# # Hold On To Your Hat!

Brother, I Can See Your Skull.

Brother, I Can See Your Skull. - The Coreyshead Blog

Hold On To Your Hat!

Nobody shouted it at me but somebody should have.

I’ve heard it a million times before; not when it was relevant, mind you, but rather as simple and hackneyed hyperbole intended to ready me for something often not worth the effort of the cliché.

When you get right down to it I guess I should have known, anyhow. It’s not like I haven’t had to do so before, I just wasn’t paying attention.

The thing is, it started out as a beautiful day but the weather changed during the cruise up from Port Ludlow so that, by the time we were nearing our destination, it had gone from bright but chilly to downright surly: blackish clouds and a cruel wind that bullied its way across the surface of the water, elbowing aside any sense of adventure or fair play and taking us a bit aback.

I and my father were sailing his boat to the Port Townsend marina for a haul-out: he was having the bottom painted. My step-mother was driving up to meet us and ferry us back home.

I watched my father as he piloted the vessel with care in around the jetty, squinting with concentration as he guided us into the mouth of the protective channel, his cap down, firm and official.

Looking at it there, in the warmth of the cabin, I remembered how I’ve never liked hats much and, in particular, hats like his: riding high and puffy, snubbed bill, more angled than round, the front advertising something; a billboard of sorts there on his head. The back half of the hat composed of a kind of tight, plastic screen through which his weathered skull could be seen and heat can escape. We called them baseball caps when I was growing up but I’ve since learned that what my father wears is a trucker’s cap.

My own hat is more of a baseball cap: round, close to my head, a long, protective brim, cotton. It was a Kmart special, olive green and likely intended for a perky, young woman. When I bought it, I could imagine one pulling her long, golden pony-tail out through the hole in the back. Instead, it was put to work covering my prematurely balding head as I sprayed noxious chemicals on hot bronze, my rough and filthy hands curling the stiff, board brim into a sharp crescent behind which my eyes could lurk.

As an afterthought, I affixed my favorite button back by the adjustment buckle. It was a button I’d gotten right after high school, one that struck a funny chord in me: plain, white, decorated in black with the cartoon sketch of a man looking remarkably like Sylvester Stallone next to the motto: “Hard Drugs Made Me A Better Person.” Witty. I have a whole bag of buttons, pins, ribbons, and name tags I’ve collected over the years but this was what I chose for my patina cap.

Now, here we were, some ten or more years later: cap faded and stained, button’s steel pin amber with age, the hair beneath both receding further and slowly speckling out into grey like my father’s.

As we jockeyed towards the docks, the men came out for us and so, when we were in enough, we headed out on deck to toss the lines to them and set the bumpers.

The wind blew hard in our faces and crowded us the minute we were out, making my father curse and the boat buck.

I planted my feet to steady myself and felt my cap ripped from my head in one, smooth motion. The same gust took my father’s, too, throwing them into the water like a prank.

For a split second I actually considered diving in after them. The water is deep just there but the marina itself is small with plenty of places nearby to which I could swim.

But then I thought better of it. Sea water in the Pacific Northwest is cold enough to kill on the hottest days, much less on a day such as this. And what would my father say, me diving in after a couple of stupid hats when there was real work to be done?

My hat was shoved across the surface of the water for about ten feet before going down, sinking like the proverbial rock, its leather strap and brass clasp sucking it down to the polluted ooze below. I watched it as it disappeared, then had to turn back to the task at hand.

After a short struggle, the boat was tied down, the haul-out itself postponed for calmer weather. My father walked to the office to nail down the details while I excused myself and, skirting the water’s edge, worked my way down the sharp rocks and beneath the pier. Sure enough, there was my dad’s hat, still afloat in all its buoyant glory.

Using a twisted finger of driftwood, I coaxed it ashore and gave it a gentle wring to rid it of the memory of the waves it had strained, my eyes still scanning in vain hope but no: my cap was sleeping with the fishes.

Back at the office, I reunited my father with his bedraggled hat and told the story to my waiting step-mother.

“I’ve had that hat for over ten years,” I said, looking back across the wind-blown boat yard to the surface of the marina, roiling with whitecaps.

“Oh, that’s too bad,” she said, wondering, no doubt, with her yacht and her RV and her cars and her two homes, what a person would want with a ten year old cap in the first place, especially after I added: “No matter, I have another just like it at home.”

And I do: I bought two on that trip to Kmart, so taken was I with the color, fit, price, and expectation that, exposed to the chemical rain of my patina job, they’d each last a short time. In fact, they both proved far tougher. And so I and my step mother looked into each other’s eyes and wondered just what I was on about.

She never found out but I did the minute I caught sight of my own eyes reflected in the moist query of her gaze.

The button.

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