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Angelina County, Texas. -- Occasionally I stop by the barber shop when I don't even need a haircut, just to find out what people are talking about. This particular morning, they were talking about haircuts.

"That fellow sure can mess up," said Nick the Barber, my barber for more than 20 years. "Who'd think you could get in that much trouble just going to get a haircut?"

Of course, it wasn't just a fellow -- it was the president of these United States. And it wasn't just a haircut -- it was a $200 haircut. That's getting clipped, for sure.

The way he looked on TV over the weekend, I think I'd just as soon had the money as that haircut -- too short on top and humped up in the back. But maybe that's Hollywood hair. Maybe it'll catch on. Meanwhile, the president is catching the dickens.

I'd give him the benefit of the doubt on this haircut -- I have on most everything else. Besides, there've been situations when I've ended up spending more money than I intended. Maybe that's what happened to him, not asking ahead of time exactly how much something cost. It could happen to anybody.

"Is it possible to run up a $200 bill in here?" I asked Nick the Barber.

He thought a moment, looking around and taking stock. "I could sell you one of these barber chairs," he said.

As for a haircut, that's $7. A beard trim -- same for me or Abe Lincoln -- is another $3. At my usual frequency of a haircut every other week, spending $200 would take the better part of a year -- a long time to leave Air Force One idling.

I asked him if he couldn't fancy it up a bit.

"Sure, I could give you a hair style," Nick said. "That's a regular haircut with a shampoo and we blow-dry it, all for $14."

Now we were making progress. How about a beard style, too? Throw in a little mustache wax, maybe.

Nick frowned. "Not sure I know how to style a beard. We mainly just trim 'em." He shook his head. "No, I think $3 is all I could allow you for a beard."

I looked around the shop. A sign said, "Shine, $2." But that's for both shoes, drat it.

A soft drink out of the Coke machine was 50 cents, the same for crackers or cookies out of the cracker and cookie machine. Add 10 cents for deposit if I wanted to take the drink bottle with me.

At best, all totaled, $20.10 is the top dollar, bottom line.

"Of course, you haven't included a tip," Nick said, brightening. "That's the answer. All you have to do is leave a $179.90 tip."

I was about to shake my head when he sweetened the deal.

"And next time you come in," he allowed, "I'd be really happy to see you -- I'd even try to run you in ahead of anybody else."

As things now stand, I doubt that the president of these United States could expect as much.

Joe Murray is editor-publisher emeritus of the Lufkin (Texas) Daily News,

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