Thursday, October 13, 2011


The following account makes as much sense to me as some of the wars and debates being waged around the globe.  In the small Florida town of Okeechobee each winter, war is declared. It  is a war between two groups with staunch beliefs.  It is the "hat" war.

Okeechobee is a cow town.  While it is also home to orange groves, agriculture,dairy and tourism-- cattle are an important cash contributor. And, where you have cows, you have cowboys.  These guys are the real deal. While very few cowboys now days live on a ranch in a bunk house, these fellows have the same toughness  the frontier men had.

 Today they usually live away from the ranch with their families.  Each day they saddle their horses, load them in stock trailers along with working dogs, kiss the wife and kids good by, screw  their hats on tight and drive to work.

My friend Joan was kind enough to send me this picture of her grandson Randy who to me is what I visualize when I think of Florida Cowboy.

 The day worker cowboy is alive and well. Some work for only one rancher, some contract out their services.   They work hard, love their way of life, their families, their country and their hats. They will fight for all of the above.

Yep, hats are vital to the cowboy. They are  protection  from the angry Florida sun but they are also a symbol.  They wear them at all times. Some brag they make love with their hat on. It is a visible sign that they feel defines them.

The smart person will not  try to separate a cowboy from his hat. He will only willingly doff his hat if the National Anthem is being played.  He will dip his head slightly and  touch the brim when acknowledging a lady. Other wise, it stays on his head.

The other faction in this hat war is the tourist.  They flock to this small town each winter, largely from the states of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. There are several other states represented but these dominate and Ohio is by far the leader.  We use to wonder who was left in Ohio each winter to keep it running. This group is firm in Mid Western values. They come for the lake fishing in the largest lake in the southeastern  United States.

While there was much to be said about how nice and quiet our sleepy little town was the rest of the year, I enjoyed the new energy and money the Yankees brought in the winter. Being half Yankee myself, I could relate. They were generally a cheerful and pleasant lot as they enjoyed their golden years.   Life was good and comfortable with just a few more aches and pains.

Where those two factions would butt heads was over one singular thing.  They vehemently disagreed  whether or not a man should remove his hat in a restaurant. Cowboys NEVER removed their hats.  I mean if the hat did not come off for sex, why would it come off for a meal?  This made the northerners bristle who considered it a sign of bad manners and disrespect.

While this could have come to blows as both groups were passionate, it mainly found release in the local newspaper's editorial page via the "Speak Out"  section.  "Speak Out" was a forum where people could call the newspaper and record their displeasure on any subject. The newspaper would then edit out any rants with profanity or libel and print the opinions word for word. This would then spark a flood of pro or con comments from the readers. It was mostly fun reading for those of us not involved.

I think the conflict remained in the safety of the  paper instead of personal confrontation since the cowboys were lean, tough and fit and the tourists were soft, older and out of shape.  Our tourists were a smart group.

For the entire winter the two groups sniped at each other heatedly in the paper while just glaring at each other in the restaurants. I guess it could only be called a war of words as no blows were thrown but there was lots of saber rattling.  I have been gone for over 8 years but I'll bet the same arguments will happen again this winter.

On both sides it is the ole "my way is the only way so get out of the way" stance with no compromise nor quarter given.

Is it just me or does it kind of remind you of Congress?


  1. Nice post. A tip of my hat to ya.

    I have noticed that lots of guys in the 18---35 age group wear baseball type hats inside restaurants. Frankly, it looks stupid to me, but to each his own.

  2. Denny and I have commented many times to each other on the number of men of ALL age groups nowadays that wear ballcaps and never take them off in a restaurant. Or if they do remove them (rarely), they place the hat on the table (EWWW!!!) I think the days of removing one's hat while eating are long gone, so that particular spat is probably done in the big O. And yes, as a Buckeye I've visited the area in the winter months and it does indeed seem like we Ohioans have left the state en masse for Florida. We'll give you Ohio in winter, if you'd like--heh.

