Friday, June 20, 2008

The Tilley Hat

Tilley Hats are something of an inside joke to canoeists. They're decidedly old-school canvas wide-brim hats with traditional Canadian styling (i.e., not that much styling) and a lot of function. There are stories of Tilleys being swept over waterfalls and found six months later and sent back to the original owner because of the secret compartment which all Tilleys have in the top of their crown.

There's a generation gap with the Tilley. If you're 45 or older, you probably have one. If you're 44 or younger, you probably would rather be caught wearing a lacy camisole in a truck stop than a Tilley. Somewhere in there I find wiggle room. I'm somewhere in the middle. It's like eating garlic—I'm happy to wear mine as long as no one is looking or everyone else us wearing them too.

Anyway, we found ourselves on the Bois Brule River in northern Wisconsin a few days ago. At the bottom of a small rapid (Class I+) we were eddied out to wait for a group of kids to come through so we could surf the small wave at the bottom. While we waited, I looked down to the left and there was a floating greyish-brown blob of hat. It was the aforementioned Tilley. I scooped it up and stuck it in my boat and promptly ignored it so we could surf.

Back at camp I examined it, pulling open the secret compartment. In it was a small plastic bag with two band-aids, two books of matches, and $109.00 in cash. I confess to having kept a $20 in mine for emergencies, but 109 bucks? Sheesh.

The best news for the owner was the business cards he had in there. Mr. A---- F--- of Superior, Wisconsin. Lucky dude, as the hat was pretty well camouflaged. It had sat in that eddy for at least three days before anyone saw it.

Since there was no cell phone reception at the campground, I called A---- on the way home. The conversation was funny:

Me: "Is this A---- F---?"
AF: "Yes."
Me: "I understand you lost a very expensive hat recently..."
AF: [Laughing, talking to his friends---"They found my hat!"] "Yes, I did."
Me: "I just need to know one thing: What sort of drugs were you taking, carrying around a wad of cash like that in your hat?"
AF: "Well..."

He never answered my question. They must have been good drugs.

Story was he was leading a group of kids and sacrificed his hat to save some kid from dampness. Me, I let the kid get wet, but anyway...he said he would be grateful if I would send it back, keeping $40 for a finder's fee which he had advertised in the local paddling community. I declined as I didn't really find the hat, it sorta found me, but I did take out $9.00 for shipping. I marked the package as containing hazardous material and sent it along today.

So please it that the Karmic Reserve make a deposit of "Recovery of one lost hat" into my karmic bank account. Now I need someone to find my orange Kavu ball cap that I spent a year breaking in and was the most perfectest hat of all time. It is probably in a ditch off I-90 in Chicagoland. I think it is gone forever. R.I.P., orange ball cap.

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