Johnny gets his cowboy hat

The last thing in the world I needed was a cowboy hat.

But how do you like it?

I bought it yesterday from Michael Chazan, a roadside vendor of handwoven palm leaf hats made in Guatemala, and his sales assistant, Sarah.

And, to be honest, it was Sarah that clinched the deal.

Chazan sets up his highway haberdashery nearly every day in Cave Creek, in the parking lot of The Buffalo Chip, a bar and restaurant that features live bull riding two nights a week.

I went last week, and noticed nearly everybody had a cowboy hat — except for the bull riders, who wore helmets.

I wanted a cowboy hat when I was five — and maybe a couple of times since then. Once or twice, while out west, I’ve even bought one, then proceeded to never wear it.  

This time around, I didn’t feel the need to get one of my own, especially after my younger brother gave me his blue jean jacket (would that be a hand-me-up?), which provided enough of a western wear ensemble for me.  Seems either he had grown, or it had shrunk. We’ll say it must have shrunk. Yeah. That’s what happened.

Yesterday, though, while visiting the laundromat, I noticed the man across the street, stacking hats on a table, his pit bull at his side, and decided I’d go take a photo.

Michael, once he was done bragging about his dog, began bragging about his hats — how they were hand made by Guatemalans, and would last forever — and before you know it, I was handing over $40 for the size 7-1/2, with a 4-inch brim, that he picked out for me.

It seemed a little loose, but he explained that if I dipped it in water, shook it off, and then wore it for a while, it would magically conform to the shape of my head. I told him, after checking my laundry, I’d be back for the dipping.

Upon my return, Michael immersed my hat in the metal tub of water he keeps nearby, shook it off and popped it back on my head. I was worried the dipping might wash off the signature in the hatband of the Guatemalan who made it, whose name was Manuel, but the name stayed intact.

Michael said to leave it on for at least 15 minutes, so I spent about 10 minutes petting his dog, then headed off to a Target a few miles yonder. I couldn’t quite work up the nerve to wear the hat into the store, so I set it on my gearshift, hoping it wouldn’t conform to the shape of that little knob. (It didn’t.)

It wasn’t a sidearm I was shopping for — not chaps, or spurs, or chewing tobacco. Not a buckknife, or a saddle, or kerosene, or leather gloves.

No, what I had a hankering for, partner, was a particular type of cookie I had bought the week before, for only $1.69.

This rough and tumble cowboy was ropin’ himself some coconut cremes. I might just eat them with my hat on.

Why? Because that’s how I ride.

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