A Logger Topping Trees

My son, do not forget my teaching,
but keep my commands in your heart,
for they will prolong your life many years
and bring you peace and prosperity.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
bind them around your neck,
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
in the sight of God and man.

–          Proverbs 3:1-4


“Well, Butte, Montana just a-passin’ through, one thing I just had to do
Had to get a haircut and I was worried for my hair
I had a feeling of impending doom the minute I stepped into that room
And laid my eyes upon that barber chair…oh yeah

“It was a macho barber shop. Hair dryers were mounted on a rifle rack.
Wasn’t no mirrors. The barber chair was a Peterbilt. Barber walked in;
he was huge, seven feet tall, three hundred pounds of spring steel and
rawhide. Wearin’ a hard hat, chewin’ a cigar, had a t-shirt on – said,
“I hate musicians.” Threw me in the chair, sneered and said, “What’ll it
be pal?” Now a lot of people would be intimidated in a situation like
this…I was not. I am what I am, play my piano, sing my little
songs. I looked him right in the eye and I said, “I’m a logger…just up in Coos Bay, Oregon. Been toppin’ trees – quite possibly the toughest
man in the entire world. He said, “All right!” He gave me a haircut and I walked out of there, my hair was gone! Made Kojak look like Bill Golden. Yeah, had a tremendous craving to operate heavy equipment.
Now, you may think that Butte, Montana haircut’s the worst any man could ever get…Wrong!

“Well, a few months later, I was way down South, grits and gravy and a-hush your mouth
Hair so long I’m startin’ to look like a man in drag
It was then that the sheriff came up and said, “Boy, you got too much hair on your head
You better get yourself a haircut or a dog tag!”

“Well, when I stepped into the shop, I realized immediately that I was dealing with a born-again barber. Don’t see too many barber shops with a steeple. Had an organ in the corner, a choir…an usher led me to the barber chair. Barber walked in, started saying grace, “Oh Lord, for these haircuts we are about to receive, may we be truly thankful. Dominus possum pax probiscus, post mortem, et tu Brute, puella carborundum. He was sorta half-Baptist, half-Catholic… kind of a Cathtist. He started cuttin’ my hair and preachin’ at the same time.
I mean he’s a wild man, scissors and razors a-flyin’ around my head, he’s talkin’ about the liquor and wild women and music and sex and the evils of dancing and the music business in general. Then he looked down at me and he said, “What do you do for a living?” Now, I’m not ashamed of what I do for a livin’. Workin’ bars and casinos, around liquor and wild women, I just play my piano, sing my little songs. I looked him right in the eye and I said, “I run this church for loggers…”

When you get a haircut, be sure to go back home
When you get a haircut, get a barber you have known
Since you were a little bitty boy sittin’ in a booster chair
Or you might look like Larry, Moe or Curly if a stranger cuts your hair

–          Ray Stevens, The Haircut Song



Stay with me on this one.  I might make a link between being a logger and getting and following sound advice.  As for the haircut song, this song is sound advice.  The barbers of my youth, and booster chair days, are long gone.  But it takes courage to sit in a stranger’s chair. And it might take a few trips before he gets it right.


Definitions may be required for this dated song (middle verse removed).  Bill Golden probably refers to the Bill Golden of the Oak Ridge Boys – the one with the long hair and long full beard.  It could be the drag racer of the same name, but I have no idea of his hair style.  Kojak was the television role portrayed by the very bald, Telly Savalas.  As for Larry, Moe, and Curly, those are the Three Stooges – each with their distinctive hair styles.


Let me start with a fictional story.


A young up-and-coming logger was approached by a guy in a three-piece suit.  The suit said, “Young man, I am impressed by your knowledge of cutting loblolly pine down here in the southern states of America.  I just bought the company that you work for.  I am sending you to Coos Bay, Oregon.  You are now the company’s expert in topping trees.  Don’t worry about the old folks who knew what they were doing, I fired them all.  You will now be unencumbered with old knowledge.  You will charge forward into a new tomorrow.”


Cutting loblolly pine is done while standing firmly on the ground.  Topping trees is done by climbing the tree.  Then, while tied off to the tree, the tree-topper cuts off the top half of the tree.  It is dangerous work, but if you know what you are doing, you won’t die in the effort.


So, what does the young logger do?  He could quit.  He could go to Coos Bay and try to find an old logger that would give him advice.  Or he do as told, he could risk his life trying to find a better way of doing something that he knows nothing about.


As an old safety man, I have to interject with the notification of a new safety rule where I worked about 35 years ago.  The notification stated, “Railroad engines and logging trucks DO NOT HAVE BRAKES.  They do, but do not expect them to stop, or even slow down.”  They had a few vehicular accidents that year.  Just letting the public know some ‘sage advice.’


The Scripture talks of an older, more experienced person having sage advice for the next generation.  It is said that Mark Twain quipped, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”  The Quote Investigator cannot find any document that confirms this is from Twain, but the words are now in print and have been for about a hundred years.  The point is that at some point, we need to seek good advice.  We need to ask those who have gone before.


But what happens when your company is bought by another company?  Typically, the new company only buys your company for the ‘technology’.  They want the rights to the patents.  They want the mountains of engineering drawings.  They want the introduction to new customers (for them), the customers of the purchased company.  What they do not want is all the old employees.  Yet, it is those old employees who created the mountain of engineering drawings, the patents, and even in some cases, the ‘technology.’


So, you are one of the remaining guys.  They make you a manager.  They tell you to do something that you have never done before and never seen done before.  You call the old guy for advice, but when he provides it, you fear that using the advice will get you fired.  After all, he was let go.  What do you do?


Many years ago when I was young, within the first week of getting out of the Army and working in South Carolina, a construction worker entered the office that I shared with another engineer.  It was my first day in the office – having finished my orientation, but my boss was out of town.  The construction worker asked me this long and involved question.  I asked, “Why are you asking me?”


My office partner said, “You don’t know it yet, but you will be assigned as the expert in that area when the new boss arrives next Monday.”  Turning to the construction worker, “He’ll have your answer in no more than two days.”  After a few choice words about what his crew would do for two days while the new engineer learned how to be an ‘expert’, the construction worker left.


That left me two days to become an ‘expert’.  I learned quickly that the old guys in the private offices knew a lot, and you might just find one old guy that could save your skin until the next construction worker stuck his head in the door.


An old preacher taught me how the denomination of Presbyterians got its name.  The denomination had leaders called ‘presbyters’, loosely translated as ‘grey hairs’.  With experience, there might be enough wisdom for grey hairs to lead the church.


Whether the grey hairs are any indication of wisdom or not, we need to heed Solomon’s advice in Proverbs 3.  We need to find a good sounding board.  Reading and praying are important but listening to others who have been in similar situations is important as well.


Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.


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