  3. Another change we will probably have to accept. Life is so relaxed these days. Back in the day when I was raising my family, the rule was hat off, shirt on, or NO FOOD. It worked.

  4. I don't like to take my hat off when I'm hiking because I've got HAT HAIR. I can only imagine what is under the cowboy's hat. But there is the problem of going to the movie theater! I don't want to sit behind one of those big brimmed hats. In the restaurant I don't care a bit! :-)

  5. Oh, yes, the hat wars. They're every where. I worked in a middle school. Hat wearing overtook gum chewing as the major vexation for teachers. Then it went on to being the dropped pants that showed the boxer shorts. Personally, I'd rather see a cowboy hat than boxer shorts while I'm eating.
    I know that a lot of guys keep their hats on because they are touchy about being baldish. It's all vanity.

  6. Heh! Heh! Yep! Congress. My husband must be part-cowboy or no manners. He wears caps (the baseball type) almost everywhere, except church. So does everyone else around my neck of the woods.

    They call it casual...I have started wearing floppy hats to protect my thinning hair in the summer, but I switch in favor of warmth with earmuffs and knit headbands or knit hats in the winter.

  7. Oh Honey!!....let's not even talk about "Indian Town".....been that...!!
    Thanks for the reminder of home...

  8. I used to be married to a cowboy...nuff said. He died with his boots and hat on. Yehaw or something.
    Here in NM hat wearing takes on a mixed bag of strangeness...cowboy hats are never removed in public (have you ever had to look at hat hair...oh ick) and ball caps are either a sign of being older (cover that dome) or gang related colors with a do rag.
    So that's where Ohio goes in the winter....I always wondered. tee hee

  9. I agree. I've just been recently thinking about "respect" and when did it disappear. (?)I never see it anymore. A lost word. It's absolutely gone out of marriages. I wonder how much longer the National Anthem will be respected.
    I can lose respect too, and that is for a man who eats with his hat on!!!

  10. Although I agree that wearing a hat in a restaurant is bad--even worse is eating near a hairy chested (& shouldered) guy in a muscle top!!

  11. I've noticed a lot of Country Singers NEVER take there "cowboy" type hats off---no matter what! And sometimes when they are on a talk show---the brim covers their face in such a way that the 'lighting' that normally would help light their face, cannot get to their face/ For some reason, it drives me nuts! (lol)...Mybe I would be part of the Hat Wars......
    And of course all sorts of other hats are worn by many many people...Vaps of all kinds and other cap/hats, too....And those stay on the head all the time, no mmatter where they are...Somehow, that doesn't bother me...It's just those darn Cowboy Type Hats on TV...!
    I'm surprised about these guys not taking their hats off for the National Anthem....I wonder what that is about.

  12. I never take my cap off either. I'm proud of that. Maybe like Clinton said, I look stupid, but it makes me feel very special and unique. It doesn't hurt anyone else, well unless I head butt someone with the peak, so I don't see why it's an issue to anyone else.

    I have been asked to remove my cap in a restaurant, so I just don't eat there.

  13. You see more baseball caps than hats around here. I think it looks a little tacky to wear them in a nice restaurant.

    I can see your point in comparing the hat war to Congress! Stubborn to the end.

  14. Great post ...interesting to someone from across the pond. I think Clint's observation is interesting re baseball caps ...they become part of the person like the cowboy hat I think ... I wonder do Cowboys remove their hat in church? When hats were the fashion, men did remove theirs in restaurants and church ... but ladies never did ...what does a cowgirl do for thought???

  15. Yes---times have changed.... People everywhere these days just don't seem to have manners like we were taught as children... I see men wearing baseball caps in restaurants all of the time...

    Hope the cowboys won that battle since the 'visitors' were on THEIR turf...

    We have those OHIO people here in our area----all over the place.... Think they own over half of the homes here....

