The gentlemen of the range, who were savvy with
knowledge of the rights and wrongs of western apparel, certainly knew a
straw hat was better than a 3x beaver Stetson for summer wear. All the old,
long-standing habits are mostly gone now. Young men of this genre are
usually more comfortable with a ball cap. The insignia on the front may
advertise some western store's merchandise but it is still only a cap. There
is no wide brim to block the sun from a man's face but what does that
matter? Usually, the rancher's chores don't cover long stretches of having
to ride across the prairie on a horse to get to a location. Roads wind all
through the pastures and a pick-up truck can easily access any part of the
rancher's wide spreads. The ball cap is less likely to label the man as a
cowboy. Fast-moving cars and trucks might carry him over long distances
through cities and towns before he gets from his ranch to a destination that
is tied up with business. However, some of the men still hold to the
traditions of their father with their head gear. Mr. Jim was one of those
who was more comfortable with the western looking straw hat his father had
left him when he died.
Mr. Jim was busy
about the property taking care of endless chores. Even though there were not
herds of bawling cattle demanding attention the man still kept a small
number of farm animals mostly just for the children to participate in 4.H.
At the moment he had his small daughter's attention as he was banging on the
metal barrel where feed for the sheep was kept. The lambs and sheep were so
well trained they were like obedient children as they ran at a lope toward
him for what they knew were their rations. Names were all given to them.
There was Lancelot, Queenie, DeVon, and so on. Indeed, the old writings that
said, “They will know their master's voice,” was true. Other chores had to
be finished and the man, who was anxious to get on with them, was mentally
counting the sheep.
“Where is that Queenie?” He muttered to
“There she is.” His little three-year-old
daughter pointed toward the animal.
“Queenie! You get over here. You know you
don't belong in that vacant lot.” He chastised the sheep who was always the
only one to wander. Queenie ran toward them as if she would get some dire
punishment when, in fact, an affectionate nose rub was all they had for her.
As soon as she reached the property line the sheep stopped her head on race
and now gingerly began a leisurely ambling over toward the feed barrel like
some regal queen might do.
“How does she know where the property line
is?” Jim's wife asked.“Who knows? Maybe it is the length of grass being
different. One is taller than the other since we never mow at the same
time.” His wife knew that was a sore spot with him. Often the grass in the
vacant lot was left to grow almost wild. When the absentee owner did mow the
place all the snakes hiding in the grass made a run for their place. For
some reason Queenie was the only one who availed herself of the more
plentiful grass. The others were happy to stay on their own place.
Mr. Jim's wife, stood watching the peaceful
scene. She noticed that at the back of their property some of the neighbors
were attempting to add hobbies to their lives, too. These track farmers were
involving themselves with raising bees. Only one hive was up against the
border line fence. At this time two of the men were attempting to smoke the
bees out of the hive for whatever reason.
Suddenly Mr. Jim dropped the metal barrel lid
and it made a resounding clanging noise. His wife couldn't imagine what was
happening. In just a couple steps the man was beside his little daughter. He
picked her up in his arms. Jim jerked the straw, wide-brimmed hat, from off
his head and began fanning it all around the child's and his own head. The
man's wife stood with no understanding of what was happening. Everything had
changed in a blink of an eye. The peaceful scene was now one that was
explosive and it involved her husband as he ran across the back of the lot
toward the house. It took the woman only a couple of seconds to realize what
he was doing. Evidently, the bees were angry with being disturbed and were
attacking the first thing that was in their line of vision, which was their
little daughter. Mr. Jim had seen what was about to happen and literally out
ran the bees so he could pick his child up and run with her while he wildly
fanned the things away with his hat. The men who had been smoking the bees
out of their hive stood looking on with expressions showing mixed emotion.
They saw what was happening and must have realized that this wasn't
something they would have planned. It could almost been seen how they were
thinking about getting rid of their hobby.
“I think that if Jim's Dad could have seen
how his son whipped those bees away from his little granddaughter with that
old cowboy hat his son still wears he would have been so pleased. This was
the response Jim's mother was giving to his wife who had been on the phone
telling her mother-in-law what had happened.
“Dad always grieved that he wasn't able to
leave you kids his land.” The older woman said. “Big ranchers, big dairy
men, and big government, being what they are, just kind of squeezed us
little folk off our land. I know Dad would have felt so good to know that
the old cowboy straw hat he didn't need took care of a bunch of mad bees. I
can just hear him saying, 'Bastions are not always fortresses in stone. Most
of the time they are the man himself.
Sometimes, the greatest protection can come
from the smallest thing if it is held in the hands of a man who has love and