Category Archives: Barbershop Theology

Barbershop Theology, Part 3: Table or Booth?

Now that I live in a metropolitan area I have adapted to the magic of the business lunch. “Hey, let me buy you lunch sometime and we’ll talk about that.” Recently my schedule called for three breakfast meetings, four lunch meetings and a couple of dinner things.

Lunch was altogether different at the barber shop. I recall watching the clock, growing hungry and for a lull that would allow us to go eat. Since my family rarely ate outside the home, walking across the street to Woody’s Café loomed as a Saturday treat. Over the years I passed the hamburger-and-fries stage and grew to anticipate a cheeseburger with onion rings.

One day I ordered with Mom. (She was the Saturday help, extra barber, and that’s another story to be told later.) Anyway, she ordered a chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, and corn. And I learned to love cottage cheese with peaches. Taking my break from the shoe shine chair and eating at the café was a welcomed relief. The food was a much anticipated treat.

To this day one of my small habits is to seek out a rural diner/café/restaurant. One where there are family pictures on the wall, a sports schedule for the local high school team, out-dated décor and pictures with horses. Continue reading Barbershop Theology, Part 3: Table or Booth?

Barbershop Theology: Relationship before Rules – Part II

Quanah Parker " arguably the perfect representative of the good, bad and ugly of the treaties, tribes and tumult of America's westward expansion."

We do not become good so that God will love us.  Rather, it is the love of God that makes us good.

Quanah Parker is arguably the perfect representative of the good, bad and ugly of the treaties, tribes, and tumult of America’s westward expansion. Quanah’s story is remarkable and more particularly, his mother’s story is a plotline in many of great movie westerns. Indeed, hers is a remarkable tale as well.

Growing up in Apache, Oklahoma I had school mates who were direct descendants of the Comanche Indian chief, Quanah Parker. Parker has many descendants. He married seven times, though he never kept more than three at a time. When an Indian Agent told him that he would have to choose only one wife, Quanah replied, “You choose and you tell ‘em.” Continue reading Barbershop Theology: Relationship before Rules – Part II

Barbershop Theology, Pt. 4: “The Nose Knows”

Do you smell that?  I can.

There are certain types of floor polish that smell just like my old elementary school in Apache, Oklahoma.  On rare occasions I will walk into a building to the perfect combinations of soaps, cleaners and mop bucket — boom! Ahhhhh, there it is—the long hallway that takes me down to Mrs. Alexander’s fourth grade classroom. A thousand images flood my mind when I get a certain whiff of my youth.

I’m surprised we could smell anything at all back in the sixties. Everybody smoked. Part of my job as the barber shop shoe shine boy was emptying ash trays. Let’s just say, I emptied them a lot. These days I nearly gag whenever anyone within a quarter-mile lights up a cigarette.

I can smell my memories.   I think that’s why I’m always looking for a barber shop that smells right.  If I walked into something like Spring-Fresh-Potpourri I would turn around and leave. Surely there’s a man law about this: There shall be no potpourri in a barber shop. So what makes a barber shop smell right?  Jeris Hair Tonic, Butch Wax and clipper oil—these contribute basic components to real barber shop smell.

On Fridays, several customers would make their way in from the Sale Barn where cattle had been auctioned. The Angus, Herefords and multi-various bulls, cows and calves were fond of leaving green souvenirs which the men’s boots would inevitably pick up. The barber shop took on even more character when the farmers and ranchers came to town. Smells good don’t it?

Don’t ask me why I love some of the aromas of my youth so much. My best answer will be nostalgia, sentimentality, or perhaps a coping mechanism which works to suppress my neurosis.  Saddle soap, leather dye and cowboys boots dipped in a cow lot—man if somebody would bottle that I’d wear it as cologne! Continue reading Barbershop Theology, Pt. 4: “The Nose Knows”

Barbershop Theology Pt. 1: Relationship Before Rules

1965 with my little brother and sister . . . age 9, a workin' man.

My first job was a great gig. I learned a lot about responsibility, customer service, work ethic and satisfaction in a job well done. I was a shoeshine boy.

In 1965 my dad gave me a corner of his barbershop and spotted me the money to buy Kiwi Shoe Polish, saddle soap and a few brushes.  The pool hall owner, George, gave me a couple of strips of pool table fabric. I used the green felt to finish each shoe shine with a brisk buff.

The cost for a shine was 2 bits (that’s a quarter). Often times I would get a ten cent tip. I could finish a long Saturday with a pocket full of change, black fingers and the swagger of a workin’ man. (Oh the stories I can tell you about my years in the barber shop. Lord willing, I shall do so in posts to come.)

Of course you are wondering, “Hmmm, and just how do I get a cool job like that?”

Well, you don’t have to go to college or anything. In fact, I got my start when I was nine years old. I don’t even remember interviewing for the job. Continue reading Barbershop Theology Pt. 1: Relationship Before Rules

Barbershop Theology (Introduction): “I Give You My Word.”

I grew up in Apache, Oklahoma. The air there is thick with Oklahoma culture; tribal Pow Wows, local rodeo hands, Mo Betta western wear, grazing cattle, sweeping wheat fields, Friday night football and salt-of-the-earth people.  These things describe my childhood home.

My dad was the town barber. As the shoe-shine boy and floor sweeper I spent hundreds, probably thousands of hours in Caldwell’s Barber Shop of Apache.  I learned to appreciate community and I met a lot of wonderful characters. It seems like yesterday and at the same time it seems like another age.

In my dad’s shop, and around the town, I saw a lot of business deals, from renting pasture and horse deals all the way to car trades and services to be rendered. The transactions were typically hinged on a final understanding:  knowing whose word to trust and when bovine excrement was in the mix. And I learned that a man was “as good as his word.”

In the beginning was the Word – the Gospel of John

Even before time and existence the Word is. The Gospel of John, in poetic form, unveils the declaration of eternal reality. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. This passage does not refer to “In the beginning” of all time and created existence. It refers to what is without beginning, the Infinite; In the beginning God . . .

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,

(and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,)

full of grace and truth.

If you want to touch truth, if you want to inhale grace, you have to take God at his Word. That phrase, “dwelt among us” is particularly a part of the disclosure of God. It refers pitching his tent, coming into our midst to abide.

Nelson Mandela noted, when we speak to someone in a language he understands, we reach his head. If we talk his language, we reach his heart. God spoke our language when the Word became flesh.

Continue reading Barbershop Theology (Introduction): “I Give You My Word.”