  16. I have a feeling this war will get settled whent the others do. Am I negative or just tired? Thanks for defending cowboys. My heroes have always been cowboys. Dianne

  17. I think it depends on the restaurant. If it's a casual/family type dining place, it's just common place. If a guy in a suit wears a baseball cap? pretty weird... lol

    Congress? good analogy, Patti. I always think of Dr. Seuss' north going Zax and the south going Zax... If a south-going Zax encounters a north-going Zax, they cannot solve their issue and the world progresses without them, such as a highway being built over them....

    That's what we need to do --- build over' em... can I say dipshits on your blog?

  18. I was making the comparison to Congress in my head before I read your last paragraph.

  19. Clint,
    I agree that it is a personal thing and really doesn't affect me. Now if they smell really bad, that would be worth my distain.

    Great Gary Cooper imitation.

    RV Vagabonds,
    Ha ha, my brother is one of those Ohioans aiming for Florida each year. Personally, I like snow so maybe I will go north and have the state to my self:))

    That was the rule at our dinner table but times have changed.

    I'm with you. I would only get upset at a movie or sporting event.

    When I see those blaring boxers, I am so tempted to yank on the trousers like we did in my day which we called "pancing". Yep, even in the 50's some guys wore their pants too low.

    I went out to lunch today and got tickled as the table behind us had 12 old guys, all wearing ball caps. Times have changed.

    Blue Ridge Boomer,
    Ah yes, Indian Town. Ever eat at the Seminole Inn? Not bad and lots of hats.

    Linda in NM
    Since you married one, you know all the cowboy ways. We have the same etiquette here. Lots of ball caps covering bald heads but not many cowboy hats in the Ozarks.

    Pretty sure respect died the same death as civility.

    I call those wife beater shirts and I agree.

    Oops, I guess I wasn't clear. The only thing they absolutely will remove their hats for is the National Anthem. That big ole hat will cover their hearts at the first beat. They are as a rule a patriotic group.

    LLCool Joe,
    I was pretty sure what your stand would be. As far as I am concerned, it is an individual right and it doesn't bother me. Besides, your hats are works of art and should be displayed.

    No one listens to the other, respects the other, nor will budge an inch. Just like Congress.

    Truthfully, I am not sure what cowgirls do.
    Women used to be allowed to keep their hats on because they were elaborate and not easy to remove. My church used to require that women cover their heads.

    I am sure glad you noticed that. People should adjust to the customs of the area,not want them adjust to the visitor's ways.When in Rome----

    Me too Dianne. Good ole fence sitting me will usually see all sides of a situation.

    A bunch of new faces might help but who knows.
    Gee, I think you just did.

    Sweet Virginia Breeze,
    Ah, great minds think alike.

  20. I'm on the side of the people who think it is terrible for a man to wear a hat in a restaurant!!

  21. Gary usually wears a baseball cap, one day he took it off and everyone said they thought he was bald because he never took it off. You have to live around cowboys to understand why they won't take their hat off, part of it is because it can easily get crushed or out of shape and will no longer do it's job and some of those cowboy hats aren't cheap either. The sweat kind of forms them to their heads.

    the funiest thing are the wanna be cowboys who have never seen a saddle or a cow but wear cowboy hats, in some cultures it's a sign of prestige and that's why they wear them.

    You can have all the politicians as far as I'm concerned, republican or democrat doesn't seem to make a difference they are all for themselves and their special interests and their silly arguments are throwing up smoke screens to divert the people's attention away from the real problems at hand which they do nothing about, they are not for the people any longer. If every single politician left office in the whole country tomorrow and the common man took his place, we'd be much better off.

  22. Actually I don't mind wether someone wears a hat or not as long as his or her face is visible. We have other problems in my country and that has to do with religion. I don' t like to see people with their faces all covered like. balaclavas or burkas and I can understand that shopkeepers and people in restaurant can refuse to serve those people. Good post Patti!

  23. Yes it reminds me of congress. Personally I don't care if they leave their hat on or not. Women don't remove their hats when in a restaurant. Perhaps if they had a cowboy type hat on they might. But to each his own. I would much rather see a cowboy hat then a baseball cap turned around backwards.

