she offers weekend workshops of special interest to women.

“Mountains speak to my soul, and farming is an important part of my heritage. I want to pass on my love of these things to others through my writing. Living in the mountains has its own particular challenges, but I delight in turning them into opportunities from which we can all learn and grow.”

Column content copyright © 2010– Cathi Belcher. All rights reserved.

Mountain Bounty

“Keep close to Nature’s heart ... and break clear away once in awhile to climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods, to wash your spirit clean.”
– John Muir

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