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Column: It's only a hat

There are more disturbing issues to lose sleep over: climate change, low graduation rates, home foreclosures, and earthquakes. My sleep is not interrupted by these concerns; no, I am troubled by the loss of a hat.

On a rainy day this summer as I was on my way to town, I walked through our mud room and reached up to the home of the treasured hat. It was gone. Mmmm, how could my organized self not put something back where it belongs? I have since searched the mud room closet (inside and on top), the clothes closet, the laundry room, my office, our bathrooms, all nooks and potential hiding places in all rooms of the house, the garage, the car.

It came time for me to acknowledge that The Hat was not misplaced. THE HAT was in the land of the lost. Searching the dusty and cobweb-ridden corridors of my mind for clues could not supply directional signals for a new place to look. I could only reason that it became separated from me on a rainy day after wearing it inside to a place where I would have sat down and removed it. It would have been properly placed upside down as all Stetson's should be when resting.

Yes, THE HAT is a Stetson. One I discovered on the top shelf of a closet in my parent's Fargo home after my father had passed in 1989. He had purchased his Stetson long before on a visit to see relatives in Montana. Now it carried traces of dad memories in the spots on the brim, the sweat stains on the brown leather interior band, the frayed ends of the tie, the small worn place on the flank of the horse pictured on the silk lining. Standing there by the closet, I hugged that hat to me and decided to take it home.

THE HAT sat on a shelf in my closet until the day I decided to take it down and try it on. Too big, of course. But that was corrected by stuffing some paper towels inside that sweat-stained brown leather interior band. I liked the look of it on me and thought dad would be proud to pass it down to his first-born. I took it in for cleaning and blocking. It had to be "sent out" and I wouldn't see it again for six weeks. It looked like a brand new, never worn Stetson when I picked it up. But then, I cried because my dad smell had been replaced by chemicals. Still, I took it home, placed the right amount of paper towels inside to make it fit my head, replaced the string band with a floral ribbon, and made it my Stetson.

I wore THE HAT on rainy days and on snowy days and for "girls' nights out". One day I neglected to pick it up and take it home with me. I am physically ill thinking about the loss of my precious Stetson. But, it's only a hat; a blue-grey hat with paper towels for sizing and a blue and purple and green ribbon for a band. Perhaps THE HAT sits in a dark and lonely lost and found somewhere. I like to think that someone who appreciates a well-worn Stetson has found THE HAT.