How to Bury a Cowboy Hat

[a week after writing this post, I heard a program about the late Janis Joplin on KUT in Austin, Texas. It included a version of Happy Trails recorded as a birthday greeting for John Lennon. It was the last recording she made before her death. A worthy candidate.]


Prominently displayed in the window of Horse Feathers in Taos, New Mexico is a sign that promises a decent burial for a hat that has been well loved but can no longer serve its partner. As part of the service, Horsefeathers promises that one hymn will be included. I happen to be the proud partner of a straw hat that has many hoof prints, a menagerie of unusual stains and no discernible shape that has sequestered itself in the trunk of my car rather than allow itself to be seen in such deplorable condition. I have long considered putting the haberdashery down but thoughts of a dumpster burial for such a long term companion carry only a sense of revulsion.

A word about the Horse Feathers emporium might be helpful here as it will allow insight into my feeling that I had found the noble end to a valiant friend. Other signs promise previously “loved” cowboy hats and boots. The sense of respect for the accouterments of cowboying is everywhere from the storefront to the shops interior rigging. Lifetimes devoted working and caring for large animals are reduced to displays of the essential tools of the profession. Hats and boots are the symbolic testimony to the west and the lore of the cowboy. The storefront is a fair representation of what is on the inside.

Emboldened by the promotions and cowboy collectibles, I inquired about what hymns were recommended for a proper cowboy hat funeral. After a pause, which I could only assume was meant to assure that the solemnity of the occasion was maintained, the Hoyt Axtonesque reply was “Happy Trails.” Both the tone and suggestion triggered my reply that I could see that as a fitting end, but in the back of my mind, there was a nagging doubt. The Sons of the Pioneers and Roy and Dale seemed a little too commercial for what I had in mind.

What I have in mind is something more on the lines of Ian Tyson's tribute to a horse named “Barney” that touches anyone who has suffered putting down a beloved animal. Even with the help of Google, I have been unable to find a tribute to an aging cowboy hat. If the hat had blown off my head and been lost in an gulch or box canyon, I could sing cheerful songs celebrating the bravery involved in taking so much blistering sun from my face or keeping the snow or rain off my glasses. In the absence of a quick end, I am faced with the prospect of putting this hat down with dignity.

Horse Feathers has a blog that provides cowboy wisdom and a sampling of songs. I have yet to find a fitting tribute to parting with a hat. I hope that the power of the internet can serve to gather suggestions about a fitting tribute now that I have found a proper funeral director. Leave suggestions here in the comments or add your hat stories to Story Chip.

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