John Deere Caps and Stetson Hats

Nonfiction by Gail Ensor

A tractor mows down hay in a field at sunrise.

The Caps

They wear those things: they hardly ever take them off.  The farmers’ caps are green with the recognizable logo. Most wearing the cap own the green and yellow tractors, hay balers, harvesting combines and other assorted pieces of farm equipment. 

The cap shows the signs of seasons working in the sun, rain, and snow.  The dust from the fields is embedded in the fabric and helps maintain the shape of the cap which has become molded to the size and shape of the owner’s head. It’s his signature hat, his calling card.  

The wife or mother of the John Deere cap owner will frequently suggest that she take the hat to wash it or throw it away and buy a new clean hat.  Nope, the owner protests there is nothing wrong with the faded, sweaty, dirty cap.  The inside headband is brown from sweat and hair grease, but it fits right, and the cap stays on regardless of the wind velocity, or if he has to crawl under equipment to repair it.

The real farmer wears the brim in front to shield his eyes from the sun.  He thinks those young punks who wear it backward ought to “get a life” and “get a job.”

The farmers attached to this cap wear their caps in coffee shops and naturally in feed, seed, hardware, and farm equipment stores.  They even keep the hat on at dinner with the family at home or at a local country restaurant. Lately, we see guys even keeping these hats on at a funeral.  That’s not disrespectful, just a sign that there is a unity with the deceased, who may also be decked out in his John Deere cap in the coffin.

The Hats

The Stetson, or look-a-like cowboy hats, are usually black or white, sometimes a dyed leather color.  This hat will also appear to be glued to the owner’s head and you never see it removed unless it is to pour the rain out of the brim, slap the side of his leg to beat off dust, or to wipe the sweat off his brow.  The wearers of the typical cowboy hat own cattle, or some type of livestock.  

Usually, the cattle are the beef cattle of various shades: black, red, brown, gray or all white.  Most famous are the Black Angus and the owner will be loyal to that breed and never consider any other colored cow.  He or she will have one cow or thousands.  Regardless of herd size, the Stetson wearer uses the hat as a signal to the world that he “runs cattle.”  Looking at the hat you can’t tell what size herd he has.  Out west when someone suspects a bragging impostor he thinks, “Yeah, all hat and no cattle.” And a word of caution.  You should never ask the Stetson wearer how many cattle he has or how many acres he owns.  Those questions are too personal, but look at the condition of the hat. It will give you an estimate, if not the number of cattle, it will show the years of ranching.

Whether a cap or a hat, these men, and women, who toil the soil and raise our food should be respected and admired.  There are fewer and fewer of them to feed more and more people. When you see them, thank them for their service.  Like our brave veterans, they are serving our country.

Gail Ensor is a hunkered down retired dairy farmer who writes about life in the country. She looks at little details of daily life and writes about them as exciting, and humorous. She describes herself as ornery, cantankerous, crotchety, recalcitrant, and sassy, but kind.

Photo by Jed Owen on Unsplash.

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