By Baxter Black: QCS columnist
When I’m in the airport, I always wave at a cowboy hat — a real cowboy hat.
Somehow you can spot ’em. They inevitably turn out to be some bull rider on the way to a rodeo, a state cattlemen’s association representative on the way to Washington, D.C., or a consultant of some kind, or farmer or rancher on the way to a funeral or a graduation.
Hats take a pretty good beating in the overhead storage on the airplanes. I got off the plane in southern Colorado, grabbed my hat from above and it had been smashed by a suitcase. It looked like it had been rained on, then put in a lunchbox to dry!
I drove into town and found a western store and asked if I could borrow their steamer. “Of course,” they said, “have at it.”
Junior ambled over to visit. He occupied the job of “old timer” in the store. He looked at my hat and asked if I’d backed over it with a D-8 Cat.
It reminded him of one time when he and his pardner were out lookin’ for some cows. It was high up in the fall and they were makin’ the last round for stragglers. Between them they had 17 horses and when they needed to change they’d just go in the corral and rope one. He said they didn’t always catch the one they were aiming for!
One day he caught one that had the tendency to erupt on occasion. It coincided with the day he wore his new hat.
The horses were sharp shod with screws in the horseshoes like caulks to better navigate the treacherous ice. Sure ’nuf, on a downhill grade Spook came apart and bucked Junior over his head. Junior’s hat flew off and Spook came down with two steel front paws right in the middle of his new felt hat. It punched so many holes in it, he said, after that when he wore it out in the wind he sounded like a piccolo.
Another time he was pushing cows along the edge of the Dolores River riding a kid horse. Suddenly the cows broke and ran! The ol’ pony was steady and they rode on up to see what scared the cows; a bear maybe, mountain lion, who knew.
They broke through the willers to a little clearing and were confronted by two river travelers — campers maybe, women, coming right toward them, wearing… sunglasses. That’s all, just sunglasses!
They screamed! Junior screamed! The kid pony reared up, rolled back and evacuated the area! Junior lost his hat. He went back to look for it but had to walk the last 50 feet because kid pony wouldn’t go any farther.
Oh, and he never found his hat.
Maybe the new Nashville, Santa Fe, Aspen, Toby Keith kind of floppy dishrag cowboy hat, which looks like a regurgitated hippopotamus cud, does have some practical value, after all. It comes pre-smashed — perfect for the cowboy frequent flier.