I found my first really great barber in 1979, when I lived in Mobile, Alabama. She cut my hair every three weeks for the three years that I lived in there. Then I moved to Laurel, Mississippi. I tried two or three local barbers in Laurel. They didn’t do it for me, so I began driving to Mobile, 115 miles one way, every three weeks, for a haircut. I did that for over two years until my barber married a rich customer and retired.
I didn’t have another great barber for almost five years. During that time, I’d moved from Laurel, Mississippi, to Memphis, Tennessee, to Mentone, Alabama. Mentone didn’t have a barber shop, so I began my ritual barber search in Fort Payne, Alabama, the county seat. I asked a couple of guys I’d met where they got their hair cut. They all said that Beason’s Barber Shop was the place to go. I asked which barber was the best, and they said Beason was the man I was looking for. They were wrong. Beason’s attention span was somewhat less than the length of time it took to cut my hair, so his results weren’t consistent.
Before I go any further, let me tell you what makes a great barber from my perspective. First, they should listen to what I say when I tell them how I wear my hair. Second, they should do their dead level best to create the look I describe. Third, they should give the job at hand (cutting my hair) their full attention. Fourth, they should be consistent – surprises have a place but not in a haircut.
Beason cut my hair twice. Both times, as he worked, I watched Danny Stone, one of the three barbers in his shop, cut hair. While Beason told stories I wasn’t interested in, lost his place, and surprised the hell out of me, I watched Danny work by the numbers – 1, 2, 3, 4 (see above). The third time I walked into Beason’s Barber Shop, Beason stood up, and I motioned for him to sit back down and pointed toward Danny. He jumped to attention, and I took a seat in his chair. I’ve been sitting in a Stone’s barber chair ever since. That’s what this blog is all about – a family tradition.
Danny cut my hair for more than fifteen years. Even after I moved from Mentone to Huntsville, I drove back to Fort Payne, 77 miles for a haircut. A couple of years after I met him at Beason’s, Danny opened his own shop, Stone’s Barber Shop, and for the last five years that he was my barber, he had two other barbers working with him. One was his nephew, Brandon, who began working for Danny when he was twenty.
A couple of years after I moved to Huntsville, Brandon called me. He said, “Mr. Carson, Uncle Danny said it would be OK for me to call and let you know that I am working at Taylor’s Barber Shop, in Huntsville.”
His timing was perfect. I was overdue for a haircut and wondering when I was going to find an extra three hours to drive to Fort Payne and get one from Danny. I got directions to Taylor’s Barber Shop, and Brandon has been cutting my hair ever since. Every time I’m in Fort Payne, I stop in Stone’s Barber Shop and talk to Danny and, through the years, he’s even cut my hair a couple of times. Neither of them minds, because cutting hair is a Stone family tradition. Today, there are fourteen Stones working full-time as barbers (that doesn’t include Uncle Buddy, who only works four hours a day, two days a week – Buddy is eighty years old). That’s Brandon and his brother Aaron (standing) in the photo at the beginning of this post.
The Stones are third generation barbers. There are three brothers, Danny, Brandon’s Dad, Randall, and Lavon, who I haven’t met, but I know if the circumstances were such that I needed a haircut, and he was the Stone who was available, I wouldn’t hesitate to crawl in his chair because I know the Stones all work the same way – 1,2,3,4. I also know they share a lot more than a trade and a family name. They are bonded in a way I’ve never seen a family bonded.
The Stone’s support each other over rough spots, and they have their share of them; they celebrate each other’s triumphs, and they have their share of those too. But mostly, what stands out about the Stone’s is their love for each other. I’ve never seen love like theirs in a family before, and it is refreshing. I come away from time with Brandon or Danny with far more than a haircut. I come away with a rejuvenated faith in humanity.
I know I’m never going to have what the Stones have, not with the family that pulled my name out of the cosmic drawing, but I do have the love and support of a family, and I have it in spades. I’m part of a family that is spread all over the globe – men and women, most of whom I’ve never met face-to-face, who rejoice in each other’s lives. Who love each other and don’t hesitate to show it, talk about it, and live it. We even share a trade – we’re all writers – storytellers – people who keep tradition alive for the ages.
As much as I love Brandon, Aaron, Danny, and all the other Stones, my storyteller family is my family of choice, and I love each and every one of you.