Monday, February 20, 2006

HAMILTON CONFIDENTIAL:
Supernatural Old Stetsons, Buying New Jeans, and Waitresses Who Look Like T-Boz Watkins

If you get to thinking you're a person of some influence, try ordering somebody else's dog around.
- Cowboy Proverb

HAMILTON, Ohio (ZP) -- One of my favorite articles of clothing is an old gray Stetson. I've had it for years. Before that, the hat belonged to my grandfather. According to legend, my grandfather found it at the bottom of a wash outside Tuscon, Arizona, shortly after my parents were married.

The hat was, from what I understand, old and beat to hell back when Grandpa found it. According to some family members, my grandfather's mother, my great-grandmother, took it as an omen that my parents were about to bring a child into the world.

There must be something to that, because I was conceived shortly thereafter.

Needless to say, I firmly believe that my old gray Stetson is bestowed with supernatural powers.

I have ended relationships with women who've insisted that I have it cleaned or have attempted to throw it away. I once broke a guy's hand for trying to steal it.

It is, well, my lucky hat. I don't know who lost their Stetson in that Arizona rainstorm 30 years ago. Maybe it belonged to some Pima brujo; maybe it belonged to some drunk dumb enough to pass out in a box canyon. Maybe it simply blew away from its previous owner during the storm. Who knows?

Life is filled with these sorts of mysteries - that's what makes life worth living.


* * * * *


Since I moved back east, I've heard people make the strangest assumptions based solely on my wearing that old cowboy hat. It's amazing how people are willing to judge someone based on an article of clothing. Stereotypes are such silly, superficial things.

I've had people from places like Cleveland and Columbus assume that I'm somehow a Republican because obviously only Republicans wear cowboy hats. Sure, Bush wears a cowboy hat. So does Dick Cheney. But what about Bill Richardson? Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar beat the GOP by campaigning in his trademark cowboy hat.

Yeah. My hat automatically makes me a card-carrying conservative. If you believe that, then you really need to get out more, see the damned country.

And sure, I've heard the redneck comments. My intelligence has been called into question because of my choice in headgear; one person even used the "But you're so well-spoken..." phrase dreaded by just about every minority group in America.

So I'm not allowed to read the Tao Te Ching or Sandburg's Cornhuskers at a coffee shop because I sometimes wear a Stetson? Please.


* * * * *

I spent Saturday shopping for clothes, something I hate doing.

I refuse to wear anything but jeans at work. I tore one of my favorite pairs when I fell off a ladder Friday. Last week, I wore out the crotch on another.

At one department store, I struck gold. Two pairs of jeans for $25. I even found a nice button-up shirt for three bucks. If there's one thing I learned early, beyond legends about my lucky hat, it's how to shop the clearance racks.

I hate shopping. Sometimes, I'll browse in the immediate area or I'll remember something else I need. But I rarely buy things simply because I want them; I try to minimalize my capitalistic tendencies to the necessities. Movies, music, and books - that's my big weakness.

But clothes? Hell...why pay retail? It's just cloth stitched together to provide covering and warmth. If I hadn't lost so much weight (I've dropped from my broadcaster weight of 240 pounds to about 165 pounds in five years' time), I'd still be a able to find jeans in my size at thrift stores.

I'll make up for my retail consumerism next week. I've got another load of clothes to drop off at a local charity. While those 36-inch-waist pants are too big for me these days, there are plenty of men who they will fit. Plus, I've got an Armani sports coat that I'll never wear, a gift from a friend a while back. If that can help a guy get through a job interview, well, who am I to judge?

I realized, after I'd already paid for my purchases, that I'm in need of some new boots. My current pair are showing quite a bit of wear. Being too tired to keep shopping, I decided to shop for boots on Sunday.


* * * * *


I returned to Hamilton the next day and hit up a few sporting goods stores looking for boots. The trip turned out to be a futile one, so on the way back home I stopped for an early supper, figuring I'd better spend money on something to justify the wasted gas.

I was the only customer in this particular roadhouseI struck up a conversation with the waitress, since she had nothing else to do besides roll silverware up into napkins and fill ketchup jars.

We talked about the most random things - her failed marriage, her brief Air Force career, and the wit and wisdom of Run-DMC.

At one point, she asked if she could try on my cowboy hat.

When she put it on, her face lit up like a little kid with a new toy. She primped, preened, and checked herself out in the bar mirror. The hat was way too large for her and she actually looked like a child in the Stetson.

She said she'd wanted to be a cowgirl since she saw her first rodeo, back while when she stationed in Colorado Springs. She said she thought that that must sound completely silly coming from a black woman.

I told her it wasn't silly at all. Being black doesn't exclude anybody from being a cowboy.

First, there's the legendary Buffalo Soldiers. There's Add Jones, probably the most legendary black cowboy to ever ride through the west Texas and the New Mexico Territory. And then there's the immortal Bill Pickett, one of the greatest rodeo performers of all time and so important a figure that cowboy humorist Will Rogers eulogized him.

The waitress then put the hat back on my head. For some reason, this 20-something black woman couldn't stop adjusting and readjusting the brim.

She told me I looked like the cowboys she'd seen in movies but couldn't figure out who I looked like, exactly. I told her she looked a lot like T-Boz Watkins, one of the surviving members of the 1990s R&B act TLC.

She apparently really liked that compliment. Several items miraculously disappeared from my check.

What can I say? Women dig the hat.

That's one stereotype I really don't mind at all. If some people want to judge me for head wear, well, there's nothing I can do about it.

