"Fly fishing is my passion, hunting is my weakness, and mules are a perplexing addiction."

Sunday, April 15, 2012





Life is filled with stressful and difficult decisions. Imagine; do you lift the guard, turn the key, and push the red button to launch the missile, or do you wait just a little longer to hear from the Russian Premier and risk nuclear annihilation? Or how about this; your father and two brothers are working on the railroad tracks and do not see the Amtrak train full of commuters racing down upon them. Do you throw the switch that sends the train off the tracks into a brick wall to save your family? Or what about this scenario; who do you pull from the burning vehicle; the unconscious, naked super-model, or the dead mafia guy in the back seat with the briefcase full of one-hundred dollar bills handcuffed to his wrist? It's as certain as wind; life is full of difficult decisions. So imagine my dilemma, one that I face nearly every day of my life; the incredibly difficult decision of which hat am I going to wear today?

Now as a rule, choosing a cowboy hat to wear is as simple as a first-grade primer. The choice boils down to straw or felt, black or grey. That's pretty much it; not a terribly difficult decision to make. And while I have somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen cowboy hats scattered about my humble abode, each in various degrees of decay, picking which one to wear is relatively easy and dwindles quickly down to one of two lids; dress, or more often than not, my favorite hat. Ball caps, however, are a much more difficult decision and the arduous task of choosing which one to don requires considerably more thought. It's a decision that can't be taken lightly.

To begin with, I should point out that I am a connoisseur of baseball caps, and conservatively, I probably have somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred to a hundred-fifty ball caps. I know that's not many, by most standards, but I'm picky and don't keep just any ball cap.

Hats begin life as dress hats. This is the break-in period for all ball caps. These are new acquisitions that would be worn to dances, reunions, funerals, out to dinner when my wife insists I dress up, and on rare occasions, the dreaded wedding that I can't get out of going to. After a suitable period of break in time has passed, if I really like it, the dress hat becomes a go-to-town hat and gets worn more frequently. It wouldn't be uncommon to find me wearing a go-to-town hat at places like the bank, a livestock auction, the swap meet, or tagging along behind my wife, people-watching while she's shopping at Wal-Mart. Eventually though, all hats become work hats.

When it comes to work hats I generally I keep one of three in circulation at all times and at easy reach. These would be hats I wear every day. By now, the work hat has acquired certain characteristics. It fits really well. It generally has a sweat stain across the front. Sweat stains often come from inadvertent and unplanned work while you were wearing it as an everyday hat. There is often animal blood of some sort on it acquired while notching calves ears, or castrating a calf, and the best of the best have begun to fray around the bill, giving the hat a certain amount of character and respectability.

Eventually the work cap either disintegrates, or more probably, the wife tosses it into the trash while you aren't paying attention. You think you've misplaced it and by the time you discover that a criminal act has occurred, the statute of limitations has expired and you already have one or more new hats into the rotation. Thus, the process begins again.

There are certain things the cap connoisseur looks for when acquiring a new cap. Free hats are often fine, but most of the time they don't hold up to the rigorous break-in period. I guess that's why they're free? Feed store hats are one of the few exceptions and the fact is, they are getting harder to get these days. I guess with the government giving away so many free things it's difficult for the feed companies to compete.

It is crucial here to mention that baseball caps shouldn't have gimmicks hanging off them either. No novelties that make you look goofier than a hog in a ruffled blouse. Beer holders, whirly-doodles, wings and silly-looking heads of birds, and fake ponytails are better suited for a Marx movie or football helmets at a Super Bowl, but not baseball caps.

The more you pay for a cap, the more sentimental it is. That Team Hoyt camo hat generally stays a dress hat longer than that Western Mule Magazine cap, which reminds me, I've left repeated messages to my editor, Ben Tennison, on his answering machine that camo would be a great look for WM, and that if I had one or two I could probably sell a lot more magazines for him out here on the left coast.

At any rate, what a hat says on the front of it has a lot to do with wear-ability. Let's face it; a hat has to appear masculine and manly-man. Who wants to wear a hat sporting the logo of their local bank, Home Depot, or Century 21 real estate office? Pharmaceutical companies, insecticides, wormers and green energy hats aren't terribly favorable either. The baseball cap should have only the advertiser's logo on them; no silly sayings like, I'm with stupid, or I love beer. Both those go without saying.

Hats should have the logo sewn into them, as well. Hats with silkscreened logos should be avoided at all cost. I once had a ball cap sporting a silkscreened advertisement for the Breeder's Cup Race. Imagine my surprise one day to learn everything between the last R and the A in race had peeled off and I was now bragging I was a Breeder______ace!

So there it is; all you ever need to know about baseball caps. Now that you are well-versed in choosing your ball cap you can go, knowing you'll be well attired for any occasion. And remember; when choosing which hat to wear, go with your heart, not what your wife says. Ball caps most certainly do go with tuxedos!