Sunday, March 1, 2009


Paul Harvey has died at age 90. I always enjoyed his little stories with the surprising endings. When I told my brother Nappy that Harvey’s hit The Road Eternal, he said, “Lucky guy.” I had to chuckle at that because the first thought I’d had was the same thought I nearly always have when I learn of someone’s death: “Well, everyone GETS to die some day.”

I still have an old newspaper clipping of an article Paul Harvey wrote a long time back (circa late ‘80s?) It’s titled “THE HAT THAT’S A WHOLE LOT MORE THAN THAT”:

A “cowboy hat” is more than that. I’ve just spent a week wearing, working in, playing in and sometimes resting on one.

It does not look like the fancy white ones those “Dallas” dudes wear on TV. Nor the mod modifications styled for wear on disco dance floors and mechanical bulls. Even the macho Marlboro Man wears a clean Stetson only for the magazine ads. Beacause a real “cowboy hat” is a whole lot more than that.

It’s a sunshade for skinheads and an eyeshade for siestas. It’s a pillow on the trail and protection for tall men ridin’ under low limbs – keeps ‘em from knockin’ the bark off.

The broad-brimmed 10-gallon hat holds one gallon – enough water to revive a calf down with the heat, enough oats for one horse for one meal. In up-and-down country a trail rider can rest his leaning glass of gusto on that wide brim. Or it’s a fan to stir up the campfire or the forge-fire or to cool down a fevered brow.

The Stetson is used to hold the chits when the boys draw numbers for a quarterhorse race, to swat off flies and trail dust, to hold fenceline staples when the bag breaks.

Maybe this will help you understand why a clean cowboy hat is like a squeakin’ saddle; it ain’t done nothin’ yet.

Generations of cowpokes breakin’ broncs have been spared busted skulls by a semi-hard-hat molded firm from the belly fur of beavers.

Mine’s a greasy headrest and bump guard for working over, under and around farm machinery. It holds enough garden pickin’s for a raw lunch. It’s warm on cold mornings and cool on hot afternoons.

The cowboy hat is so much more than that. It stays on for meals, bivouac, bulldoggin’ and dozin’ . . . But it still comes off for wavin’, for prayers and for funerals. And for the ladies.

Next time you see a cowboy hat – I mean a real one – the guy under it’s probably a pretty good guy. Or somebody would have knocked it off him.

On our border where the Stetson and sombrero meet, there is no more significant symbol of status – a man’s pickup can be fallin’ apart but he’s still somebody if he’s wearin a 20-X Western Stetson.

Our nation has few symbols as significant, none more durable. The Constitution’s been subtracted from – The Stars and Stripes have been added to – But the Western Stetson you can count on!

R.I.P., Paul Harvey. Wherever you are, I hope you’re havin’ a “Good Day!” But this much is certain: “Now you know the rest of the story.”

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

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