Once a week I read to the residents at our local assisted-living center. We started with my books; when we'd finished all three, they wanted to keep meeting. That was a few years ago and we're still going strong. Last week I met a new resident, a lady who knew my grandmother, and she told me a story I'd never heard before. It seems that about half a century ago, my grandma ordered a new hat. This was no small purchase; it required saving money. The order went in, but the hat never came. Being a guy, I don't know how traumatic it was to spend an entire winter wearing last year's hat, but I can guess.
In late March, some neighborhood boys found a strange object frozen into the ice-covered slough next to the mailbox. Sure enough, it was a hatbox from Sears & Roebuck. It had been too big to fit in the mailbox, and since there are only three trees between the house and the North Pole, a hard north wind had sent the package airborne. The boys chopped the box out of the ice and delivered the dripping mess to my grandmother. I don't know if she wore it after it was defrosted, but as near as I can tell, that was the beginning of our family's hat jinx.
Excuse me, gentleman
My father also had trouble with a new hat. He wore it to church on Sunday. After the service he noticed it was gone. He looked up in time to see it headed toward the parking lot, on the head of an elderly member of the congregation. Dad didn't want to chase him down for fear of embarrassing him. He thought he'd just straighten things out the next Sunday, get his hat back, and all involved would have a good laugh.
The guy died.
Seriously, before the next Sunday came, the man who had my father's hat passed away, along with Dad's claim to his hat. I suppose in theory he could have gone to the house, hugged the widow, and said, "I'm so sorry for your loss. Now, about that hat..."
Give me my hat
Now for my hat story. I was out to dinner with relatives and I had a new hat, one of which I was particularly proud. After a leisurely evening I got up to leave and my hat was gone. One of my wife's sisters said she'd seen some guys clowning around, and one of them had worn my hat out the door. She described him and I stormed off in search.
We were in a small town (only three bars), so it wasn't long before I tracked down the hat thief and started to reason with him. He gave a large gulp and quickly agreed I should have my hat back. I was congratulating myself on my reasoning skills when I turned around and saw my brother-in-law standing behind me smoking a thin black cigar. He's a big guy, about two of me, with a bushy beard. He looked like a cross between Pancho Villa and Sasquatch, with a dash of early Clint Eastwood. He's a nice guy, mild mannered and friendly, but that wouldn't be the first impression.
Living the country life - it's about family, friends, and connections through generations. Watch your hat.
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