When I was chastised for wearing a Simms Fishing Products hat while deer hunting this summer, my hunting buddy, who will remain nameless, didn’t mention the trout silhouette on the front. No, he looked past that and commented on condition.
“Now Jeff, that hat, is hiiiideous.”
He took a second breath after “hat” to properly inflect the first syllable of “hideous.”
“What are you talking about? It’s just getting good.”
Blonde tufts of hair stuck out from the gaping holes in the mesh where a branch caught it and tore. Since then the mesh has disintegrated slowly, but that hasn’t stopped me from wearing it.
The bill fabric split in front, not because I washed it and tired to sell it to Abercrombie and Fitch, but because it’s been soaked in cold rain, and dried next to a hot wood stove or campfire more than once.
It’s got more sweat rings than Taylor Swift has songs about ex-boyfriends.
If its smell was bottled and sold, it would be called, “Man”.
I bought the orange trucker hat in 2009 from The Hook Up fly shop in Ketchikan, Alaska. It was the summer I needed an outlet for the gravity of everything that was happening with Dad so I fished and wrote a lot. I could argue that’s why I’m so connected, but I wouldn’t believe it. Symbolism isn’t everywhere, sometimes life is coincidence.
I received some feedback about the hat after I made a post on the jlundoutdoors Facebook page (shameless plug) over the weekend, so I reviewed pictures of me and the hat to chronicle our history.
I hiked Sunnahae Mountain in that hat. One Duck too, a few times. I was wearing it when my buddy let me fly the helicopter during our bear viewing trip around Big Salt Lake.
I wore it on two drives through Canada and at the drive-tru at Dutch Bros Coffee. I caught a 100 pound halibut and pulled an octopus from a shrimp pot wearing that hat.
I wore it on the Stanton Island Ferry, while I ate a pastrami on rye at the Carnegie Deli on a walk through Central Park and during a ball game at Yankee Stadium.
A Simms rep at a California fly shop felt the abuse the hat had loyally endured under my ownership justified a free camouflage substitute. I love the camo hat, but two years later, Old Orange is my hat of choice.
It’s not intimidated, nor does it let me down.
I’ve caught halibut, king salmon, coho salmon, chum salmon, pink salmon, sockeye salmon, ling cod, brown trout, rainbow trout, brook trout, Arctic grayling, Dolly Varden and tree limbs in that hat. When I was a groomsman in my cousin’s wedding…it was back in the hotel, but that summer, on the Klawock river….you got it.
When I fished the four-river loop on Prince of Wales Island in July, it was there for every fish. When I floated the Thorne with my college friends this summer, it drank more sweat. In a downpour without rain gear on the Harris, it finally got a wash. At the nightly campfires in front of mom’s house, it absorbed smoke, because it knew when I returned to California, I’d appreciate the memory. The day I decided to get off the boxing table and do some work at Kaleigh’s shop, the hat made me do it.
The hat is synonymous with the wild life I always wanted to live when I was a kid. That’s why it would be wrong to put it in the wash, or retire it. A good hat is meant to be worn, not put on a wall, or poisoned with Tide.
It’s been there when I’ve been at my best and my rejected worst. It’s my Wilson. At the end of the day, it’s just a hat. But when it’s your favorite, it’s your favorite and that means something.
One day the mesh might melt so all that’s left is a visor, but that’ll be good enough for me.
This column appeared in the September 4 edition of the Manteca Bulletin