cowboy hat

The American cowboy hat. Anyone who knows anything about the Old West knows about the Stetson cowboy hat, and every great cowboy wore them, right? Wrong. The truth is that in the Old West, most men wore a Derby hat. If you’ve seen the movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, then you have seen a more realistic picture of the Old West.

The myth of the cowboy hat did come about from the hat that was created by John Stetson, and while it was a classic, it didn’t actually come into play until the very end of the 19th century, not the early part like most people think. The Stetson cowboy hat was first introduced in 1865, but it just didn’t take off like John Stetson had hoped. The cowboy hat was based somewhat on a Spanish design, and thr rumor was that a random cowboy saw Stetson’s at and paid him $5.00 for it. After that, it was said to be all the rage.

The truth is vastly different. I don’t know if a cowboy bought that first cowboy hat for $5.00 or not, but while we think that the Derby hat or the top hat were only worn by the bankers, businessmen, or the very rich, that belief is wrong. The early cowboys liked the derby hat best, and those who did not like the Derby usually wore a top hat or a hat associated with their professions, like a conductors cap. The Derby was also known as the Bowler hat, with many notorious cowboy criminals such as Butch Cassidy and Will Carver wearing them. Even those who weren’t criminals liked the Derby hat on the frontier, because they stayed on in windy conditions and protected the cowboys from the sand. I think anyone who has ever had a hat or cap blow off in the wind can relate to that.

While most cowboys today, and even those who just like “all things country” prefer the cowboy hat these days, and the manufacture of cowboy hats is big business these days, they certainly didn’t start out that way. It’s hard for me to picture cowboys in a Derby hat, but history would prove that the Derby hat was, in fact, what they wore.

Woo HooI saw an older woman standing at the bus stop today, waiting for the bus to arrive. That isn’t anything unusual, except that this woman was wearing a cowboy hat. I’m sure that many people wouldn’t think that was unusual either, given that I live in Wyoming, and in reality it was not that I thought it was unusual either, because I didn’t. What came to my mind was my mother, Collene Byer Spencer. Mom and my dad, Allen Spencer, embraced Wyoming, and the West in general, all their lives. They loved the history of the West, cowboy boots and cowboy hats, and they wore their western gear often, especially when they traveled.

I know that there are lots of people who wear cowboy hats, as was proven by the older woman waiting for the bus, but what struck me at the time was that it brought back the memories of my mom wearing her cowboy hat. Mom especially loved scan0025_editedwearing her hat at the parade, as did my dad. They especially loved when the military people went by. Dad was a World War II veteran, and he was very proud of our soldiers. Mom loved it all. She would whoop and holler for every entry. I think she just didn’t want anyone to feel bad about their entry, and sometimes people would just sit there without clapping for anyone. Mom liked to make sure that everyone felt happy, parade or otherwise.

Mom and Dad had a number of cowboy hats, and the wore them all. They never went on vacation without a cowboy hat. I think they probably even took one on their 50th Anniversary cruise to Alaska. So many of my best camping memories include a cowboy hat. Dad never blew on a fire to get it going, he used his cowboy hat. Smart man, it would save a lot of work on the lungs…and the fire grandpa spencer040always started faster for him than for us. So many cowboy hat memories.

As I drove past the older woman wearing the cowboy hat, I had a smile on my face, because just seeing her standing there reminded me so much of so many good times from my past. As a kid, I would never have thought of myself as a cowgirl…at that time in my life a cowgirl or country music just weren’t cool. These days I love country music, but I guess I’m still not a cowgirl. Nevertheless, my parents were, and they were proud of it. It doesn’t matter to me what they identified themselves with…I just know that I am very proud of them. And I love and miss them very much.

Tiny Mom 2My mom always wanted to hear nothing but happiness in her home. Really, what parent doesn’t? The biggest problem was that she had five daughters who were all very capable of being drama queens, and we didn’t mind a good argument or even a big fight either. That situation made for a house that could, on occasion, be…a little less than happy. I’m sure we pretty much drove her crazy at times. Mom tried a lot of things to restore her preferred mood, like singing “You Are My Sunshine” or doing other goofy things.

Of course, Mom’s cheerfulness wasn’t just during times when we were fighting, and she could get grouchy if she needed too, but then who can’t? The funny thing about some of the things Mom used to do is how totally random they were. Take the Cha-Cha for instance. Most people would never imagine that my mom would do the Cha-Cha…and do it often, but she did. It was all a part of her love for life style. Sometimes, that happiness would just burst out of her, and she had to do something with it. It was like a nervous energy of sorts. You never knew when to expect it. It was totally random, but you had a pretty good idea that this would not be the last time your would see it.

Of course, she did other things with that happy energy, and as kids, and even sometimes as adults, we were a bit embarrassed about some of them. The parade is a prime example. Mom just can’t help but let out a big “Woo Hoo” when the floats go by. She hates for anyone not to be cheered on for their efforts. She stands out in the crowd too, because she always wears her Woo Hoocowboy hat. I used to think that was how everyone knew just who it was doing all the “woo hooing”, but then I realized that lots of people had cowboy hats on…Mom was just the one with the loud voice that happened to be “woo hooing”…and by the way, everyone else was “woo hooing” too, so I seriously doubt that anyone even noticed my mom’s “woo hooing”…except maybe her kids. I used to think, “Oh my gosh!! Do you have to do that?” But these days, it doesn’t bother me. I guess that as we get older, we don’t worry so much about what other people think, and we are finally able to just enjoy the moment. That’s what my mom was always able to do…enjoy the moment. Maybe more of us should be like that.

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