By Jacob Hatcher
Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you I love a good hat. They’re fashion statements, souvenirs and protection from the elements. In my life, hundreds of different hats have sat on top of my head, some better than others. Some are more special than others.
This weekend, though, I saw one of the most special hats I’ve ever seen. It’s a brown straw fedora, with a wide green and brown hat band. Many folks have worn hats similar to this one, but there are none just like it.
This hat has seen things other hats haven’t. Humble and simple as it is, it was the prized possession of a man who had very few worldly possessions. Six days out of the week, this man wore a battered and torn flat brimmed hat, stained through and through with blood and sweat.
Six days out of the week, this man walked behind a mule, digging a life out of ground someone else owned. But on Sundays, the harness hung in the barn and the hat found its home on his tired head to shade his blue collar as he rode to church.
Looking at the hat, I wondered about the sermons it must have heard; like a seashell, I held it to my ear to see if I could hear the echo of hymns sung all those years ago. That old hat could probably teach its own Sunday school class, as much scripture has passed through it.
This hat is a part of history. It survived still born babies, the Great Depression and 12 moves from one tenant farm to another. When the history books are written, the men that don’t get written about were adorned with hats such as this.
It now belongs to my great Uncle Tom, but before that, it belonged to my great grandfather James Battle Hatcher. He was a sharecropper, husband to Kate, and father to seven boys. And like so many other men, he was a hero to this country for which there are not enough words.