Though admittedly filled with dread, Buddy Hendry said he tried to maintain a stoic demeanor as he drove Thursday afternoon to an Evans barbershop to cut off much of his hair.
Suffering from lung cancer, the Columbia County school system's director of public safety wanted to trim away the hair before it fell out because of treatments with radiation and chemotherapy.
"I didn't want to be at a restaurant with my wife and start having clumps of it falling out during dinner," Hendry, 67, said. "I don't think I could have taken that."
However, the stoicism he mustered on the way to Dennis' Barbershop in Evans transformed into a fit of laughter and damp cheeks as he was surprised by co-workers and friends all getting short-cropped haircuts as an act of solidarity.
"When I heard this was going to be for Buddy I was the first one in the (barber's) chair," said Mike Leverett, a public safety officer and the head softball coach at Harlem High School.
Actually, first in the chair on Thursday was the organizer of the mass hair cuttings, Mike Carraway, long-time friend and neighbor to Hendry and husband of school system Deputy Superintendent Sandra Carraway.
"We've been friends for years," Mike Carraway said of Hendry. "He's such a good guy and you hate that he's having to go through this.
"I just wanted to do something for him to let him know we're there for him and to make this experience a little less unpleasant."
Barbershop owner Dennis Adkins said that only once before had he undertaken a mass buzz cut event. That was seven years ago, when it was friends of the Carraway's son, Michael, who got short hair cuts to support him after treatments for Hodgkin's disease.
"This is the thing I've been dreading," Hendry said as he took a seat in Adkins' chair. "Oh gosh, I've got to close my eyes."
Adkins, though, was more devilish during the interaction.
"You don't know how long I've been wanting to do this," he said of shoring Hendry's thick hair.
When Adkins first cut Hendry's hair years ago, he said he told him, "The haircut is free, but the conversation will cost you $14."
A few weeks later, Hendry returned with a note telling Adkins that he wasn't going to talk, so that haircut will be free.
Adkins said he sat Hendry in the chair and immediately grabbed a trimmer to Hendry's verbal objection.
"See, I have ways of making you talk," Adkins said.
Diagnosed with cancer five weeks ago, Hendry said he started radiation treatments three weeks ago and began another round of chemotherapy this week.
After a 28-year career with the Florida State Patrol, Hendry moved to Columbia County nearly 20 years ago and started a new career protecting the county's pupils.
The levity that his friends brought him last week was much appreciated, Hendry said.
"You don't know what it means to have them all here, because I was scared," he said. "I was more worried about what was going to happen here (Thursday) than I was with what was going on inside my body."