The Indispensable Hat

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There’s nothing as indispensable for an article of clothing as a hat. Gloves, rugged jeans and good boots are also indispensable, but hats have a special place. Certain types of clothing are really part of your tool kit, but they also make a statement and add panache. This is a hat. Life is good but not as good without a hat. I think this is true everywhere but it’s especially so on a ranch. Doubly so on a ranch in triple-digit weather.

Now within the hat genre is a wide range of brand and construction. Different types are useful for different jobs. One thing that is not negotiable about a hat is that it must have a brim. A brim is mandatory. The elements are always exerting themselves on you and the brim of a hat shields you even better than a good pair of sunglasses. Your eyes can function better without that visual barrier. Unless of course you’re nearsighted and, if that’s the case, what can I say? You have to do what you have to do and wear glasses. I’m kind of on the cusp. I can sort of see close up. So I’d rather wear the hat and no glasses. I’ll put them on only if I have to. My distance vision is pretty good so all in all I’d just as soon wear the hat alone. If I sit on my hat, I can re-shape it. If I sit on my glasses, it’s quite annoying.

I have a bunch of hats in different styles for every type of weather or job and fashion statement. I have the Maine lumberman, kind-of-backwoods, red-plaid wool baseball cap with the sewn-in earflaps lined with shearling. This is good for the sub-zero temperatures when you have to make a trek to the woodpile. And because it’s red, I can find it quickly. Not only that but people can see you a mile off and not mistake you for the odd caribou or wild pig that they may be hunting. I feel like Elmer Fudd when I wear it.

(image courtesy of Wilderness Woolies)

I have another fleece-lined ear-flap hat. Ear-flap hats make me very happy on cold winter days. This particular one is the kind of hat that snowboarders use. I use it every morning in winter. It attaches under my chin with Velcro so it stays put on my head and ears. It covers most of my neck, too, which is an added benefit. The wind can’t get in when I’m up on a hay wagon and the wind is blowing something fierce. I wish it looked more like this hat. Or that hat.

(image courtesy of Whitelines.com)

But it actually looks more like this.

(image courtesy of svpply.com)

I have about six cotton or canvas baseball caps in every color as long as it’s some variation on dirty blue or brown. Here’s where I’m kind of fussy. I won’t wear wear someone else’s logo. The way I figure it is this: They should pay me for free advertising so until they do I choose to wear logo-free clothes. I’m just that way. I know it sounds nonsensical but that’s the way I am and I make no apologies. The baseball cap is good for pert near everything. I wear mine horseback riding and doing chores. I wear them going to town or to the Bull Sale. Baseball caps are a cowgirl’s friend. My friend Robert calls me the “chatelaine,” which is French for some kind of lady who runs the castle. So I’m a chatelaine who wears a logo-less baseball cap. Except for one glaring break in the rule. I got a baseball cap while I was back home in Iowa so now I wear a cap that says “Iowa.” I don’t think it’s a bad thing to promote Iowa. It’s a pretty good state.

I have a felt cowboy hat that has held up during the worst downpour coming in sideways. It has a stampede string to make sure. This hat lost its shape years ago but it takes a licking and keeps on ticking. I think it’s very picturesque. I wear it when I want to look authentic. You get to figure out what “authentic” means in this case. I stuck a feather in it but I’ve stopped short of calling it Macaroni.

I have four straw hats for hot summer days. Two of them are cowboy-style hats. One has a really big brim. It’s a Deer Creek hat and it is the best sun shade. It’s sort of like wearing an umbrella. The other is a Stetson, and it has a string so when I’m riding the “out back” and the wind is howling, the brim flaps around but it won’t come off. Nice. They’ve both absorbed more than their fair share of sweat.

My last two straw hats are simply for shade. I take them gardening or to the reservoir when we’re bobbing around in the cool green water in our truck tire inner tubes. One has a girlish big black ribbon and bow and the other is a serious utilitarian unit that I got at a Mexican mercantile.

I am almost never without a hat. If you haven’t tried one you really should. You’ll be glad you did. I guarantee it. Sorry, George. I just had to say it.