The Cowboy Hat: A Big Al Story


al's hat

The small boy planted his feet firmly in font of me.

“Auntie Kate, I need my Woody hat. I’m not going for a walk without my Woody hat.”


A lot has changed in my house since the Summer remodelling.We no longer have a bottomless toybox in the sitting room for my small nephew, Al. He was the only one who ever played with the toys inside, though he always did a thorough job, and we figured, well, when Al comes we can bring a few toys down from the top floor.

Accordingly, yesterday,when Al came for the day, we brought down the huge box of Lego and other sundry items.

But the Woody hat – a small battered brown cowboy hat- was not among them. And I veryΒ much suspected, in the heart of my boots, that we had taken it to the tip and thrown it away.

I stared at the little boy with the same sinking feeling the flop acts at the Glasgow Empire must have had, seconds before they were dragged off the stage with a joke-large hook.

And I thought on my feet.

“Let’s have a look under the stairs,” I suggested brightly, and dived into the unlit shadowy maelstrom of coats and bags and hats and general undisciplined belongings.

I found the hats-and-gloves box. “You look through Β that,” I directed him.

Al appraised the box critically. There was clearly not a single cowboy hat in there. A cowboy hat would have stood out amongst all the beanies, because it would have had a rim.

It was pure madness to search it. But crossing Auntie Kate is not a thing we do: so he crouched down obediently, and went through the pantomime of rummaging through all the patently-not-cowboy-hats, on my account. Sighing gustily.

And then I saw it. Lurking on a shelf in the shadows.

Whilst not a cowboy hat, it could be called an extended fedora. It is white; I bought it last Summer, and it has been with me to New York and back.

“Al…..” I said, waving the would-be-cowboy-hat around, “will this do?”

He looked at it. For a moment, his face lit up with beatific acquiescence; a huge wide grin; and then second thoughts elbowed them of the way, like women of a certain age at a Womens Institute cake sale.

“No. Cowboy hats are brown. Like Woody’s hat.”

I took a deep breath. I picked the most unattractive beanie I could find. I held it in one hand, and the fedora in the other.

“Al, the Woody hat is gone. You have a choice. This, (gesturing to the beanie) or this.”

Al looked in horror at the beanie. No cowboy in the history of cowboy films had ever Β worn such a monstrosity.

The fedora suddenly acquired cowboyness.

“I’ll take it!” he said with a flourish, and in a flash the fedora was on his head. The rest of the children breathed out, and put on their wellies; and my son grabbed a towel which became the scarf of a dastardly outlaw.

And the cowboy chased the outlaw all round the forest.



35 thoughts on “The Cowboy Hat: A Big Al Story

  1. A white hat for the “good guy” . . . with the beatific grin! And a “gold star” for Aunt Kate for “marshaling” the situation in the right direction.

  2. Aren’t you the quick thinker. But then, I’ve been so steeped in the American West all my life, it’s hard for me to picture anything other than a cowboy hat when someone says cowboy hat.

  3. “For a moment, his face lit up with beatific acquiescence; a huge wide grin; and then second thoughts elbowed them of the way, like women of a certain age at a Womens Institute cake sale.” oh, how you make me smile, Kate. It is good to have a bit of Big Al to read about again, as well.

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