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James: Here we are, back where we started

Hats, specifically Cowboy hats, been wearin’ ’em all my life. Started out with the little black, flat-crowned, flat-laced brim kids hat with a stampede string. I wore it proudly through my infant years.

The first hat I ever bought for myself was in 1966 and I was 8 years old. There was an “Army Navy” store in downtown Austin, Texas, and I figured they would have one. I had been scrapin’ change around and rat-holin’ every dollar I could get my hands on and had $7. I figured that ought to do it.

Bein’ just a touch on the independent side, I managed to get it bought. Cost me 6 of my $7. It was great, straw with a 4-inch brim and a RCA crease in the crown. The hat fit, but I looked like a really skinny standup lamp with a “huge” lampshade on it, but it didn’t matter to me, I was coool!

I’ve owned hundreds over the years, straw and felt. Most of them store-bought but a couple custom-made. I heard early on that a cowboy decides pretty quick what kind of crease he’s gonna wear and sticks with it through his lifetime. I tried really hard to be one of those guys but just couldn’t make it happen; sometimes I just felt like something different.

Once I learned how to crease one with steam, the “horse was out of the barn.” I’ve tried just about everything imaginable crease-wise, and at this stage of my life, I’ve gone for “simplicity.” Flat-crowned and flat-brimmed, with a stampede string.

Sounds kinda familiar, don’t it? All those hats and all of those creases and here we are, back where we started. The “circle of life” perhaps? Perhaps.

As David Allen Coe sang, “Drifter, can you make folks feel what you feel inside ’cause if you’re big-star bound, let me tell you, it’s a long hard ride.”

Tom James was riding horses before he could walk. He currently hangs his hat in Ignacio. Reach him at outlivedthemallsofar@gmail.com. The topknot, by the way, is the last knot tied on a pack saddle.

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