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Meet the Folks, Ep. FO4 - … of Oak Springs - Cox Barber Shop
Sunset in the valley
Overheard at the barber shop
Heard at the Cox Barber Shop - April 1881
[Back in OS1 - Aug 1877 - we introduced Shorty Cox as new in town, having come from Cape Girardeau. He was a younger brother of City Councilman, Joseph Cox. He set up shop in the Jerry Potts barbershop as the first full-time barber in Oak Springs. Both Polly and Jerry Potts would occasionally provide a haircut or shave, as requested, but that was not their primary purpose in town. They wanted to recruit a full-time barber, now they had one. (P.S. Shorty Cox was the name of a barber in my home town, Coon Rapids, Iowa, a number of years after I left, in the mid-20th century… small world, as they say!)]
Shorty was giving Hiram Parks a hair and beard trim; Joseph Cox was waiting; Riley Cooper came in the door.
Shorty: Have a seat, Riley; neither of these is going to take too long.
Riley: No rush, Shorty, my wife sent me for a trim before her mother comes for a visit. You can take about a week, for all I care! She’ll be gone by then! (Laughter all around0
Joseph: How’s the mill business this spring, Riley?
Riley: This is a slow time, except for selling seed, and that’s mostly done now, as well. You and Abner have been keeping the lumber mill busy, though, and we appreciate that!
Joseph: Yes, Abner and his crew have been building houses about as fast as they can put them together well. No shoddy work from that crew. We have renters ready just about as soon as each one is complete. And, sometimes there is a wait, when they have other projects around town to work on.
Shorty: I was surprised there were as many folks wanting rental houses as you’ve found. Were you expecting that, Joseph?
Joseph: We built the first ones on pure speculation, and to keep the work crews busy, quite frankly. Now, we find the demand seems to continue to be there. We’ve had a number of young, newly married couples, lately. They are not ready to invest in a house. The rentals meet their needs, and they have space for a garden, and a shed.
Hiram (rarely speaks, but everyone listens when he does): I hear talk, in my shop. These young fellows really like having the opportunity to rent for a while. See how things work out, if you know what I mean? (Laughter all around)
Riley: You may be right, Hiram. Perhaps I should have checked out that option better, myself! (More chuckles)
The lumber business was going well
The fellows shift around
Hiram: Thank you, Shorty; I’ll be on my way. I’ll be back in another six months, if not sooner!
Shorty: I’ll be here waiting, Hiram. Thank you for your regular business!
Shorty: And he wasn’t kidding. He’ll trip on that beard of his, one day, but he does like to keep is shaped, if not shortened. Brother, what can I do for you today?
Joseph: Actually, you can go ahead and do Riley, here. I don’t want him to miss seeing his mother-in-law. I can stop back anytime.
Riley: You sure, Joseph? That’s mighty kind of you, I think. I wasn’t in any hurry at all.
Joseph: I just want to keep that wife of yours happy. I’ll see you later, Shorty. I just remembered something I need to do, too. Riley, you enjoy that visit from your mother-in-law. I’ll be waiting for a report.
Shorty: Is your mother-in-law really coming, Riley?
Riley: Yes, on the next stage. She is actually very nice. She enjoys ‘mother-in-law’ jokes, too, so it works out real well.
Shorty: Well, I’m happy to hear that. I remember you advertising for more trees to make more lumber. How did that work out?
Riley: Actually, it has worked out well. We now have future contracts with a number of local landowners to assure we have the lumber we need well into the future. It has also actually helped sales, in a way. Some farmers were reluctant to buy new lumber, but by working a deal with them for trees, with a discount on lumber, they buy more. Win, win, so to speak.
They discussed possible rain this day
Victor Campbell enters the shop
Victor: Have time to cut my hair and trim my beard when you get done with Riley there?
Shorty: Sure do, Mr. Campbell. Just have a seat. I’m getting Riley here all fixed up for his mother-in-law to visit. Orders from his wife.
Victor: Always follow orders from your wife, Riley. Voice of experience here. Happy wife, Happy life. Right?
Riley: That is why I’m here Victor. Much too soon, by my reckoning, but she said come, so here I am.
Victor: Real nice day out there, for the middle of April. We could use some rain, but it can wait ‘til I get back to the house.
Shorty: This time of year, the rain will come. Most likely when farmers are wanting to be in their fields to plant their crops, though.
Riley: Seems like lately, we’ve gotten more rain in March and May, and not so much in April, don’t you think?
Victor: Weather is always unpredictable, is all I know. I haven’t figured it out in 72 years, and I don’t suppose I will in another 72, either.
Riley: And I’ll bet you live that long, just to check it out.
Victor: Sounds like a fine idea, to me.
Shorty: I get tired just thinking of making it to 72. Hope I’m in half as good a shape as you are, Mr. Campbell, if I get that far at all.
Victor: Just take good care of yourself, Shorty, you’ll make it, easy. Take care of yourself first. You’ll do just fine.
Note from the author
This is the fourth episode of a new short story (FOx) series, Meet the Folks | … of Oak Springs. Each episode will explore, at first hand, some folks who lived in Oak Springs c. 1880. The stories are set in the Ozarks Mountains setting of “The Homeplace Saga” series of family saga historical fiction. These episodes are around the 1880 time frame, following by a couple of years the 40 episodes of “The Kings of Oak Springs” stories. That series had followed the time period of the “American Centennial at the Homeplace: The Founding (1833-1876)” collection of short stories. Some of these earlier stories are published on The Homeplace Saga blog, found at the link, below. These FOx episodes provide depth and background stories for the entire "Saga" series.
The first 20 episodes of the King Family series have now been compiled into an eBook, titled: "The Kings of Oak Springs: The Arrival Months in 1876 Vol 1." The second 20 episodes will become Vol 2. See the link, below, to get yours.
“The Homeplace Saga” historical fiction family saga stories are the creation of the author, William Leverne Smith, also known as “Dr. Bill.”