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Individual Voices / Natural Forms

Winter, 2006

Doren Robbins

My Hat Up North

We were supposed to be considering
how much to offer on the house where
a family was renting, but I didn't
know about it and you can never look
at me to move renters out. No stomach
for that at all. Enough people already
want to think all kinds of
shitty things about me. 

That house with peeling walls surrounded
on all sides by deciduous cedar trees
was the place where the realtor (when I told her
I was a carpenter) pointed out to me that
she knew the main contractor in town
and said she could put me in touch with him.
Then asked in a casual tone,
"you're a Christian aren't you?"

That was during the time when all types
of people started wearing baseball caps.
But I don't think so many of them were
identifying with a team or
advertising some product or
even trying to keep the cancer sun
off their heads and faces—I think most
everybody in baseball caps were trying
to stay a little hidden or just trying
to keep the tops of their heads on, so to speak. 

And it wasn't just a fad–even the realtor
wore a cap. Hers came from the college
in town and carried its mascot, a raging duck,
above the brim. 

Usually I wore a fishing hat
with nothing written on it. Back then
I even tried wearing a fez but only
once, because I looked like a clown
with my thick hair sticking out on the sides.
Sometimes I wore a Tijuana sombrero
with a bullfight stitched on the brim.
That was the one.
Even with a broken thread and a small hole
where the bullfighter's cape let the bull's horns brush
the cloth, it was my favorite hat.
My sombrero–it had part of a scene
stitched on felt unintentionally cut out–
so it was the illusion of violence
rather than what always happens, it was
just a man dancing with a beast.