Cut and Rumble
A local barber uses motorcycles (and metaphors) to help out strangers.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Books like Falling into Grace by Adyashanti and Love by Mother Teresa aren’t usually the type of literary fare one finds in a men’s barber shop.
But Fred Reynolds isn’t your average chap with scissors and a straight-edge.
Of all the books in his shop, Generosity by Gordon MacDonald is probably the sharpest reflection of the man. As his customers know, during the last two weeks of September, they either have to go without a trim or visit another barber, because Reynolds is somewhere between California and Montana with two of his good friends, on a mission of giving they refer to as Spirit Ride.
In explaining its purpose, Reynolds speaks frequently in metaphor: “It’s like a dam with a causeway and the water flows more and more”; “The mud in the way is self-centeredness, and we are channels for generosity.”
Reynolds gives fellow Spirit Rider Perry Shoulders credit for naming the annual run, coined on a solo trip through the desert of southeastern Oregon. It was there Shoulders came across a hitchhiker and his dog, parched in the relentless heat and in need of help. It was then Shoulders also unknowingly created the group’s oft-used catch phrase, “How can I help you?”
Being on a motorcycle, he couldn’t offer a lift, but he could run on to the next town and bring them back water, snacks and a sun-shielding sombrero.
He later shared his story with Reynolds and fellow rider Hugh Seagreaves, fostering an infectious enthusiasm toward philanthropy that has the men devoting time every year to motoring across the open places and towering peaks of the West, helping out their fellow humans with everything from automotive fixes to food. For one down-and-out family in Jensen, Utah, they sponsored a family vacation.
Reynolds calls Seagreaves, his brother-in-law, a mentor. Seagreaves takes to the skies for Angel Flight, which connects terminally ill cancer patients to pilots who offer free flights to hospitals with experimental treatment programs.
Reynolds admired this compassion, and wanted to do something too.
“I don’t have a plane,” he remembers thinking, “but I have a motorcycle.”
He saves tips and any other extra income he can salvage, which doesn’t seem like much, but he admits he is surprised by the amount of money he has been able to save in the years since the first Spirit Ride.
“The first year I only had $380,” Reynolds says, “but each year the money seemed to multiply and by the fourth year, we all had over $1,000.”
Faith doesn’t enter the dialog until a customer asks if there is a religious side to Reynolds’ charitable instincts.
“Religion is a vehicle, like a BMW or a Toyota,” says Reynolds, a Seventh Day Adventist. “People get too hung up on what they’re driving.”
Reynolds says added inspiration came from watching the likes of Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry on TV – old guys, like him, out to offer a hand up. The Spirit Ride fellows feel as if they are living the life they watched other men act out as television’s first action heroes.
“It’s the idea of the golden rule,” Reynolds says. “Treating one’s neighbor as yourself is what drives us, but I’m more drawn than I am driven.”
They are drawn annually to La Vida Mission south of Farmington, N.M. It was here in the 1950s Shoulders’ adopted mother, Vida, came across a group of Native American orphans living in old cars. The site’s since been converted into a safe haven complete with a medical facility, dental clinic and K-8 school. It’s one indication that their regular mission runs deeper than buddies enjoying an adventure with a little philanthropy in the sidecar. One alum even gave up his motorcycle last year, selling it so he could move to Chile and do missionary work in a hospital full time.
The generosity tends to spread as the ride progresses, he adds. During a gas station stop they noticed a car with what Reynolds calls “maypops,” tires so bald they could burst at any time. As the men spoke to the car owner and offered to buy him new ones, he was a little shocked. The man at the auto shop was even more surprised – and threw in a new set of shocks.
Being a former flight captain in the Navy, Reynolds is a whiz with engines, keeping his Yamaha FJR 1300 in pristine condition and rehabbing stranded vehicles back into gear. His view of the world’s working parts, however, places him in a more humble place. “I’m just a spark plug,” he says, “in an internal compassion engine.”
Forest Hill Barber Shoppe is located at 1184 B Forest Ave., Pacific Grove. 375-3833.