By Jim Hagarty
I suppose I should have guessed that my new baseball cap would bring the worst out in the people who saw me wear it. It is, after all, the ugliest baseball cap ever manufactured in whatever country had the gall to make it. But I like it and therein lies the problem.
It’s a nice shade of brown and when it sat on the shelf in the store, it already looked like a baseball team had taken it out behind the building and beat it to death several times with their bats. Then drove over it with the team bus. The peak was ripped and torn when I paid the clerk $21 and tax for it. I own at least 13 other baseball caps, not counting the ones that are hiding in closets and boxes all over the premises, and I didn’t pay $21 plus tax for the whole lot, having acquired most of them for free somehow and others for a buck or two. But this little brown beauty fit my head perfectly and emblazoned across the front is the logo, “Farm Boy.” Being a farm boy, I had to have it.
The first ones to express their deep mortification when they saw me wearing the hat were some former fellow journalism teachers who could hardly eat the meal we had gathered for because they couldn’t stop staring at my ugly cap. One guy even used the word ugly to describe it.
Fortunately, I am a patient man and I let the slings and arrows bounce off me. I tried to defend myself by saying that I actually chose this cap in the decrepit state it is in and paid $21 plus tax for it. But that feeble defence did little to subdue the haters as they immediately switched from despising the cap to wondering about my mental stability and reasoning powers after admitting to this horrendous purchase.
Other groups of people also started to complain including members of my own family. But they needn’t worry. The cap is not in my will. Instead I am leaving it to a young farmer out in Logan Township who I know will wear it with pride.
The dilemma I have, however, and this is the reason for my story, is my most cherished cap keeps disappearing. For days at a time and most recently, for an entire week. It is as though it just gets up and walks away on its own. If I was a suspicious, conspiracy-loving man, I might wonder whether or not people in my life who detest my hat are purposely hiding it on me. It’s a hard conclusion not to come to because when I finally find it, and rejoice as of course I would, the cap stays in my possession for only another few hours before it once again disappears.
Today marked Day Seven without it. I have been wearing instead various other caps from my collection of 13 but doing so has been like having my Corvette break down and having to ride my old bike. With two flat tires.
Today I was going through a full recycling box, carefully transferring each item to a bigger blue bin, to make sure nothing was accidentally discarded. When I got halfway down the pile of papers and boxboard, the familiar brown top of my beloved cap was exposed. Had some other member of the family just dumped the contents of the box into the bin without checking, I would have been searching for my cap for the rest of my life.
How did my cap get in the recycling box?
Tomorrow, I meet with a DNA and fingerprint expert to try to find the traitor.
And I am sleeping with one eye open.