November 15th, 2004

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

My Hat Gets Out More Than I Do

By Joseph Meyer, Countryside, IL

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 thumpthump, thumpthump.

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 breakfast."

So sweet and so joyful, she bounded out of the lodge with half a dozen sheepish guides in tow.

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 Hat!"

"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 his wife.

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


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