I was a shoeshine boy back in the early days of my youth. I would sit with my grandfather’s shoeshine box, beneath a trophy case on the wall of his barbershop. The patrons of the barbershop had given up on me, I was too slow, too small and I got distracted easily. It wasn’t the horse show ribbons in the trophy case or the old fashion girlie magazines next to the hat rack; these held their appeal but the real treasure in grandpa’s barbershop was the stories. Ranchers, stock hands, truckers and even a few cowboys drifted in to Luff’s Barbershop at regular intervals. They’d sit in grandpa’s chair or my father’s and get a hot towel, a shave, a trim. I still remember the sound of barber scissors and the smell of the green hair tonic that came in tall glass bottles. No one was ever in a hurry to leave, after their trim; they would sit on grandpa’s old leather couch and tell stories. Some were cowboy stories, remembrances shared from old men to young men, the last shoot out in Billings, the tunnels from Miles City to the stock yards. Sometimes the tales grew pretty tall, details too large to come from one man, the other patrons adding their own testaments to the well know story. Yet even in repetition, these stories took hold of me. I’d stop shining a pair of boots and my eyes would unfocus and the story would take me. This frequently cost me twenty five cents as the owner of the boots would have to finish himself and walk out with his change still in his pocket. Sometimes though, a story would be good enough for the barbershop to close down, scissors clipping to a stop, cigarettes left unlit and everyone leaning forward in that soft leather creak of my grandfather’s old furniture. That feeling has not left me to this day. It is the feeling that I wanted to capture from the get go with Soul’s Road. In so many ways, this project has been a return to Luff’s Barbershop, a return to those stories that devour a listener, a reader. I am tremendously lucky to know so many talented story tellers and luckier still that they all were immediately interested in working on a fiction collection. It’s been a heck of a trip, a story in itself but the end of that trip is near and Soul’s Road, the collected stories of fourteen amazing writers, will be available for purchase in a few short weeks. As the editor of Soul’s Road, I have had the opportunity to spend time with each story, to see it grow to watch it’s meaning unfold. It reminds me so keenly of listening to those collaborative stories in the barbershop, where all the patrons had a chance to interject, to remember. These are more than short stories, more than barbershop memories. This collection is that moment, that wonderful moment, when the storyteller has brought you forward, leaning you forward so you can’t possibly miss the next sentence, the next word, the next moment. But don’t take my word for it. Do a little walking along Soul’s Road and see for yourself.
Cody T Luff