It was an old hat, but only just, held together by sweat and sheer determination. It was hardworking and weather-beaten, just like its owner. Fitting perfectly, it moulded itself to George’s head, so well in fact, it would stay on in a strong wind or on a fast moving motor bike. Not a belonging or an item of apparel, but an extension of him. He never looked himself without that old hat.
It once was beige with a brown band, but now was brown all over. The brown of years of perspiration stains, dirt and dust. Of crop sprays and animal dips, milk, blood and dung. There were holes in the crown, the band was only just holding together and bits of the wide brim were gone altogether, but still it did its job. It was impossible to tell how old it was. That old hat looked ancient, but hard work can do that to the young.
It worked seven days a week and in all weather. Drenched by pouring rain and baked by blistering sun. Working at all hours, from early morning when it was still dark and full udders had to be milked, and all through the night, when the irrigation gates had to be opened and closed around the clock. It never got a day off, a holiday or even a sick day. It had seen drought and flood. That old hat had endured hard times and in good times had worked extra hours planning and stockpiling for the next rough patch. Present when new life came into the world, and when life faded away. And sometimes it had to sight down the barrel of a gun, when a life and death decision had to be made.
Of course, there were other hats. The one that was only worn with a suit, to church, to weddings and funerals. There was the blinding white hat that lived on the shelf in the back of the car and was worn at lawn bowls tournaments. And there was the good hat, a younger version of the old hat that was worn into town when there was business to be done. It would one day become the old hat. But not yet. There was still life in the old hat. Life and plenty of soul. Soul that it had absorbed from its owner. And soul that it had absorbed from his land.