Monday, January 30, 2012

All Hat and No Cattle

The picture attached to this Along The Way viewpoint column is really me, but it is also really old (the photo, not me -- photo missing from this web edition).

Since I make every effort to write a column as truthfully as possible, I have to be truthful also about the tiny photo that appears here weekly. I try to stay up to date with my comments, but photos can become dated.

For several years I wore a hat for the column photo. It turned out that it only made me look like cowboy actor Buck Jones without a horse. (Remember him? His real name was Charles Frederick Gebhart. While in the U.S. Army he was wounded in the Philippines and died in the 1942 Cocoanut Grove fire in Boston.)

In a hat I looked like the fellow who was said to be “all hat and no cattle.” I may have grown up in Brownwood but I did not live on a ranch and rode a horse only once. So that classic pose with an LBJ hat had to be removed for honesty in photo-press journalism.

One reader commenting on the hat said it reminded him of an old goat-roping rancher he knew. Another just wrote, “get rid of it!” I think he meant the hat, but could have meant me.

I still remember the good reader who wrote me he cut my column, including photo, from the newspaper –- nice to have someone do that --- until he told me he had placed it face-up on the bottom of his bird cage!

I have never roped a goat, but I have been to a calf-branding event where the calves were, without consent, turned into steers. This was done entirely without the consent of the calves. It was not far from Atoka, Oklahoma. Jody and I were having lunch with the rancher and I had no idea I had watched the major part of our lunch being harvested right there in the corral.

So I retired the hat photo. The day when it was said ‘a hat makes the man’ is gone. No one wears a hat anymore. There are still pick-up truck driver with a cowboy hat or a baseball cap. The only place you see anyone wearing a hat is in the bleachers of old movies or maybe in the line at Underwood’s Barbeque.

You only see men in hats in old black and white movies. In those films the men even kept their hats on indoors. They were usually a bunch of newspaper men gathered around a bunch of desks with Underwood typewriters pounding out a story. They didn’t type, they pounded out the story.

Roy Rogers, Ken Maynard and all the cowboy film heroes never lost their hats in a fight. I think that was to keep us from the fact that the hero had a stand-in.

The “good old days” of men’s hats were not all that good. But it is better to remember them as good days than 1930s depression days or 1940s war years.

Yesterday is a memory, tomorrow is a promise, but we do have today and that is something to be grateful for. So I plan to begin this second full day of my 82nd year proudly wearing and enjoying the LBJ hat a dear friend gave me years ago.

Britt Towery’s column appears every Friday in Brownwood Bulletin and San Angelo Standard-Times

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