  24. Hi Patti! What a great post. I can visualize it all, and laughed out loud about the tough the cowboys and the soft the tourists.

    I don't know, it seems as if there is something way more wrong with congress than the honestly of the Florida Hat Wars.

    Loved the picture of Randy.

    Have a great weekend,

    Kathy M.

  25. I used to work for an attorney who had a ranch in Okeechobee and I have spent quite a bit of time there so I can relate.

    Sheesh, with all the problems in the world, who gives a rat's ass if someone wants to wear a hat in a restaurant?



  26. BRW, Randy looks like quite a nice young man who I would be proud to have at my table anytime, hat or not!

    Cowboys are a dying breed even out here and it will be a loss to humankind when they finally do disappear forever...

  27. Well I gotta say...I have always liked cowboy hats and the way guys look in them so if they want to wear them everywhere at all times that is fine with me.

    As for congress I think they way out do the hat wars.

    I enjoyed this post as I do all your posts sweet Patti. You come up with some great subjects to blog about. Hugs

  28. Judy,
    You and a good bunch of mid- westerners in that small town are on the same page.

    Linda Starr,
    That is funny about Gary. When I see men over 40 wearing hats, I always think "bald".

    Reader Wil,
    I am guessing that if you can't see their face, you don't know what they are expressing. I am just sorry that some cultures cause women to hide their features. We have so much freedom we take for granted.

    It makes as much sense as the stuff congress fights over which is no sense also.

    Oregon gifts.
    Congresses problems are more serious but the attitude of "not bending" is the same.

    I agree, they are a part of our history as well as our present.
    I probably know the atty you worked for and we may have passed on the streets. It is a neat little town isn't it.

    Thanks. Congress has bigger problems but each side is just as pig headed as the hat people.

  29. We live in that part of Florida in the Winter,too and I love the cowboys and their hats.

    We enjoy going to the Seminole Inn in Indiantown. Sometimes we see some cowboys there who try to eat their lunch in the outdoor part so they don't have to even think about taking off their hats.

    We try to sit outside ,too, so if we get a chance we can strike up a conversation with the cowboys who tell us some pretty interesting stuff about their life.

    We like to go up that way when they are burning the sugar cane,too. I love the smell of the sugar burning. Those guys don't wear Stetsons though. They usually have a colorful bandana around their heads.

    Florida is a very diverse and interesting state if you get away from the beach and go where the REAL people are.

  30. LOL, so glad I found your blog. Im recently transplanted to texas and it does seem in certain parts of the state like the hat stays completely affixed to the head at all times.....

  31. ... as long as they pay their own way.

  32. My grown sons wear baseball caps backwards. My balding friends wear them forwards.

    My husband wears a straw sombrero when we're traveling so I can find him if we get separate. Looks funny, but useful.

  33. Nancy,
    Didn't you love the Seminole Inn? Decent food and great atmosphere. Lots of cowboys.
    You are so right, 30 miles in from the beaches is a Florida few people know exists.

    Well I am glad you found me also. So glad you could stop by. I am sure Texas is just as, if not more so, proud of their hats.

    Welcome to TNS and thanks for stopping by. You have a great point.

    Linda Myers,
    I guess that would kind of work like a tassel on your car antenna. Good idea.

  34. Indeed, Patti - a lot of noise about nothing! (But - at least the cowboys get their work done.) Also "Some brag they make love with their hat on" makes me glad they aren't so serious about spurs.

  35. Congress indeed. I guess we should ask why people don't just get a life. Arguing over hats seems to be a bit of wasted ink in the newspaper.

    On the other hand, I still think a man should remove his hat when he is eating.

  36. Barb,
    That is so funny and I only wish I had thought of it.

    Retired English Teacher,
    It may have been a waste of paper but it let two sides vent their spleen with no blows thrown and those of us not involved got a good laugh out of it.

  37. Not just congress but so many nations.