In the land of cotton …

. . . old times there are not forgotten.

I once had an American family, back when I was young. We were sons and daughters of the Old South. We are almost all gone now. Dust to dust.

Three generations, and we had names.

BollDee, Charlie, Diane, me, Mama Powell, Papa Powell, Mama D, Papa D, Aunt Ned, and Marthalyn. Not that many, actually.

All dead now, save three. Diane, me and Marthalyn who is quite old, my father’s younger and only sister who never married.

Willie and Cap, the domestics. And Pepper the pooch. The cars in the southern end of the state were Fords, farther north Chevrolets. All made in Detroit.

The places had names like Sylvester, Red Rock, Albany, Marietta, Atlanta — and Jacksonville, our 10-year exile in Florida with the Yankees and Cubans.

We had crops like pecans, cotton, peanuts and corn. We had beasts called cattle. And, for a spell, chickens, lots and lots of chickens.

Especially in the southern end, we ate what we grew. Corn, string beans, beef, chicken, tomatoes and okra, which is good when battered and fried.

The roads in the southern end were red clay. Farther north they were paved. Down south we were farmers. Up north we were a number of things, including housing developers.

I gaze around me at times, and wonder how I ended up here.

Among sombreros and tacos.

The right hat

Sitting with my child bride on the plaza yesterday while she peddled her tasty pastries, a fierce rain fell, as it’s prone to do in late June, and the temperature dropped precipitously.

It was quite cool, and I realized my hat was not right.

It was a straw, and I needed a felt.

hatI do not much care for hats even though they can give you a jaunty air. However, I wear hats these days because I live far closer to the sun than I once did.

Over 7,000 feet closer.

I’ve had skin cancer more than 25 times, literally, not melanoma but the calmer kind known as basal cell carcinoma. Nothing much happens with that kind of skin cancer unless you ignore it, so every time I have to get it cut off and biopsied.

It’s quite a nuisance, plus an expense. As a younger man, I often went about half naked in the Southern sun, and now I am paying the price.

Hanging on my hat rack are two Tardans, one Columbia, one Jaxon, a Golden Gate, and three others, which are nonentities.

Tardan is a fine Mexican company (since 1847) that makes quality stuff. I have a black felt I bought in a department store in the state capital, and a brown felt I purchased at Tardan’s home base on the Zócalo in Mexico City.

My favorite is the Columbia, which I bought at Academy Sporting Goods years ago in San Antonio, Texas. It looks like a straw, but it’s 87% paper, 13% polyester. Yep, a paper hat, but you’d never know looking at it.

The Jaxon is an old straw that’s a bit smallish, but I wear it around the neighborhood. The Golden Gate is brown felt, and the most versatile of the entire lot. I don’t much like how it looks, but other people do, so . . .

The oldest of them all is a huge straw I bought at WalMart in Clayton, Georgia, almost a decade ago. I wear it entirely in the yard now because my wife gets embarrassed if it heads out the gate on my noggin.

sombreroIt looks like it was excavated from Tutankhamun’s tomb. And one should not embarrass one’s bride unnecessarily.

I also own two sombreros. They are never worn because a Gringo in a sombrero looks like a dang fool.

Or worse, a tourist.