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The Barber Knows: New shop rivals ’Brau for inside scoop

Kevin Slimp • Feb 19, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Being a barber is a lot like being a priest, or even a bartender. Customers might tell you anything: a funny story, a lesson in town history, or even their deepest, darkest secrets. It is an almost sacred calling.

There’s something about sitting in a barber’s chair that seems oddly familiar. For many, climbing on the booster stool is one of our earliest childhood memories. The sound of clippers and the feel of the brush on the back of your neck conjures recollections of a bygone era.

When the barber clips the black vinyl drape around your neck, it’s almost impossible for your mind to keep from wandering back to years long gone.

Frank Bell opened his shop on Main Street less than two weeks earlier, yet in that time he had learned enough about the good folks of Lennox Valley to fill a couple of novels had he been a writer. After living most of his life in the “big city” of Terre Haute, Indiana, Frank was starting to feel like he knew more intimate details of The Valley after two weeks than he learned about his former home in 38 years.

Between his new clientele, tales from the teenagers who hung out in the shop after school and his visit two days earlier with Sarah, pastor of the Methodist Church, Frank was becoming somewhat of an authority on town history. It wouldn’t be long before he would be as confused as everyone else concerning the seemingly constant drama surrounding his new home.

Speaking of constant drama, Iris Long was at wits’ end trying to decide how to handle the recent departure of her former friend and columnist, Maxine Miller. Maxine’s column was perhaps the most popular regular feature in the Hometown News. Losing “Rumor Has It” to her nemesis-turned-rival newspaper publisher, Raymond Cooper, had left more than a hole in her newspaper.

Iris had been in the news business a long time, and she quickly moved past the personal betrayal. Seated in her regular booth, staring at the Hoffbrau menu, she was most worried she would soon lose even more readers to Cooper’s “rag” if she didn’t come up with a suitable replacement for “Rumor Has It.”

Dr. Palpant recommended Iris watch her food intake, as the stress of the recent election and new business competition had led to a good bit of “emotional eating,” as he called it. Iris had done a good job for more than a week, but continued thoughts of her newspaper going under led her to turn to the Signature French Toast for comfort.

If two slices of egg-battered sourdough bread, toasted on the griddle until golden brown and sprinkled with powdered sugar, couldn’t calm Long’s nerves, perhaps nothing would.

It was hard to think at the moment, however, as she waited on her food. Jessie, her waitress and friend, was talking nonstop concerning the latest gossip she overheard during the breakfast rush an hour earlier.

Elbert Lee Jones had seen the new barber walking with Sarah Hyden-Smith to lunch at the ‘Brau on Wednesday. Vera Pinrod was sure she had seen Raymond Cooper with A.J. Fryerson in Springfield during the Auburn Hat Society meeting at the Red Lobster.

The hem of Rhonda Graham’s dress at Sunday services was no less than two inches above her knees, and “Everyone knows Brother Billy Joe doesn’t approve of such shameless attire at his church.”

Jessie’s rambling almost caused Iris to lose her temper. That’s when it hit her.

“Jessie,” Iris interrupted, “have you ever thought of becoming a writer?”

“What in the world are you talking about?” Jessie replied.

“Yes, I think you just might have a new career,” Iris said with a slight grin.


Watch for “Lennox Valley: The Book,” coming in April. Writer Kevin Slimp is a Johnson City native known for his expertise in publishing technology. “The Good Folks of Lennox Valley” is fictionally based on people he has met in years of travel. Contact him at lennoxvalley@kevinslimp.com. For more on “Lennox Valley,” go to www.lennoxvalley.com.

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