Long shadows were thrown across the small hamlet of Dillon, Montana, as the sun dipped low over the area’s rocky terrain. At the center of it all was a small barbershop from bygone times. Any person who need a trim or a shave was invited by the pole’s lazy spinning red and white flag.

Old cowboy Jeb opened the barbershop’s creaking wooden door as he plodded down the main street’s dusty pavement. His gray mustache boasted tales that the locals claimed could fill a book. He was an aged guy, his face etched with the lines of a lifetime spent in the merciless sun.

As the barber, a large man with his own thick mustache, wrapped a striped cloth around his shoulders, Jeb sank into the worn-out leather chair. The air was thick with the pleasant aroma of cologne and shaving cream, taking one back to more innocent days.

Jeb, good afternoon. How can I help you? While popping a new blade into his straight razor, the barber asked.

Joe, I think I need a haircut and a shave,” Jeb said, tipping his cap.

Joe nodded and started applying the creamy, white foam to Jeb’s face. He skillfully shaved Jeb’s cheeks before pausing when he reached the sides of his face.

Jeb had picked up on the hesitancy. Something is wrong, Joe?

Joe rubbed his head while carefully selecting his words. Well, Jeb, in nearly forty years of hairdressing, I’ve never seen cheeks as wrinkled as yours. It will be challenging to remove those whiskers.

The corners of Jeb’s eyes wrinkled even more as he laughed. “Remember, Joe, I deserved these wrinkles. Work your best.

Joe, who is always creative, reached for a tiny wooden ball that was sitting in a cup on a shelf. He gave Jeb the item. “Put this in your cheek, Jeb. It will spread the skin taut and make shaving simpler.

Holding the tiny wooden ball between his teeth as Joe resumed shaving, Jeb did as he was told. As Joe skillfully maneuvered the razor to remove even the toughest whiskers, the ball did its work of stretching the skin on Jeb’s cheeks.

After skillfully eliminating every whisker, Joe stood back and took in his accomplishment. Jeb smoothed his now-smooth face with his palm as a satisfied grin appeared on his lips. I must admit, Joe, that was the cleanest shave I’ve had in a long time. However, I have to wonder, “What if I had accidentally swallowed that little ball?”

Joe laughed loudly, and the sound seemed to rock the old barbershop to its very core. Oh, just return it in a few days like everyone else does.

Jeb lifted an eyebrow out of interest. “The rest of you?”

Joe nodded, a playful gleam in his eye. “Yup, over the years, a surprising number of people in our town have unintentionally eaten that small ball. It’s developed into a sort of custom. They return, just like you, and I shave and cut their hair for free.

Jeb couldn’t help but grin at how ridiculous everything was. Even a basic wooden ball had a way of becoming a beloved part of the community in Dillon, Montana, where time appeared to pass a little more slowly and traditions were deeply ingrained.

Jeb couldn’t help but smile as he stepped back outside into the dwindling sunlight, his cheeks as soft as a calf’s fresh. There was always place for a dash of comedy and a hint of the unexpected in this part of the world where cowboys and barbers traded tales and secrets.