Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dad's Favorite Summer Chapeau


A few weeks ago Bud wanted a straw hat to wear while fishing with a friend. The one he wore while mowing and fishing when we were still on the farm was worn out. He threw it away before we moved to town. Walmart had a hat in the sports department similar to the one he used to have. I called it a golfing hat. But it cost more than Bud wanted to pay. We even looked at Farm and Home but all they had were cowboy hats - not Bud's style.
Then a couple weeks ago at a garage sale, we spotted this little number for a quarter. I made him buy it for future fishing trips.
The hat is a "palm straw with green visor" or, at Tractor Supply Co., an "outback straw hat with green visor". I like that name best. It is the kind of hat my dad always wore during the summer. He wore it while planting corn in May and mowing hay in June. He wore it while cutting, binding and shocking oats in July. He wore it until the oats were threshed and then had to go to town to buy a new one because one of the "traditions" when all the oat shocks had been hauled to the threshing machine was to throw some one's hat into the thresher with the last of the sheaves. The oats came out into a wagon; the remains of the hat blew onto the stack with the rest of the straw. Seeing little pieces of green celluloid told you it was Dad's hat that went into the straw pile.
I don't remember where Dad bought his hats. It might have been Turner's or Biggar's or Andrew's. I think they only cost a dollar or two. Or did he buy them at the Red Star Mill? He hung out there a lot especially on a Saturday night while Mom did the shopping. The men would carry chairs outside and sit in front of the mill office talking and pitching pennies.
John Hinck owned and operated the mill. It seemed like he and Dad were good friends although I think John was probably friends with everyone. His personality and longevity as a Bottle Row merchant earned him the nickname "Mayor of Bottle Row". Bottle Row was the area south of Sixth Street - Highway 34 through town until the new Highway 34 by-passed Corning. It got the name supposedly because at one time there were so many beer parlors or 'pool halls' in that area of town.
John's signature work clothes were his striped overalls. He was one of the few men as big as Dad. I remember one time he gave Dad some of his old overalls when he bought new ones because Dad was the only one he knew who could wear them. Dad brought them home but I don't remember him ever wearing them. He just wasn't an overall man. He mostly wore green or brown work pants and a white tee shirt with a pocket - and his outback straw hat with the green visor. That is the way I remember him the best.

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