I'm proud of the fact that I was born a Westerner, just as proud as I am that I was blessed to grow up in the South and still say "ya'll" in polite conversation. If you feel the need to judge me because of my Stetson, go right ahead.

We'll see who gets the free slice of apple pie.


10 comments:

Ms. Monkeythong said...

I've had people from places like Cleveland and Columbus assume that I'm somehow a Republican because obviously only Republicans wear cowboy hats.

I'd like to hear them tell that to Jim Hightower.

Deb S. said...

This is an endearing post. I like the way you cleverly sneaked some history into it.

I want a cowboy hat, too, so my eyes can light up like those of that waitress at the roadhouse.

The ZenFo Pro said...

MM:
Well said. Hightower is about as far from a Republican - and about 90% of the Democratic Party as one can get.

DCS:
Hey, thanks! :) Glad you liked the post. The woman was a nice gal and it was nice to make somebody's day.

kristy said...

I too agree that it's unfortunate when people will judge a person based on one item they are wearing. But, really, sometimes the item is just crying out one single clear message. Consider if the article in question were a set of handcuffs, for example. Would a Stetson really be all that different (in its own way, of course)?

Miz BoheMia said...

I liked your Stetson hat story, especially the history and the meaning attached to it. I agree with dcs and like how you snuck some history into your post...

As for shopping.... oooh! Love getting me the deals! Don't shop any other way... here in Spain they have major sales after Christmas and in July and that is when I stock up, especially for the kids... at one of the better stores, 2 long sleeve tees for my son would have cost $50... waited for the sale and got a total of 14 long sleeve tees, a dress and some pants for me all for $50! Wooohoooo! That is my shopping high! Don't get me started on the subject or I will not stop! The hubby is like you, just what he needs and cannot really be bothered with shopping... works out great because this way I get to be in charge of his wardrobe too... bohemians are bossy and like having total control!

Hmmm... I am the most superficial commenter today, I must say! ;-)

As for BSG, I used to be one dorky kid who had vowed to marry Dirk Benedict when she grew up... that feeling lasted a couple of months though... I must have moved on to some other hero after that!

Well, off I go to my whiny son who is yelling "computer no"! *sigh*

shayna said...

I have always loved a man in a cowboy hat... :)

Remind me I need to go shopping with you next time... $25.00 and $3.00... WOW!!!!

Also, I need to find new friends... Armani????? WOW

Lupe said...

I liked that post...very sweet.

And I still remember the stetson. reminds me of that guy from the wild bunch, the leader.

The ZenFo Pro said...

Kristy:
I don't know...I think even wearing handcuffs falls into that "judging a book by its cover" category.

Sure, for most people, the image of handcuffs probably means "criminal." For others, it may convey an image of "wrongfully prosecuted." For others, it may reflect S&M, a punk concert, etc...I don't think there's a single message conveyed clearly by any object.

Regardless, if I'd been wearing handcuffs (and I'm sure to this day there are sheriff's deputies in my hometown who still wish to see me in them) as well as the hat, I'm sure get a cornucopia of interesting comments about the pairing :)

MizB:
Lol...nothing like putting a little history in it. I'm a bit of an amateur historian and I have a relatively sound long-term memory. (Short-term sucks, however. If there are any kids reading, hey, just say no.)

Lol...see, that's one of the reasons I'm still single. I'm not too good at accepting the "wear this, honey" stuff. Of ourse, a majority of my exes have been the "please don't let me slit my wrists, dear" types, so it hasn't really come up too often ;) I'm a jeans and t-shirt guy, so I guess that either makes me extremely difficult or extremely easy to shop for.

Lord, there is one thing that is amazing about this part of the U.S. Amazing thrift stores. I found out the other day from a female colleague that the long-sleeve shirt I was wearing was some big name brand. An $80 shirt. I paid $2.59 plus tax.

I'm pretty sure Dirk Benedict's agent is really happy somewhere. His client has gotten more free publicity on this post than anywhere else in the last 20 years.

One more time for the search engines...

Dirk...Benedict

Lol...you're not the only one in a superficial comment mood :)


Shayna:
I figured you did, Missy. Hard not to be a country musician and not dig the style o' hat :)

Oh yeah. I'm also a master yardsale protege. A newspaper in Virginia once did a piece on my dad's mom being the garage sale queen of the Old Dominion.

Lol. Yeah, I thought it was kind of cool to have an Armani jacket in the closet, but, well, it was itchy and uncomfortable. It made a nice conversation piece...but I felt guilty having something that gaudy in my house. Nice gift though and it wil make some guy down on his luck very happy.

Lupe:
Thanks, chica.

At least it didn't remind you of the smell. Last time I saw you, you were a 15-year-old complaining about how the sweat marks :P

Lol...William Holden? I think that's who you're talking about.

Alice: In Wonderland or Not said...

I won't read the other comments because I refuse to be influenced.

Keep the Armani Jacket..things like that come in handy when you least expect it.

My father has several Cowboy hats and boots from here and from Australia( he's an ivy league grad with an architectural and engineering degree people have no idea whom they judge) although I am not sure if they are technically cowboy anything if they are from Australia. My mother has tried to divest him of these things for years but without success.

Factually people do get judged by what they wear more often than not incorrectly. The wife beating head of law firm in his designer duds with manicure hands from an area close to where I used to live comes to mind.

Lupe said...

i think its william holden was he the also the guy in the bridge over the river kwai?

Dude don't laugh my roomies and I have given up on guys untilafter we graduate and we're trying to watch that afi 100 best films list before May.