Signature bonnet

Recently I mentioned “tossing my soggy sombrero” in one of my articles.

This in itself triggered a number of inquiries, both by email and telephone, as to whether I actually had a sombrero. This, in turn, created a reason for writing an article in explanation, which dates back quite a number of years, perhaps more than I care to admit. In part I do, in part I don’t – here is the why, the what for, and the wherefore. Unlike our governments, I deplore, with a passion, deficit spending.

For what seems like an eternity, in man’s short life, I operated a pet shop. This was in a low-ceiling basement store in an ancient building where adjustments were neither economical nor practical. As a result, I ended up each day standing at a counter over which hung a florescent light a few short inches from my head. Need I say more? No, I need not, but each day I developed a headache along about 3pm.

During this time, as pets attract children, an early teen young lady lingered often after school and long hours each Saturday. Her single-parent mother worked the standard six days a week until 6pm. On chatting with her mother, all three problems were solved in a simple single handshake, and dollars were saved on her part and mine.

Counter to child labour laws, the daughter could hang around voluntarily helping with cleaning the odd small cage and letting me know if other transient children were teasing the animals. This worked like a charm – her social skills, assessment of situations, and development, both physical and mental, were far beyond her 11-year age and she, constantly streetwise, knew well when to back off of adult quirks, queries and abstract conversations.

As indicated before, this girl was extremely clever for her age and had noticed that I, wearing bifocals, “moved my head up and down like a duck” (her quote not mine) when focusing on anything readable. Having a birthday coming up, she brought me, made at arts and crafts at school, a vizor cut out of construction paper. Needless to say, I wore it, and not that night but the next, I noticed that my headache had left well before I got home.

My wife, “My Little Lady,” had a stand on the market each weekend for 13 years hand-running. Next to her was a leather maker who made saddles, wide leather belts, and among other assortments, beautiful broad-rimmed Mexican sombreros. When I held up the visor paper sample, he said “Yes” before I asked and readily answered, “I’ll have it ready for you next week.”

The humour transcending that selfsame week was that I was buying my sombrero, contrary to government deficit policy, on time, not payments, picking up only what could be afforded each time. This partial sombrero tripled its use by shading my eyes, acting as a sweatband during the hot days gardening while in the sun. As well, in constant use, it became known as my signature bonnet.

The one-day exception of this was the day that I popped into the house, having worked two hours digging a flower bed in the heat of the midday sun, to sip a cold drink of ice water. My Little Lady snatched it from my head and flinging it out the door onto the back sidewalk, uttered loudly, “Get that damn road kill hat out of here!” Language that intense and descriptive seldom parted the Little Lady’s lips, so I took heed and thereafter hung it, soggy or not, on the hook outside by the door.

Just as Bits & Pieces became a recognized heading and “Take care, ‘cause we care,” undaunted, became a sign-off partner, so said “soggy sombrero” fell into place as my signature bonnet. That is the way it all came about. That is the way that it was. That is the way that it remains.

Take care ‘cause we care.




Barrie Hopkins