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Senior Correspondent

In which Pearlie Gates plays a part in life and death, Mabel Barker has her say and Blue Hair plays a part.

Our Millie used to say that you never know where you are going to end up or how you'll get there but Pearlie Gates will make you look real purty for the journey if you ain't too picky.

Pearlie Gates had done real good for herself. She graduated high school and headed for the city to go to beauty cchool. She had quite a way with perms and cuts but colors was where she shined. After a few years of cuttin' and stylin', poofin' and bobbin' for other folks she came back to town to open her own shop. Everybody was pretty excited to have a first rate salon on the corner. 'Course it was the only shop around and all the ladies of a certain age used it as a meetin' place for hair, nails and gossip.

Pearlie said her most interesting job though was doin' hair at the Eternal Rest Funeral Home. She said it was a good job, nice and quiet and peaceful there. The pay was good enough and the customers didn't complain. Besides she was workin' on a discount on that cherry wood, creamy-velvet lined casket with real brass that she had her eye on.

She had done hair for most of the departed when they were spending time gossiping in the salon so it was kind of comfortable for her. She could almost hear their stories.

Then there was Miz Mabel Barker. She called Pearlie to her death bed and left instructions as to her appearance in the open casket. Her hair must be parted on the left side with a deep wave across the top and she must have her color touch up a bit just before the big event and it had to be done right or she would come back and haunt the shop and never give Pearlie a bit of peace. Pearlie didn't really believe in haunts but she knew Miz Barker had given a letter to her family about her hair and if it wasn't just right Pearlie was more afraid of the live Barkers than any departed on.  Miz Mabel Barker tried to continue but just drifted off to sleep before she could say anything more about her hair.

As it happened there was a letter with instructions but one of the twins lost it and they got into a fight about which one did it and still the letter was not found.

Pearlie had to go on the only thing she knew about Miz Barker. There are blue-haired old ladies in the world but Miz Barker was the bluest of the blue. Every Saturday she came in for a touch-up and wanted a bluer blue every time.

But when Pearlie was preparing the blue color a problem came up. There was a real difference of opinion in the family. The twins, Anna and Erma, took Pearlie aside and said they wanted the blue toned down some. Maybe a nice soft blue like a Spring day with  a few puffy clouds. That wave across the front would look real nice as a white streak against a light blue. They had always thought their mama's hair looked too harsh and they sure weren't goin' to send her on her last trip lookin' brassy.

Then their brother Lucas, who was always mama's favorite, found out about the plan and came around and told Pearlie she had to make it even bluer than mama had ever had it 'cause she would want it that way. No way he was goin' to let his mama down. Now Lucas was big and mean and had a gun that looked big and mean too, so Pearlie Gates was inclined to add that extra blue right away. But then again the twins brought a lot of business to the shop and they threatened to take it away. And they could, too.

Over at the Have a Cuppa Coffee Shop, Our Millie poured endless cups as Pearlie Gates sat with her head in her hands and tried to decide what to do.

She finally thought she would call on Preacher Joe and the funeral director to help as the Blue Hair War continued and Miz Mabel Barker waited for her final resting place. Preacher Joe and the funeral director struck out and ended up talkin' to straight backs and the twins faced one direction and brother Lucas faced the other cradling his big gun.

In the middle of the stand-off a prayer was answered. The letter Miz Barker had left suddenly reappeared. Nobody knows exactly how it happened but each twin insisted that she was the one who found it and they got into a fight again.

Anyway, Miz Mabel Barker had chosen the dress, her Sunday best but not the one Aunt Ruth had given her. She never liked that one. The casket, don't you dare get that cherry wood one. It wasn't made right. The flowers and music and on the last page were the instructions that kept Pearlie Gates from makin' the mistake of her life. "And about my hair. I want Pearlie to do it and I want it different this time. I'm tired of all this blue stuff, Pearlie. I guess Heaven will be blue enough. I want you to make it flamin' red like it was when I was young. Leave the old gossips somethin' to talk about and I'll make a hit with the angels."

It went off real well. Miz Barker went happily on her way and tongues did wag at the shop for weeks afterward. Sometimes when Pearlie would lose a customer for no apparent reason she would wonder if the twins were behind it or the sight of Lucas with his gun walkin' past the shop did it.

Pealie Gates just smiled though 'cause she knew that nobody else had the right formula for the Heavenly Red she had used and her old customers would all come back to her when the time came. They couldn't let Mabel Barker outdo them on the final journey.

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