A long time ago when I was married to the
Wrong Woman, we took a quiet vacation to
Puerto Vallarta and went snorkeling. I
learned just how devastating the Mexican
sun could be. I was religious about the
use of sunscreen on all of my pasty white
body, or at least I thought I was.
It seemed I was fully swathed with the right
waterproof stuff but I neglected to coat the
backs of my ears. After what should have been
a romantic day in the sun gazing down at all
of the little fishees, three things eventually
came to mind: I'm here with the Wrong Woman,
I should have brought a fly rod and I should
have coated the backs of my ears.
They swelled up like lips and kept me awake
all night for the next three nights. The kind
of awake that throbbed; I could only lie on my
back and check my heart rate as my ears pulsed
Days were spent with her shopping and me purse-holding,
cowering in any patch of shade I could find. Then
and there I vowed never to vacation again with the
Wrong Woman nor would I venture out in the sun
without a broad-brimmed hat.
Ball caps were not the ticket, I needed a brim.
I was too young and too vain to wear a Tilley,
waxed cotton jobs were hot and stinky but I
needed something. I traipsed my way through a
catalogue from the 'Big O' and there it was: a
Charlie 1 Horse Cowboy hat, "99 bucks?" Sold,
send it to me!
My kids liked it, said it did not make me look
too much like a dude, (for those of you with
teenagers, you know what high praise this is)
and the new woman in my life said I was dashing.
Dashing, mind you. Sometimes you need to shake
up the relationships in your life to be fully
appreciated, but I digress.
I fished under its protection for a number of
years and I never had any sun-related problems
after that. I slept soundly, nightly. Perhaps
due to the fact that my ears were no longer
scorched and/or perhaps I had the Right Woman
next to me.
An Alaskan fly fishing trip kind of fell into
our laps and my fishing partner and I packed
up our hopes and gear and the last thing I did
on my way out the door was to plop old Charlie
1 Horse atop my head and stride onto the plane.
Alaska was everything as advertised including
the sun, hours of it. No worries about melanoma
as I had my hat to protect me.
After a week's worth of chasing Rainbows, it
was time to pack up and be ready for the morning's
shuttle back to King Salmon. The guides were all
giddy at the prospect of heading into the thriving
metropolis of Naknek for a guide's night off.
It was Country & Western night at Kink-O's, a dive
if I every saw one and never let anybody tell you
that all the Rednecks are in the South. I can be
elitist about these things now that my own neck
was back to being lily white. My fishing partner
and I were invited of course, but Wally the Wise
turned to me and said, "This evening has hangover
written all over it, you know that don't you?"
And so we passed.
The head cook was married to one of the excellent
guides and she took a fancy to my hat. Stephanie
sailed up to me in the cozy den of the lodge, put
her hands on her ample hips and with batting
eyelashes said, "Don't suppose you'd let me
borrow your hat for tonight's festivities,
seein' how you're not going to be wearing it,
and it beein' Country & Western Night and all?"
The covey of guides waiting in the bar went nuts.
"You can't ask a man to give up his cowboy hat!
It's pretty personal and...sputter...its like
asking...sputter, well, you just can't!"
I smiled, such a fool for brown eyes that got
me into trouble with the Wrong Woman in the
first place, removed my cherished hat and
benevolently offered it up to the fair lady.
Her husband let me bushwhack through the wilds
of Alaska with his beloved 6 weight without a
moment's hesitation, the least I could do was
to return the favor.
"I'll take good care of it and I'll see you at
So sweet and so joyful, she bounded out of
the lodge with half a dozen sheepish guides
Breakfast was a quiet affair. The kitchen was
dark but there was coffee on and we found the
toaster so we felt we would not starve. The
guides slinked in one at a time, wounded from
a night designed for R&R but a night that they
would need R&R from and we all silently sipped
our coffee and awaited breakfast.
"So, you heard about your hat?" came from the
only guide that could form a sentence. "Seems
as though we were playing pool and one of the
locals commented on Stephanie's large behind
and bein' a girl and all, she kinda took offense."
A girl and all? What does that mean? Well I
found out what bein' a girl and all meant in Alaska.
While her husband and his posse shot pool, Stephanie
turned and slugged the local, dropped him on his
back and then pounced on him to administer more
punishment, her feelings hurt, bein' a girl and all.
The fight was interrupted as Stephanie sat atop the
local and shrilly whistled. The commotion in the
bar absolutely came to a standstill as she flagged
down her husband and hollered, "This is your client's
"What happened then?" This was too much excitement on just
one cup of coffee.
The young guide took a gulp of his own and
continued," She did not want to turn her
offender loose seein' as she had the upper han...,
well she had the upper everything on the poor
guy, so while still sitting on top of him she
flipped your hat across the bar. I'm tellin'
you, it was like in slow motion seein' your
hat sail through the bar like a Frisbee!"
Apparently, her husband caught my hat in mid-air,
the fight continued, the owner of the lodge and
his wife drank their fill of Brown Mumblers and
while dancing, wiped out the bandstand,
microphones, drums, musicians and all.
Being a loyal guide first and a dutiful husband
second, the guide walked my hat out to the safety
of his truck and returned to the melee to rescue
Two scratches, a beer stain and yet none the
worse for wear, and my hat came out O.K. too. ~ Joseph
Meyer, One More Cast Fly Shop, Countryside, IL