I am by nature a baseball cap “kind” of guy. Forty-three years of coaching baseball and football will make you a baseball cap kind of guy out of habit. Forty-three years of coaching baseball and football added to sixty years of “bronzing my body” in the sun while working in fields or cutting the grass will give you a carcinoma on your ear because baseball ball caps don’t cover them. Especially mine! I was born with big ears to go with a big nose and was a bit disturbed to find out, besides finger and toenails, ears and noses are the only body parts to continue growing throughout life. Maybe I can try out for a part in the next Dumbo movie.

I now wear big floppy hats. I still wear baseball caps…I even have one that my darling daughter gave me many years ago that has a flap that covers my neck and ears…although I need to check and make sure my ears are not outgrowing it. I use it when I run or walk in the sun or go fishing. I have a long-billed one she gave me that I use when I am not running in the sun. For long periods in the sun, I have “boonie” hats, straw hats and the hats that prompted this post, the fedora. What I think of as the “Old Man’s” hat.

I didn’t always think of them as “Old Men’s” hats…until I got to be one of the “Old Men.” Until I became one of the old men, I thought them to be “cool.” My first fedora was a genuine Indiana Jones’ Stetson from over thirty years ago. I still have it…as I have all of my wide brim fedoras, no snap brims for me. Indie’s old hat is moth-eaten and worn…kind of like me. I don’t get up in the morning thinking I’m moth-eaten and worn. I don’t even move through the day thinking I’m an old man…unless I get near a mirror. There ARE some mornings that I get up and suspect I might be an old man or rather a young man’s brain trapped in an old man’s body. This is usually confirmed when I look in my mirror. I really should invest in a youthful Panama with a colorful band to get that thought out of my head.

My grandfather always wore a fedora, in the field or at work. My guess is that he took it off when he was indoors at Springs. Unlike today it was poor etiquette to wear a hat indoors. Blue jean overalls topped with an old sweat-stained fedora. I have a mental picture of him astride his plow horse riding in from the field. An old man riding an old horse with a fedora perched “fore and aft” on his head. No “jaunty tilt” for him although he might tilt it back to rid himself of the summer heat. No tilt even when he had his “Sunday go to meeting” clothes on with his “Sunday hat” firmly in place…until he got inside the church with the rest of the “Old Men” carrying their fedoras by their side or sitting with them in their laps. Afterward and outside they were all careful to touch their brims to the ladies, removing them if they stopped to talk. There is one problem with this mental picture. I am nearly a decade older than my grandfather at the age he died.

Over thirty years ago  I drove into Travelers Rest in need of something only a hardware store could provide. Pre Lowes and Wally World, I stopped at Williams Hardware, before it was a restaurant, for no other reason than being new to the area it was the first one I saw. It was a bitter cold and gray day with a wind that carried ice cycles forecasting the snow or ice that was soon to follow. I wrapped my coat tighter and pulled my watch cap down over my massive ears as I fought the wind until I opened the door. It was like a sauna with a huge potbellied stove glowing pink from the heat.

As far from the heat as possible, three men sat around a checkerboard they had placed on an old nail keg. They could have been stamped from similar molds. Broad-bodied going to seed, they were wide of the shoulder with little or no necks showing above the collars on their flannel shirts. Their round heads were covered by the requisite fedora and underneath they sported broad faces cut by crevasses rather than creased with wrinkles. Faces were the color of tanned leather except where the fedora was pushed back on their heads. Foreheads were as white as freshly bleached sheets having rarely seen the sun. I am sure the bodies under the flannel and overalls would have matched. They spoke in hushed tones as if they had been admonished not to disturb the paying customers…although I was the only paying customer.

I see old men from my youth, sitting around checkerboards on wooden barrels crowning kings. Fedoras cocked back on their heads as they studied the board and contemplated their strategies. Another group of old men sat waiting their turn, kibitzing, cracking wise or telling stories that they had all heard before. Old friends comfortable with their age I guess…something I hope I have plenty of time left to acquire…but not quite yet. Yeah, I think a Panama with a colorful band might be just the trick, or one of those snappy European driving hats…but then I would have to buy a sports car to go with it. Hum, not a fate worse than death unless I grow too old to enjoy one.

For more of life’s non-fiction by Don Miller try http://goo.gl/lomuQf

4 thoughts on “OLD MEN IN FEDORAS

  1. Hats, Marvelous creations, the varied styles for the occasion was not lost on me at a young age. In fact high school was where I expand my search and became known in some circles the mad hatter. Baseball, without a doubt, coming from an era that wore it as intended so as to shade your eyes from the sun. Beanie was my go to. Because of its price, ($1.) I could color coordinate. I wore them smooth topped, tight to the skull , with a measured flat 1 turn roll barely touching one ear, then canted upward starting just above the closest eye and cutting smartly cross the forehead to the other side. Straw Cowboy hats. Back then, (late 60’s) there was only one color, straw. These ran a tight race for special occasions. With various shapes and bands they filled a much needed void. Because of my XXL head, 7-7/8, I had difficulty with golf and newsboy hats. They gave the appearance of a ball cap on a 30 pound Black Diamond Watermelon. It was precisely at this time a young seamstress with vision came to my rescue, saw the void and filled it rather nicely. It came in the form of an exaggerated newsboy/8 panel. The genius was a larger than average brim and the panels so large when in place there remained about 8 inches of hat to slant, slaunch and flop around. There was also a watch pocket it retained from the donor Levi 501’s that perfectly concealed Mad Money. That was 1968, a benchmark year, I was at a yard sale in Nichole’s Hills, “THE” at that time, neighborhood of the stars, OKC. A beautiful box was placed on a table just for me. Removing the lid I was struck by the beauty of a cream colored, expertly woven fine straw, with a high crown the 1&1/4 inch dark blue satin ribbon and 2 perfectly spaced cream colored pin stripes was perfect for that hand woven Panama Fedora by Stetson. Knowing instantly that God had placed it there I looked to heaven with gratitude and thanks. While admiring and knowing without thought that it was my size, a beautiful matron floated to my side stating, that hat belonged to my late husband and I’m afraid, I mean unless your head is, as her eyes fastened on my head, a twinkle came in her eye as she finished her sentence, and so it is! Try it on please! I did and it was a match made in heaven. The box had a yard sale price tag of $30. and before I spoke, she said, look at this, oh my they’ve marked this wrong, it should say $3.

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  2. Wonderfully written! I own a dozen ball caps, but truth be told, I don’t suit any of them. That’s tough, especially for someone who has thinning hair. I bought an Ozzie hat about 20 years back that I love, but rarely wear. I guess I just haven’t found the right one yet. A fedora may be just the thing. Great post, thanks for sharing!

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