“It dawned on me: ‘Hey; guys can do it too,’” said Otis Heavenrich about reading an article on former University of Arkansas basketball forward Michael Sanchez, who grew his hair out for Locks of Love after spending time in a children’s cancer ward at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Fayetteville, Ark.

Heavenrich, a speech therapist for the Northwest Regional Education Service District in Seaside and Warrenton, said he’d never been the kind of person to wear his hair out long. But that didn’t stop him from bringing the idea to his friends one day in November 2011 during a game of disc golf at the Clatsop County Fairgrounds.

The pact made that day culminated Saturday morning at Salon Boheme, when Heavenrich and three of his friends – a fourth, Matt Chappell, now lives in San Diego – each surrendered about 8 inches of their long manes to the American Cancer Society for wigs. That afternoon, Chappell did the same from Southern California.

“It’s been interesting learning about hair and maintenance, and the pain that is associated with it ... more like a pain in the ass,” said Heavenrich, whose wife and young daughter have both donated hair.

Heavenrich, Chappell and Kyle Patterson are childhood friends and all from Knappa High School’s Class of 1997. The fourth member of the pact, Forrest Duggan is originally from Grants Pass. He first met Heavenrich on vacation in Mexico in 2000, later at work in a seafood plant in Naknek, Alaska, and finally in Warrenton, where they crabbed and lived together for a season – Duggan still fishes – and became close friends.

The fifth, Ben Chambers, moved to the North Coast from Wisconsin about three years ago to be a counselor for Clatsop Community College’s Talent Search program at Seaside High School and Broadway Middle School. Through his work in Seaside, Chambers was introduced to Heavenrich and eventually the other three.

As part of the pact, if anyone cut their hair before the donation, they had to pay the four others $50 apiece. All four men lasted and walked away from Salon Boheme Saturday morning with at most 1/2 an inch of hair left. Their locks were lopped off by hairstylist Tabbitha McGrorty.

“It takes six good-sized ponytails to make one good wig,” said McGrorty, adding that men’s hair is especially good for wigs because they don’t treat it as much as women, leaving less chemical abuse.

Kallie Linder, owner of Salon Boheme, said she’s been cutting hair for wigs since she opened her shop eight years ago.

Linder said that in all those years, she’s never had a man have his hair cut off for a wig. “I think this is our first group of friends,” she added.

Salon Boheme serves as a “wig closet” for the American Cancer Society, meaning it provides free wigs, along with cutting, styling and fitting, to anyone undergoing chemotherapy.

The four friends still in Clatsop County went out later Saturday to play a game of disc golf in commemoration of the pact, during which life changed much more than their hair lengths.

In the summer of 2012, Heavenrich, Duggan and Chambers all found out their wives were pregnant. If that wasn’t enough, they all had boys, born within the same month and a half – two of them within three days.

Kincaid Chambers was born Jan. 21, 2012, Solomon Heavenrich on Feb. 27, 2012, and Orion Duggan March 1, 2012.

“It sort of solidified our decision to move out here,” said Chambers about the pact and closely aged children, adding that he doesn’t think the former and latter are related. “Moving out here at age 32 to a small town in Oregon isn't something typically in your life plan.”

Adjusting to life with hair

“It’s not a really big adjustment for me,” said Patterson, who served in the U.S. Army and has been a commercial fisherman for eight years. “Since I’ve been out of the service I’ve been growing it out.

“(I) grow it out for a year and cut it, grow my hair and beard out then cut it all off,” he said. “As a fisherman, you don’t have to cut your hair for anyone.”

Some say they could see themselves doing it again – but not for a while.

Duggan said that through experiences such as hitchhiking and even just going to the store, he’s learned the subtle differences in how people treat others with long hair, whether it means not catching a ride, not having a door held open or an unrequited greeting. The friends encountered mostly minor hazing made in good humor but said that once people knew their cause, they were always on board.

“I didn’t look anything like I perceive myself to look,” said Chambers, who had recently started teaching English part-time and found it hard creating a genuine image of himself for students. “I’d say I’ve complained more than any of the other guys. I’m vain.

“There’s a stigma that goes along with being a long-hair. I all of sudden became ‘the guy in the ponytail.’”

For Patterson and Duggan, the hazing in good humor from fellow fisherman paled in comparison to the hair itself.

“You get mainly fish guts and slime in your hair, and it turns into dreadlocks in five days,” said Patterson, adding that he did get a lot of compliments on his freshly washed hair from women and contemplated not having it cut off at all.

They all learned a new perspective, ripping a comb through tangles of hair, going through multiple towels drying it after every shower, getting it in their eyes and putting it up three to four times a day.

“I’ve learned to realize that my wife needs all the time in the world to get ready,” said Duggan, “because it is a son of a bitch when you have long hair to get ready.”

    

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