“He dropped off some hats too,” the loader operator told me. Ordinarily I’m not overly enthused about a cap, even if it’s free, but this one was different… By “different” I mean my attitude toward one of the baseball caps with the logos on the front. Because this particular “different” one was almost identical to the very first one I’d ever bought for myself.
The years of struggle that I’ve come to cherish blew through my mind like a breath of fresh air. It took me back to the days of barely double digits to count the years I’d been stumbling around this part of the globe – the days of big dreams and desires to contrast my empty pockets.
I somehow managed to scrape together enough money to purchase the object of my longing at the blue collar central store named “Yellow Front”. They were known for selling Levi 501’s cheaper than anyone in town and had a proper selection of hats, the baseball cap kind.
The jet black cap wasn’t ideal for the Arizona sun, but there’s proof that I’ve long been guilty of choosing form before function. It wasn’t so much the deep black that I adored, it was the way the bright mustard colored logo contrasted it. It caught my eye the way a lure does a hungry fish.
I had no idea at the time what the logo meant, not that it mattered, it seemed to go hand in hand with cool… and what could be cooler than a “Cat On The Hat”?
I’d owned plenty of baseball caps with logos from the baseball teams I’d played on, but I’d never seen another cap that rivaled the first one that had the word “CAT” blazed in black letters amidst the golden rectangular patch stitched to the raven cap.
It wouldn’t be too much longer till I learned that “CAT” was the logo for “Caterpillar”; the massive public company that built excavating equipment that was used around the world to shape and form the earth’s crust for what the civilized world called “improvements”.
I had no idea as a boy that I would one day grow up to be smack in the middle of a world that was made up of machines that the old hat represented and ones like it.
I sported that old CAT hat through the years until the sun beat it like a baseball bat and turned it a weathered grey with frayed edges on the bill. But for all the luster that hat had lost, it hadn’t lost its appeal to me. Even when the boss man chided me for not knowing the proper way to turn my cap, and long before it was “cool” to wear it backwards, I wasn’t beginning to be deterred.
It still staggers my mind when I consider how much little things mean to folks that have close to nothing, they appreciate like it’s an art form.
I swim in a world of cynics but can’t point an accusing finger. It seems the more we get the more we take for granted. Occasionally the cynic gets a clinic… Mine was outdoors on a winter afternoon in the southwest desert. My guess is that it wasn’t a coincidence that it happened to be on a job site where the Caterpillar was chewing through the dirt behind me.
I reached out and took the CAT cap from his hand, “I’ll take this one,” I mumbled as I pulled it over my head… backwards… The men were a little surprised by my unfamiliar actions… but then they don’t know the story behind my CAT hat…
That goofy sideways grin that I sometimes couldn’t contain as a kid came back for a visit…