Have hat, will travel

Some of the hats in my utilitarian collection.

By Bruce Stambaugh

People collect all kinds of things when they travel. Post cards, plates, jewelry, T-shirts and mugs are popular items. Souvenir shops in any touristy locale confirm that.

Me? I collect hats, more out of necessity than sentimentality. Given my lack of hair, I call it BPS (Bald Protection Syndrome). At least I have a practical use for my hat hobby.

BPS is the only way I can explain my obsession with hats. Baseball caps, golf caps, air-cooled hats, even a cowboy hat, define my collection.

It dawned on me that my assortment of hats really represents a segment of my personal history. I look at a hat, and I can usually recall where I bought it or in some cases, like the cowboy hat, who gave it to me.

Not a spot to spare on my hat rack.
The hats hang on an oak hall tree that a dear friend made for me. The hall tree stands in a corner beside my bed. The hats are the first things I see in the morning and the last at night, keeping the memories fresh in my mind.

The brown, broad-brimmed, pressed velvet Stetson cowboy hat occupies the pinnacle of the hat holder. That’s no coincidence. My daughter and her family gave it to me as a present several years ago when they lived in Texas. I wear it only on rare occasions.

I collect hats the way Imelda Marcos saved shoes. Each peg of the faithful hat rack is full of hats and memories. The hats come in different shapes and colors, but most are ball caps. All generate vivid recollections.

I have too many from a favorite vacation spot, Lakeside, Ohio. I don the bright yellow hat with a big blue block letter “L” on the front most often.

Perhaps some of my favorite hats are the ones I acquired while participating in some special activity. I have a handsome brown cap with the sun rising over the profile of a mountain, all stitched in white. I got that one at the state park where I once hiked and birded in Arizona.

Another hat I wear a lot is the one I received for attending a birding symposium. It should come as no surprise that the hat features a bird on the front.

Still another hat I obtained in Arizona and bought especially for birding is a lightweight, broad-brimmed, air-cooled canvas hat. I only wear it when it’s hot or when we go to the beach with the grandkids.

Two hats in my collection have extra-special meaning to me. I purchased both in Honduras. One is bright red with orange lettering that spells out the name of the poor Central American country.

I’m happiest in hats.
The other Honduras hat is black with a red rooster on it, which is very apropos. As unstable as the Honduran government is, I think the roosters actually run the country. They are everywhere and don’t bother to wait for the sun to rise to announce their presence.

The pride and joy sports hat in my collection is bright red with a raised deep blue block “C” on the front. I wear it when I attend Cleveland Indians games to show my support for the often-hapless team. Wearing it may also reveal other blemishes in my character.

Some people collect stamps, others coins or antiques or teacups. I collect hats. Each one has a story and a special meaning.

Vacation season is here. More travel, more memories, and more hats ahead.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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