Herb hat

This Vans hat has gone from dresser drawer to starting lineup.

I found a blue baseball cap in a dresser my brother Derek gave me. The cap had a turned-up bill, lettering that read “CA VANS NY Since 1966” and a picture of a skateboard in between.

It was no big deal. Baseball caps are as plentiful as fall mushrooms. Most people have a bunch. I have seven and that’s not counting the black, paint-splattered hat in the garage that I use for working outside and the dump.

The late Bill Christiansen had droves of them tacked to the wall of his downtown office from the companies with which he did business through his occupational medical practice. They were colorful and looked as festive as Christo’s umbrellas splashed across the hillsides.

I tried on the blue cap because anybody who wears them is searching for the perfect hat. The baseball cap diamond in the rough.

Baseball caps vary wildly and most fail the comfort test. They are too hot, stiff, scratchy, heavy or the bill is too short, long or wide.

There are many reasons not to like a baseball cap and we can usually find one. We don’t like them more often than we like them, which makes me wonder why we like them in the first place. Regardless of whether we do or not, most of us are loath to get rid of them. If hoarding is to take root in your life, in addition to the red-and-white plastic bags from Target, bread clips or save/cure/fear-the-world T-shirts, hoarding is likely to start with a deep lineup of baseball caps, most of which never leave the bench.

We hold onto them as if our lives depend on it and if you have ever gone somewhere outside and forgotten your cap and been unable or unwilling to borrow somebody else's, you have an idea why we hoard hats while the sun bakes our head like a pie.

I tried on the blue Vans hat. I’d never owned a Vans hat because I had not been a skateboarder nor was I chasing cool, cool long since eluding me without burning a single carb.

The bill tilted up more than I wanted so I grabbed, squeezed and scrunched it together at the same time that I was yanking it in an effort to convey to the hat that I was serious and if it wanted some playing time it had to play ball.

No dice. The bill was as solid as a tin roof and tilted up again as if it were a divining rod pointing to water in the sky. What the baseball cap gods had wrought, no man could scrunch, squeeze or wrench.

This hat wasn’t going to work. I knew it like I knew the name of my first girlfriend. It was headed for a hook in the closet, next to the green hat that was comfortable but green.

“Dad, that hat makes you look 10 years younger,” Thomas said, when I saw him, having not taken off the hat hoping that in its maiden voyage, the wind would fill its sails and set me skimming along on the fashion seas.

Ten years younger? Really. Can you say that again because I don’t think I heard you?

“It does and I know it’s not normal for a son to say that sort of thing to his father, but you do.”

I was surprised but before I enjoyed the full measure of the compliment, I dissected it, realizing that in saying the hat took 10 years off my age, that it had an abundance of tens from which to choose.

He was also implying that I had seven duds among the seven hats I already owned. They were clunkers and he’d never had the occasion or inclination to say that before but in the context of a new, age-defying cap, he could and did.

I thanked him, removed the hat and looked at it. This hat was growing on me and soon would be growing onto me too because why would you want to take off a hat that makes you look so young?

Other than dinner and bed, I haven’t taken it off since. Vans is in the starting lineup. Leading off, cleaning up and coming home in a blue blaze of baseball cap glory.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or (661) 395-7279.