In days gone by, local barber shops were not only a place where hair was cut and shaves were given, but they were also a gathering spot for those who were seeking the local news, interested in gossip, wishing to regale others with tall tales about hunting or fishing and anyone interested in listening to stories about the good ole days. Since 1982 Jack’s Barber Shop on Main Street Anderson, Missouri has been such a place.
One warm summer’s morning as I sat in Jack’s barber’s chair, and while he adroitly manipulated the clippers, scissors and straight razor, I asked Jack if he knew a story about the good-ole-days of yesteryear. The elderly cutter of hair said, “Well let me think”. He stood still for a moment and although his hands remained near the top of my head he was no longer removing strands of hair. “I’ve got one”, he said, and as he resumed the shaping of my hair, he began the story about a long ago business partnership and friendship between two longtime Anderson residents, Dave and Jerry.
Dave’s home was a small one room building that rested on ten acres of land located on the west side of Anderson. The interior had a cot, a wood burning stove and not much more. Not far from the house stood an outbuilding constructed of poles that supported a slanted tin roof. Sheets of tin were attached to two of the sides. This was Jerry’s home. The roof kept the rain and snow off of Jerry, but the wind still found its way in. Jerry was a large, but gentle, Percheron draft horse standing about seventeen hands in height.
Dave and Jerry’s necessaries were by no means excessive and the two earned enough to satisfy their needs by plowing and tilling the gardens of local Anderson residents. Many of the people living in the small Southwest Missouri Ozarks community grew their own produce and came to rely on Dave and Jerry.
Dave had a small wooden wagon with rubber tires that carried a plow and a harrow. The wagon’s mode of propulsion was Jerry and when it came time to pull the plow, the mode of propulsion was once again, Jerry. As the two traveled the roads, paved and unpaved, looking for gardens to till and prospective clients, it was not uncommon to see a procession of cars and trucks behind the wagon. Dave believed he had every right to travel the roads at the speed of a horse drawn wagon.
Dave was a rather ordinary looking man who was always dressed in overalls. The constant bulge of a chaw of Redman Tobacco caused his once taught cheek to become misshapen over the years and a portion of the ring finger on Dave’s left hand had been bitten off by a hungry hog at the age of ten while Dave reached through the fence of his father’s hog pen. Dave had a passion for chewing, and the missing portion of his appendage didn’t seem to bother him at all.
Dave lived a modest and somewhat Spartan lifestyle but there were concessions to be made. Redman tobacco, an occasional bus ride to Noel for lunch and, after a hard day’s work, a stop at Hobbs Grocery located on the west side of Anderson. There Dave would leave the still Jerry hitched wagon alongside the store while he went inside for the day’s rewards, a bucket of water for the workhorse and two Oh Henry candy bars.
The bucket of water was placed on the ground below Jerry. After Jerry quenched his thirst, Dave removed the wrapping from the two candy bars and while feeding one to the appreciative steed, enjoyed the second one himself. As the sun began to fall against the horizon, Dave sat leisurely atop the old wagon while Jerry, knowing full well the way, took the wagon and his business partner and friend home.
Jerry’s passing involuntarily dissolved the partnership, and friendship, many years ago and a picture of he, Dave and the wagon can be seen on a granite grave marker standing in a Tiff City cemetery. Dave left the small house several years ago for the care he now receives at a home for those who have left their independent living years behind. Dave, now in his nineties, finds that the dreadful fog of forgetfulness which often consumes the recollections of younger years within the minds of the elderly has clouded his memory.
Dave now spends his days relaxing in a chair on the front porch of his new home and, although it is discouraged, a large bulge may be observed in a cheek where a chaw of Redman Tobacco is enjoyed.
The building now occupied by Jack’s Barber Shop has been a continuously run barber shop for one hundred and fifteen years. The, now two chair shop, was once a four chair business and has had several owners throughout the years. Two long magazine and newspaper strewn benches occupy a place against a wall where waiting customers, and those just telling and listening to stories, can sit comfortably. The elder Jack has been cutting hair for more than fifty-one years and now shares the haircutting responsibilities, and the second chair, with a younger barber, Scott.
Dave was proud of his and Jerry’s work and after a garden was tilled he was known to say, “I did a pretty good job, didn’t I”.