Slice of Life Story Challenge-Day 7 -Hats Off To Earl

I never saw the top of Earl’s head. Not once. Not once in all the time I knew him. Earl always wore a hat, so I’m not sure what was under it. He could have been as bald as an egg. He could have had a mop of curls or a few motley strands used as a comb over. Who knows? -Certainly not me. Because Earl’s hat and body were inseparable. That hat, a battered brown Akubra was seemingly glued to the top of his head. Seemingly glued to his head, that hat was sculpted by dirt, sweat and years.
One summer, as a sixteen year old, I worked with Earl. We both laboured for the Sands Family on their farm. Earl was only ever referred to as Earl. I never knew his last name. My job was too thin out carrot and parsnip seedlings to allow only the stronger plants to grow and develop. I spent the best part of each day crawling on my knees along rows of tiny plants using my thumbs to thin out the plants to a spacing of about 8 cm. so they had room to expand. Earl worked there too. For years I had watched Earl pass our family house on his way to some unknown destination in his huge rust dominated car –an ancient Ford sedan.  His hat always jammed on his head. The mystery of Earl’s dome was never uncovered. Cowboys often died with their boots on. Maybe Earl died with his hat on…

*This piece was inspired by the sight of a man on the television yesterday wearing a weather beaten old hat while rounding up cattle in Australia’s remote outback. This visual triggered a connection that came echoing from my childhood. Hat, hat, hat –Earl! Wow, the power of a simple visual cue!

Comments

  1. Great description! I can see Earl now. There are several folks these days who are always wearing a hat (leaving me to also wonder what's underneath?). Maybe Earl unknowingly started a trend!

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  2. Reading your slices is like reading mini-novels. I love your style and appreciate your posts.
    Kevin

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  3. This is a fantastic slice. I felt the same sense of mystery that you must have felt wondering what was under that hat. I guess you found out...a story!

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  4. I can see him. I really like how you captured who he was. You let us see a few snippits at a time. Thank you.

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  5. Love this piece Alan, as I always do when I get to your blog. My uncle Sam...
    Bonnie

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  6. At first, I thought I was going to be disappointed that we never got to find out what was under Earl's hat, but then I read, "Cowboys often died with their boots on. Maybe Earl died with his hat on…" and somehow it was all okay. Still trying to figure out why. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Thank you.

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  7. Love it! As we move through life, there are so many interesting characters we come across along the way that we don't really notice or pay much heed. This is a superb character sketch where the central detail just gains meaning as we go. The sense of mystery you also maintain is an excellent feature of this too. Top-notch! :)

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  8. I looked up Akubra before commenting because I wanted to know what they looked like (the visual) & now I can see better in my mind's eye what you mean. Yes, backs of heads, hats, strides often take me to some person. I love how you gave those little parts, what you did together, what he drove. It's a real story that makes me want more, the best that writers do. I guess I should first thank TV for this, but also thank you very much, Alan.

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  9. What a grabber lead and outstanding ending! The middle included great details. This is a mentor text. You always have a unique perspective in telling a tale.

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