Here is my column for the Fence Post this month.
This Cowboy’s Hat
For centuries, cowboys have worn hats. The early vaqueros wore sombreros to protect their heads and faces from the burning sun. I’m not sure when or how, but the sombrero evolved into our modern day cowboy hats. The cowboy hat is a symbol of a true cowboy. Think of all those old cowboy movies: where would John Wayne, Gene Autry, or Roy Rogers have been without their cowboy hats?
Made of felt or straw, cowboy hats betray their wearer as being a cowboy; either as a weekend rodeo fan or a lifelong cowpoke. Some men have worn the same hat, or at least the same style of hat, for years, and their friends can easily pick them out of a crowd simply by spotting their uniquely-personal hats. And as with anything you’ve had for a long time, be it a horse, a couch, or a picture, there is usually a story behind it, and a cowboy hat is not different. Just like the Chris LeDoux song ‘This Cowboy’s Hat’, most men can tell you at least one story about their hat.
Take my dad for example; he had a white straw hat that he’d worn for years. And the front of the brim was slightly broken and bent downward. If asked what happened to the hat, Dad would say that he’d been out walking through the trees when a branch fell on his head! Don’t worry, he walked away from the accident unscathed, but it sure made for an interesting story! Even I have a hat story, though it isn’t nearly as exciting: I got a felt hat for my birthday, with a hatband decorated with round silver conchas. The first time I wore that hat was during a rainstorm, branding calves with my best friend. And yes, my hat got soaked through, and to this day, I cannot completely scrub all the rust off the once beautiful silver conchas!
But by far, it is my little brother who has some of the most entertaining stories to tell about his hats. He likes to wear not only baseball caps but felt and straw cowboy hats as well. He’d outgrown the felt hat he’d been given as a toddler, and didn’t care for any of Dad’s hand-me-downs, so Mama took him to the country store so he could pick out a new one. He chose a fine straw hat, simple, with only a black ribbon for decoration, but he was very proud of it. The same day he wore it into the grocery store, and once Mama was done shopping, they headed out the door. A sudden gust of wind stole his hat and blew it out into the road…right in front of an oncoming SUV. The driver swerved, but the tire didn’t miss the hat. Little brother ran to retrieve his now flattened hat with teary eyes.
The next hat he got was something called a ‘crushable’ felt hat. And yes, you could run it over with a car and it would retain its shape. Well, on his first trip to the new permit in the mountains, as he was high-tailing it after a cow and calf through some dense oak brush, and you guessed it: the hat was knocked off his head. Luckily, he remembered where he lost it and returned for and recovered it, and the rest of the day managed to keep it on his head.
And lastly, one day when we were out sledding, my brother’s baseball cap fell off and I found it…with the four-wheeler tire!
For Christmas last year Little Brother received a beautiful new Stetson, and as of yet, the only thing that has happened to it is that the crown is dusty from sitting on top of the bedpost! But I’m sure it won’t be too long before that hat has a story worth being told. After all, you put a new hat and a teenage boy in a pen of rambunctious calves, and something is going to come of it*