“I have lost my hat,” says the Bearded One. He stands by the empty hook on the wall near the front door where his ancient, stained, filthy and beloved Tractor Supply Co. hat usually hangs. I do not feel sadness or alarm. This happens roughly once a week.
I’m at the kitchen sink doing the dinner dishes with hot water I heated on the stove. Our hot water heater finally bit the dust this week, but not before melting something in the breaker box, thus requiring the services of both an electrician and a plumber and stretching out the ordeal for a week. We’ve learned to help each other take surprisingly satisfying pioneer baths, which has greatly helped me in my efforts to not view this as a real hardship.
But I am keenly aware of cleanlines, and the Bearded One’s hat is easily the dirtiest thing allowed in the house.
This afternoon he wore it to our neighbor’s graduation party. Granted, it was a backyard picnic, but the Bearded One has a clean new Tractor Supply Co. hat sitting in our closet specifically for shindigs. Neither of us thought of it. I should have noticed before I was standing in front of Edeltraut as she fumbled with her camera — “I got your heads anyvey!” she said. I apologized to her and assured her that he usually doesn’t wear this hat to parties. And that it certainly was not allowed at our kitchen table.
The Bearded One has now searched the entire house to no avail. All of the great outdoors awaits. He stands behind me and says nothing.
I turn around and see how hang-dog he is working to be. Blatant flirting. He’s not even interested in the ripe strawberries I’m cleaning in the sink, or the gorgeous pile of just-harvested kale, broccoli, and snap peas piled on the counter. He only has eyes for his hat.
“Did you leave it up at the meat birds?” I ask. Our 60 Cornish meat birds arrived last week —
— the same day our hot water heater and breaker box made the melting-down smell. One or the other of us has been up at the brooder every few hours or so during the days since then, refilling water and chick feed starter.
They have already doubled in size.
It’s unlikely the Bearded One would even take the hat off up there, but where else could it be?
He doesn’t respond. He stares into space, pretending to think hard.
“The last time I saw it it was full of eggs,” I say.
“One was decorated with a crust of chicken poop.”
He is bereft. Lobotomized. The loss of the hat is a deeper hardship to him than hot water. I hope he finds it.
And within seconds he does. “Found it!” he says, ecstatic.
I turn around to see where, but he’s already popped it onto his head. The color returns to his face. As if he has had a pail of luscious hot water tenderly poured from the bucket of the finest bath wench ever seen.
“Where was it?” I ask.
“Under the kitchen table,” he confesses, “on the fourth chair where I put it during dinner.”
No wonder he couldn’t find it. The hat is not allowed at the table.