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Appetite for Life

Whether he is serving good food or selflessly giving to local organizations and individuals in need, Trails End BBQ’s John Cash doesn’t like seeing anyone go hungry.

Michele Chiappetta
Valerie Grant
October 29, 2017

Among the well-established restaurants in Owasso sits a humble, rustic barbecue spot known as Trails End BBQ. Trails End consistently serves its customers with pleasure, making sure people leave a little happier than they came in. That same sense of service and giving quietly and consistently to others is something that seems to be the guiding philosophy of Trails End’s owner, John Cash.

Trails End BBQ and Cash have both been fixtures in Owasso for over two decades.

“It’s been a long, hard road, though it doesn’t seem like it now,” Cash says of his journey from past to present. “The Lord has blessed us with great success and a community that, for the most part, welcomes us with open arms. We’ve tried our best to be a good business operating in the community and be a part of it, not just be here to take but be here to help.”

Cash’s dedication to taking care of others started at a young age. He had a habit of helping friends, sometimes spending money on them to the point that his parents fussed over his generosity. “I guess I just always looked at money as a tool to be used, and not to hoard it, not to be selfish with it,” he says. “I love giving to the church, giving to needy organizations.”

Cash shares details of his charitable work with reluctance, feeling that it is better to simply give as he can, without drawing attention to himself while he does it. “I believe enough in the Bible when it says the left hand is not supposed to know what the right hand is doing,” he says. “In other words, if you do something, just do it in quiet, and don’t make a big deal, don’t bring attention to yourself where it doesn’t count. We just like to help.”

Still, it’s clear from talking with him and others who know about him that he cares a lot about doing what he can do to make a difference. Among his preferred local charities are Mission Owasso, sponsored by First Baptist Owasso to help those in need, and Night Light Tulsa, which offers meals and toiletries to Tulsa’s homeless population.

John Cash and his Trails End staff work hard to serve tasty meals that the people of Owasso can count on. (Photo: Valerie Grant)
John Cash and his Trails End staff work hard to serve tasty meals that the people of Owasso can count on. (Photo: Valerie Grant)

“I don’t like seeing anyone go hungry,” Cash says. “Not in this country.” His sense of the advantages he has as an American has been shaped by his mission trips to Nicaragua, where he saw firsthand what many people in underdeveloped nations struggle to handle.

Another area where Cash likes to give is to the local Owasso school system. He cares deeply about teachers, he says. “My kids went to school here, so I do anything I can do to help the schools out.”

Cash helps the sports teams out because he values the amount of work and dedication that local coaches spend in teaching children and helping them to develop a purpose. “That’s a lot of selflessness — coaching,” he says. His own stepdaughter serves as a coach, so he’s seen that giving attitude firsthand.

Among the things Cash does to help come naturally to a restaurant owner. He feeds people at the games. Trails End BBQ also does catering work for the school during Friday night football games.

Serving good barbecue through his restaurant is another way that Cash connects to the Owasso community. Many of Trails End’s regulars have been coming to the restaurant for years, some since it first opened, and many of them eat there multiple times each week.

Cash’s interest in cooking started at a young age, just like his giving. “My father used to barbecue,” he says. “We would have ribs on Thanksgiving. Mom was a great cook. If company came over, she could have five or six vegetables, potatoes and gravy, and some kind of meat pretty quick. All my friends loved to come to the house and eat mom’s cooking.”

John Cash and his daughter, Christa Rice (Photo: Valerie Grant)
John Cash and his daughter, Christa Rice (Photo: Valerie Grant)

With that kind of family training, it’s little surprise that Cash himself began to cook too. He started cooking meat while he was still working full time at UPS. A friend encouraged him to participate in barbecue competitions, and for a while, Cash did that, winning awards at competitions in Arkansas, Stillwater and Claremore, among other places.

At the restaurant itself, Cash and his staff work hard to serve tasty meals that the people of Owasso can count on. They smoke their meat by the indirect heat method, which means that most of what they serve has been smoking several hours overnight before it is served.

Among the customers’ favorite items are the Friday night catfish special, the ribs and Trails End’s special steak nights, which they do every few months and are announced only on their Facebook page. They also make a fresh tabouli that customers enjoy, as well as a mean homemade bread pudding with rum sauce.

For Thanksgiving, Cash and Trails End BBQ prepare Thanksgiving meals for selected needy families in the area, in conjunction with Owasso Community Resources. “They’ll get a turkey, potatoes, vegetables, rolls, cranberry sauce,” he says. “Volunteers come in, pick it up and deliver it. We’ve done that now for 16 or 17 years. The neatest thing about it is, employees come in and work that day for free.”

Trails End BBQ also does a lot of catering. “We do a lot of weddings,” Cash says. They can cater for small groups of 30 to 40 people, all the way up to 300 and 400. And he has even delivered catered food to places as far away as Wisconsin, 12 hours away.

Whether he is serving good food or giving to local organizations in need, Cash sees it all as a way to improve the place he lives. “It just makes it a better place for me to live down the road, and a better place for my kids,” he says. “It’s kind of a selfish idea, wanting it to be better for myself. But if you don’t participate in that, you have no reason to gripe at somebody else.”

Trails End BBQ
8888 N. Garnett Road | Owasso
Monday-Friday: 6:30 a.m.-2 p.m., 4-8 p.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 4-8 p.m.
Sunday: Closed