“I remember sitting on the steps of a TV mobile unit at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal as my friend braided my hair. A group of Russian wrestlers took a picture.”

Terry Woolf and long hair have rarely been strangers – till now.

Woolf, a Yellowknife-based camera operator and broadcast technician, parted company with a pigtail he has maintained for the best part of four decades at a ceremony on Saturday.

By inviting donations in return for the chance to cut his hair, Woolf raised several thousand dollars for the NWT Breast Health/Breast Cancer Action Group.

“I’ve had this pigtail for 35 years and even for a guy, that’s a long time with the same hairdo,” Woolf told Cabin Radio.

“I’m about to embark on a project that takes me away from showers and running water for a long time. The whole idea of washing and braiding my hair in a river in the bush just seemed outrageous, so I thought this was a good time to cut it off.

“I thought I could donate my hair to cancer – they collect hair to make wigs – but apparently if there’s more than 10 percent grey in it, they can’t use it, so I’ve maxed out on that. My partner said, why not just use it as a fundraiser for a local group? That seemed like a good idea to me.”

Yellowknife residents pose with a variety of tools as Terry Woolf prepares to part company with his braid in June 2018
Yellowknife residents pose with a variety of tools as Terry Woolf prepares to part company with his braid. Photo: Carmen Braden

Woolf and his pigtail have quite the history together.

In a short biography of the pigtail prepared prior to its demise, Woolf outlined their shared experiences over four decades of constant companionship.

“In 1984 on a visit to Ontario, my brother was wearing a short rat tail of hair. I’ve never really been a style maven, but I thought this was a cool look. I came home and grew a rat tail. A year or so later I visited my brother again. He still had a little rat tail, while I had a long pigtail. I had misread the style,” Woolf wrote.

“I kept the pigtail. It drew some major crowds when I was on a job in China in 1986. A long pigtail, or queue, was an old style in China. Another job took me to Kenya where people weren’t at all shy about pointing and laughing at my long tail.”

Woolf’s summer project is a feature documentary following a group of people from the Dehcho as they build a mooseskin boat above Virginia Falls on the Nahanni, then bring it down to Fort Simpson.