My Cousin Made Me Go Bald When I Was Eight Years Old

Brian Dickens Barrabee
Feb 13 · 6 min read

For a brief period I was the youngest guy in Vermont with a comb-over

Photo by Nas Moto on Unsplash

There was a wooden toy top unearthed by archcheologists in Iraq that dated back to the 35th century BC — nearly six thousand years ago. It took approximately that time minus 70 years for mankind to develop the Bouncing Spinning Top.

Add in a couple of weeks to the 70 years and you’ll have the date that my cousin Kit and I managed to get ourselves into trouble courtesy of the Bouncing Spinning Top.

Now I’m an old man with a bald spot; here is my story:

It is true that you can learn by your mistakes.

If you’re able to not self destruct in your lifetime, chances are; you’ll live a good life. That’s why I will never, I repeat, never — in any way, by any means give my grandchildren a Bouncing Spinning Top.

Yes, they are still produced.

My cousin Kit and I were nine and eight years old respectively when our grandfather, Harry Dickens, gave us a single $5.00 bill to indulge in two Pig’s Dinners at Pierce’s Drugstore in Barton, Vermont. A princely sum in those days.

A Pig’s Dinner, you see, is a princely amount of ice cream. In point of fact, if you eat it all the get a little ribbon saying:

I Ate a Pig’s Dinner at Pierce’s Drug in Barton, Vermont.

Kit and I already had two ribbons hanging in our bedroom at the summer cottage my grandfather owned on Willoughby Lake. Dad, as we called him, was to give my mother a break so that she could host her book club.

He ,my mother, Kit and I all agreed for him to take us kids for a quick trip into the town of Barton less than 5 miles away.

Dad informed us, when we arrived in the town square that he wanted to take a quick hop over to the Barton Fair and lay a couple of bucks on the trotters that were allowed to race at the fairgrounds the one week in the summer when the fair was held.

He told us he’d be back in an hour.

Barton was (and is still) a very small town in the northernmost slice of Vermont — maybe,10 miles south of the Canadian border. It was the type of community where everyone knows everyone else so Dad felt safe in leaving two young boys loose on the town armed with $5.00 — for an hour.

The town consisted of a main street lined with a grocery store, Pierce’s Drugstore and soda fountain, a restaurant and a Woolworths.

Kit and I hightailed it into Woolworths as soon as our grandfather headed off to the fair.

Although the venerable 5 &10 cent store is noted for its usual large selection of toys, this one was a little different. The product mix was more like a modern day Dollar Store. It seemed the potential client possibilities in the town of Baton had needs for cosmetics, notions, bras, underwear and basic hardware; the toy selection was sparse.

A few dolls for the girls, little metal cars for the boys and — what’s this?

A Bouncing Spinning Top?

We took it off the shelf in hopes of giving it a spin on the floor of Woolworths.

Kit yanked the plunger on top


Damn, it works!

It spun, satisfyingly


it also bounced.

It was something that we HAD to have. If we bought just a single dip ice cream cone at Pierce’s instead of a Pig’s Dinner we’d have enough left over for The Bouncing Spinning Top.

Dad wouldn’t mind if we, sort of, rearranged where the money was allocated.

We picked out the color top we like out of the three possibilities and took off to Pierce’s Drug for a refreshing ice cream cone.

Kit got maple walnut, a flavor native to Vermont and I got plain chocolate a flavor native to me.

We sat down on the appointed bench in the small town square that was the designed place to retrieve where Dad would fetch us after the races.

Sitting on the park bench is when it all started to unravel:

Maybe it’s just too much to ask; two young kids on their own who just finished an ice cream cone; on a park bench with about ten minutes to burn; a newly acquire Bouncing Spinning Top in their possession on a beautiful warm day in the summer in Vermont to not get themselves into trouble?

Here’s what happen to my recollection:

We gave the top a couple of spins on the sidewalk in front of the bench. Worked as advertised; delightfully spinning and bouncing.

Whether the thrill diminished after a few spins or just plain stupidity on the parts of two kids with nothing better to do for five minutes; we looked for more exotic worlds to conquer with our new top.

We surreptitiously set it a spinning and bouncing when we saw a woman walking her dog in hopes the dog would notice.

He didn’t.

Pushing the envelop we were on to more exotic options. Spinning and bouncing on top of the garbage can cover, in the grass near squirrels; all different degrees of satisfaction and performance.

The top itself performed admirably no matter how creative it's use.

It was The Real Deal.

Spoiler Alert:

Here comes the self destructive part.

With Dad due in a couple of minutes or so; Kit suggested we give the top a spin on my head!

Sounded good to me!

I stood in front of the park bench; Kit standing on the bench in a better position to activate the top and a better vantage point to gaze down to see its bouncing majesty on the crown of my head.

I don’t know why neither of us overlooked hair in the equation but apparently that issue slipped by unaccounted for.

I remember Kit carefully settling the bouncing, spinning toy on my head.

I experienced a once in lifetime unique kind of pain.

The kind that any number of animals must have felt when humans determined that their pelts should be better used by glamorous women to keep warm on cold days.

My problem was a bit different in that when the top finally stopped bouncing it was hopelessly entangled in my hair and lashed firmly to my head like an outrageous beanie.

As Kit was figuring out what to do, Dad drove up. Expecting to find two kids stuffed with ice cream sporting awards proclaiming each Ate A Pig’s Dinner At Pierce’s Drug in Barton, Vt., he found — well Kit — and me in my present compromised state.

My granddad was a man of action. He did what any reasonable man who knew that his grow daughter would be furious to have her father; bring home his grandchild, her son and his cousin; after taking them to a small town in northern Vermont for a treat in the local soda fountain, then taking off to the races for enough time to leave said son 8 year old son with his 9 year old cousin along with a $5.00 bill that allowed them to inflict a reign of mischief on a small town and to eventually sabotage — themselves.

Dad strode into Pierce’s Drug Store and bought a pair of scissors; resolutely stalked out and cut the Bouncing Spinning Top out of my hair.

He then proceeded to use his newly purchased comb and gave me a comb over; possibly making me the youngest person in Vermont to receive such a treatment that day.

When he was satisfied, he loaded us in his car and hauled us back to the cottage on the lake.

Probably not wanting to face my mother — his daughter:

He dropped Kit and I off at the lake cottage and hightailed it back to his apartment in Orleans where he lived in those days.

Kit and I sat out on the porch playing Monopoly until it was dark and time for bed.

It wasn’t until the next morning collecting the mail from our large rural mailbox that my mother discovered the;

frightening red and blue hairy thing that Dad must have been left in our mailbox yesterday before he drove away.

I knew it was just a matter of time for the three of us guys.

Brian Dickens Barrabee

Written by

A lifetime of philosophical, psychological, physical and fiscal involvement. Above all, a storyteller.


Outstanding stories objectively and diligently selected by 40+ senior editors on ILLUMINATION

Brian Dickens Barrabee

Written by

A lifetime of philosophical, psychological, physical and fiscal involvement. Above all, a storyteller.


Outstanding stories objectively and diligently selected by 40+ senior editors on ILLUMINATION

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