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Its all about the hat!

August 27, 2014

I broke two shovels late Saturday night trying to pry that tree stump from the ground. Photo from rob akers


Hey Y’all,


Over the weekend, I had a life experience that I thought would make for a nice article for the week. But the reality is no matter how I might drone on and on about how hard work, effort and determination can get something done. You guys already know that. I could have followed my wife’s advice and presented a life lesson about what to do when you find that you have a bigger effort than planned and maybe the smartest decision is to withdraw and refocus your efforts in a more productive way. None of us need more blah, blah, blah about digging up the roots of a dead crape myrtle that serves no purpose.



The stump doesn’t look that impressive when it was freed from the dirt. I got two new replacement shovels Sunday after Church and almost broke them too. Photo from rob akers.


In all my stories about my travels around the world, there was one constant that needs to be written about. My trusty sidekick, my good luck charm and the one object that I would not fly without. My baseball cap, I got the hat in the spring of 1998 during initial training to become a co-pilot in the C-130. I was wondering the mall one afternoon with a couple of buddies when I saw him on a shelf in a store. It was love at first sight and when I threw him on my head, the fit was perfect. He only had one job from that day forward, to be on my head anytime I strapped an airplane to my back. We wore these heavy headsets that had a tendency to let the hair find a crevice. When you took the headset off, it pulled your hair out. The hat took care of this annoying issue, plus the visor helped to block the sun. The more important reason I needed the hat was that it advertised my college; Arkansas State University. I needed my swag before the word was invented.



Me and my hat trying to decide what to do next. This was taken the first morning after we arrived. I already felt lost. There are two cots in the picture, mine was covered in stuff. Tracy one of my Load Masters had all his things put away. Photo from Deron Thompson.


My hat and I went all over the world. We stood on five continents and in so many countries that I have lost count. My hat has more flight time than many airline pilots and has seen all kinds of things. He has seen the sun rise, set and rise all in the same flight. He celebrated Cinco de Mayo twice in the same day. He boarded an airplane in a raging snow storm and walked off the airplane in the tropical heat. He ate a meal of steak and lobster under the wing in Bosnia and warmed up an MRE during an exercise in Gulf Port Mississippi. Of course, he was there for the thousands of boring hours droning at 25,000 feet and the seconds of sheer terror at 100 feet as a missile fired in anger streaked past the airplane. When I quit flying in the military, he quit too. We took our hosing down in style and we just walked away.


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My hat, me and my crew were playing on the Iraqi weapons of war. Photo from rob akers


He doesn’t fly with me anymore. In the airline world, we don’t wear baseball hats. Some guys have the bus driver hat and they wear it because they think it makes people respect them. More times than not, they are the punchline of a bad joke because of their uniform hat. My hat has too much dignity to be a negative comment from a crusty, old, bitter airline captain. My hat has a special place in my house, a drawer with all the other junk of my life. I have a new hat now, a clean, bright white mesh hat that advertises nothing. Actually there is a subdued Nike symbol on it, but from a distance of more than three feet it cannot be seen. More actually, it isn’t new. It is four years old and I wear it all the time but it is newer than the old hat. My son is celebrating his seventh birthday today, loves my new hat. Over the weekend, I couldn’t find my new hat so I pulled out my faithful friend and wore him. The stains of years of dirt, sweat, blood and tears have soiled him and he will never be clean despite the gallons of bleach my wife has put on him.



Paul helping me and my hat display an Arkansas State Flag that was sent over by my wife. ASU was the Indians but because they are racially sensitive, the nickname was changed to the Red Wolves in 2007. Photo from rob akers


Sunday night when I was packing for this week’s trips, I still couldn’t find my new hat. I tossed my buddy in the bag and off we went with a plan. When I got into the car early Monday morning, my new hat was in the driver’s seat. My wife found it and put it in the car for me because she is always looking out for me. Today, after everything we had been through we got to do something new. We walked on the campus of the University of Tennessee. Camera in hand, we took pictures of all the buildings, the statues, and all the other things that decorate a college campus. What made today special was that he was out in the sun again and we were making a point. Not that anyone noticed, but we knew the secret. My hat can see the future. He told me he would take care of me all those times overseas, and he did.


ASU in Pakistan

Another picture of my ASU flag, my hat and some cool dudes we met in a country that probably still doesn’t want to admit that it allowed American forces to operate out of. photo from rob akers


Today he told me something else. In just ten short days, the Arkansas State Red Wolves will be playing the University of Tennessee Volunteers in tackle football. In just ten short days, ASU will walk out of the 110,000 seat Neyland Stadium with a victory over one of the most historical football programs in college football. In ten short days, everyone in Knoxville Tennessee will know all about the Red Wolves. Today, my hat and I enjoyed a nice walk on a beautiful college campus. Life is good, football is starting and my hat still rocks.



My hat doesn’t look so bad in the sunlight. The grounds crew were beginning to put down the famed checkerboard orange and white end zone markings. photo from rob akers.


Until next time, keep on rockin.



They have a big clubhouse. I hope they win eleven games this year with a single loss to ASU. Photo from rob akers.

From → life

  1. WHAT? I wrote a comment but don’t think it posted. Drat!

    I wanted you to know how much I enjoyed this entry. I sure can relate. I have a beloved black baseball cap that I wear all the time…sometimes 7 days out of 7 (except for church). Where I go, it goes! One of the first words out my now 16 year olds mouth when he was learning to talk was “cap”. He knew from the very beginning it was important!

    This was a great read!

  2. Love the use of a beloved hat to tell a story! Well done, sir. 🙂

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