I can’t believe a cowboy’s intense relationship with his hat filled even one post, and here I am, appending another. What can I tell you? Blah, blah-blah, blah-blah, blah-blah.
Some blogatorial backtracking…
Movie and TV show cowboys’ hats almost never fell off their heads. (I do not know about the actual cowboys’ hats. The cinematic depictions of the West – before the 60’s, when many cultural beliefs went topsy-turvy– were sanitizingly idealized. For all I know, real cowboys’ hats fell off all the time, imaginably, since there was a lot of it around, into manure. My experience is fantasy. I do not recall Tonto ever telling the Lone Ranger:
TONTO: “Kemo Sabe hat smell like horse shit.”
THE LONE RANGER: “It’s funny. You never smell it when you’re wearing it.”
There were occasional exceptions to this “not-falling-off” rule, in which case, no matter how brutalizing the experience, the cowboy’s primary concern was retrieving his hat. His ear is half off, it was always,
“Stitches later. Where’s my hat?”
Then came the, to many, feminizing innovation of…
You inserted two eyelets, one on each side at the juncture of the brim and the crown, running a string through them attached at the… – What am I, a hat hole expert? – I don’t know… there was a string under your chin, so if your hat fell off it would not fly away. It kind of just hung there behind your back, a comforting relief, knowing no matter what terrible tragedy befell you, it would not cost you your hat.
Without exception, notwithstanding the mayhem – stampedes, Indian raids, treacherous windstorms sending giant cacti hurtling across the terrain – when he rode into the sunset, the cowboy invariably left town wearing the same hat he had worn riding in. (The same shirt, often, as well but there’s only so much you can pack into a bedroll.)
Which, at least in one prototypical set of circumstances, perplexed me. (And I may be the only one who noticed, but that’s my job: Noticing things nobody else bothers to care about.)
Setting the Scenario…
The robbers have wounded the grizzled stagecoach driver. The Cowboy Hero rides to the rescue. After shooting a number of the robbers out of their saddles, the Cowboy Hero subdues to last Bad Guy in a furious fistfight on the top of the stagecoach, the Hero’s hat flying off during the melee.
The Cowboy Hero grabs the reins, bringing the stagecoach team to a halt. The stirring background music subsides. The “Climactic Moment” is over.
COWBOY HERO: “You okay, Old Timer?”
GRIZZLED STAGECOACH DRIVER: “Why, Pshaw! I been bit worse by a beaver! Thanks for helpin’, stranger. You arrived just in the nick of time.”
C.H: “No thanks are necessary. My reward is that justice has been done.”
G.S.D: “Y’know, I once got saved by the Lone Ranger. He said exactly the same thing.”
“It’s the ‘Code of the West’ – Nobody takes anything. Now, are you strong enough to handle the horses?”
(TAKING THE REINS) “Yer dern tootin’! We gotta get this gold shipment to town pronto. They’re probably worried we’re late.”
“We’re on our way.”
THE DRIVER URGES THE TEAM ONWARD. THE COWBOY HERO INTERVENES.
“Just one quick stop before we go.”
“We have to go back to get my hat.”
“It flew off during the melee. It’s just down the trail a piece. Pick up my hat, and we’re headed for town.”
“Are you loco? We ain’t goin’ back fer no hat. Folks in town are waiting on this gold shipment. And I’m shot in the arm.”
“You said it wasn’t bad.”
“Well, does it hurt you or doesn’t it?”
“It hurts more than losing your hat.”
“Look, I remember where it fell off. A coupla minutes out of our way and…”
“Are you ears plugged up with sorghum? We are not going back for your hat.”
“But we have to. It’s the only hat I’ve got.”
“I’m sure the stage company’ll stand you a new hat as a ‘Thank you’ for…”
“No way around it. We just have to go back for my hat.”
“I ain’t doin’ it!”
I do not know what took place after that. I only know that when they cut back to town, the hero was once again wearing his cowboy hat.