Thursday, May 6, 2010


My kids often accuse me of eavesdropping. Can I help it if I have good hearing?

Being an effective listener can be quite entertaining. I once overheard this conversation between an elderly woman and her adult grandson.

“Look,” the woman said as she looked at her grandson’s hands. “Your fingers are just like your grandpa’s – short and stubby. He could do many things with those hands. He could do carpenter, electric, and plumbing.”

“Yeah, grandma,” he said as he turned them over. “These hands wear many hats.”

My hands don’t wear many hats; they don’t even wear that many gloves – maybe two or three different pairs. But to continue with this theme let me say I’m a man of many hats. Some of you might think that I am referring to my multiple roles of being a husband, father, business man and writer(?), but really, I do have many hats.

My interest in hats has gone from just fashion and supporting the local team, to protecting my scalp. I can get sunburned watching the sunrise so I wear hats to hide my head from the ultraviolet rays.

I got a new one recently. Well, actually three new hats. One was a Twins hat. I was going to the new ballpark and I wanted to fit in while warding off mean Mr. Sun.

The second hat I picked up was something to wear during the work week – kind of a dress hat if you will. I don’t think a baseball hat looks right with a sport coat. Although one could argue that since baseball is a sport the hat and coat naturally go together, but on me the combination looks clownish.

When I asked my wife, Rhonda, if she liked my new hat she said, “It has a certain look to it.”

I don’t keep a hat long. Either they get lost, worn out, or I finally realize it certainly looks stupid. I lost one hat to a mower. The wind blew it off my head and into the blades. It never fit the same after that.

The third hat was a replacement for one I lost 30 years ago. It was from H.E. Westerman Lumber Co. I got it when I worked on their crew building pole sheds. It only took a few weeks for them to realize that I was better at hitting my thumbnail than barn nails. Since I had a license to drive a truck they gave me the delivery job at the lumber yard.

Of the many jobs I have had over the years I count that as one of the best. As a 16-year-old it was an ideal summer job. I drove around the countryside listening to the radio with the window down.

A couple weeks ago as I was driving through Montgomery, the home office and original site for Westerman Lumber, I remembered reading that the 120-year-old company was going out of business.

I stopped and introduced myself to the clerk. I told him how sorry I was to hear they were closing, and about the best summer job I ever had. I asked if they had any hats for sale. He picked up the phone and in a few minutes a woman brought one out. She handed it to me and when I asked how much, the clerk said I could have it.

On my way home, I turned on the radio and rolled down the window. Putting on my new hat I drove home. I wasn’t sixteen again, but I did feel carefree. The hat fit like a glove.

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