Elko, Nev. – A few years back the Lion's Mane Barbershop relocated from the Red Lion Hotel & Casino to the small complex that serves the residents of the Double Dice RV Park. Its residents, a combination of mine workers, drifters, and people just passing through, provide a steady stream of customers for owner Tyler Vavak, a Ron Paul supporter. It is to these customers that he preaches the libertarian gospel while providing the only straight razor service in town. "I voted for Bush in 2004. I was always Republican leaning but I get a lot of customers that are veterans and they told me about this guy named Ron Paul," he said
Vavak first heard about Paul in 2006 from a veteran who was venting about the Federal Reserve and the gold standard. It is not just about the Federal Reserve for Vavak though. One of the issues here is the US Forrest Service's creation of a Travel Management Plan for the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, a popular place of recreation for local residents. The plan would create restrictions that Vavak thinks go too far. He believes Paul would stop its implementation.
Inside Vavak's shop, just below some Oakland Raiders memorabilia and pictures of haircuts, is a table full of Paul stickers and pamphlets. (Oh, and there is this sweet Ron Paul clock.) Vavak says his shop is a place not only for people to get a great haircut and shave but a place of discussion, too. "I have customers with all kinds of opinions. Some are private about them and others love to mix it up," he said.
Later today Vavak is headed to Elko Regional Airport to pick up Paul and take him to his afternoon campaign appearance. Ron Paul Elko MeetUp organizer Marla Criss suggested him for the task. While he is out with his favorite congressman from Texas, Vavak's barber apprentice, Dave Shinn, will be holding down the shop.
Shinn, 29, is a big fan of Paul too and he credits Vavak for his "political awakening. "I didn't really care about politics until I started working for Tyler last year. He really opened my eyes to the Constitution and stuff," he said.
"Now he's got me making phone calls and talking to customers," he said.
When asked about having to go through Nevada's official barber licensing process, Shinn said it's a pain but added, "I wouldn't want just anybody cutting my hair. I think you should have to be licensed to do a lot of things."