Its all about the hat!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Until next time, keep on rockin.