My dad wears hats. He always has, at least as far back as I can remember. He doesn’t wear fedoras, or baseball caps. But rest assured, he wears hats.
When I was a kid, he had a hat he called his Jed Clampett hat. It also was known as the “camping hat.” He always wore it on family camping trips. I remember it as a dirty olive green color. It looked just like Jed Clampett’s hat as seen on the Beverly Hillbillies. It was complete with a big, wide ribbon that wrapped around the middle where the brim and crown sections met. I guess it was a kind of fedora. Certainly, it was not the kind my grandpa wore to church on Sundays and left on the top of the coat rack along with all the other Sunday-go-to-meeting fedoras.
No, my dad’s hats are mostly the kind of hats worn by golfers or fishermen. However, Pop is not a big angler and certainly not a “goofy golfer” – his words. Oh, he has sock caps for winter. And, he has a dress-up hat ordered from a foofy catalogue. It was advertised as an “Irish walking hat.” I guess he figured a gentleman with the surname Walker definitely needed one of those.
His hat wardrobe started getting really creative after he retired some 18 plus years ago. He got a hat proclaiming him to be “an old fart,” a title of which he is particularly fond. He got a hat telling the world he was a WWII vet complete with the name of the ship on which he served.
But even before he retired, he was known for his hats. There was the time the paper ran a picture of a tall, slim, late 50-ish, early 60-ish gentleman shown leaving the scene of a local bank robbery, hat on head, bag of stolen money in hand. Our family had seen the picture in the paper. But a day or so later, Dad’s coworkers at the local Whirlpool plant sent him home with the same picture clipped from the newspaper.
The other characteristic that distinguishes my father from other silver-haired octogenarians is his big fluffy mustache. Not only has he worn it big and fluffy, but also he has worn it “handle bar” fashion. For many years he wore his handlebar mustache just like that of former Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Rollie Fingers.
Over the years, he’s worn it. Shaved it. Worn it. When he would shave it, he would say that the mustache wax had gotten too expensive. But I always suspected the real reason was because it took a long time to groom and my mom got tired of waiting her turn in their one bathroom. So, he would acquiesce to her lobbying campaign for more bathroom time and shave.
Given all this, it was no surprise when he was easily spotted near his home in Evansville, IN, on Hwy 41 North. He was driving his Buick, rolling up on the Flying J truck stop.
Mom had been released from the hospital a few days earlier. She’d suffered a minor heart attack. Our employer, Mr. Schneider, had been kind enough to run my husband and me through town for a 24-hour visit. We had parked our big, pumpkin-orange Schneider truck at “The J.” We were waiting for Mom and Dad to pick us up.
I got on the CB. ‘Listen fellas,’ I said. ‘Please be nice to old folks out there. My eighty-year-old dad is coming to The J to pick up my husband and me. So if you see an old man driving a Buick about 45 miles an hour, please don’t run him over. I really appreciate it.’
“Is he wearing a hat?” came the reply over the radio.
‘Probably,’ I said.
“I just spotted him,” the voice on the radio said. “He was wearing a hat and he had a big fluffy, white mustache. He was in the hammer lane (left lane) going about 45 miles an hour, driving a big fancy Buick with a death grip on the steering wheel. Does that sound about right?”
Of course, it did.