The Legend of the Traveling Stetson

The hat was one of a kind. Specially made by John B. Stetson himself. It was the finest grade of beaver-fur felt, dyed a bright bing cherry red. Soft pink satin lined the five-inch high crown, and the hatband was solid Spanish silver. But it wasn’t the material or design of the hat that made the legend as much as the woman who first wore it.

Harriett Ladue was the owner of The Henhouse, a legendary whorehouse in west Texas. While Miss Hattie wasn’t the most beautiful of women, she had an allure that few men could resist. Some say it was this allure that rubbed off on the hat, a hat Miss Hattie loved more than her straw bonnets or riding bowler. Every time she came to town, she always had the red little hat perched on her head. And it was hard for the menfolk of Bramble to take their eyes off the sexual madam in her jaunty red Stetson.

As you can imagine, the womenfolk didn’t much care for that. Which is why, one day, when a stiff west Texas wind swept through the town and blew it off Miss Hattie’s head, most women were happy to see it tumble down Main Street and out of sight.

But the hat didn’t go far. It ended up in a tangle of mesquite just outside the old schoolhouse where Miss Abigail Finch was just closing up. Miss Abigail found the hat and, with darkness closing in, decided to wait until the following day to take it into town and find out who it belonged to. Having plenty of homework to carry home, she placed the hat on her head to free up her arms. Some say it was chance that had a traveling salesman passing by right then. Others say it was the magic of the hat that pulled him to that spot at that time. Whatever it was, Miss Abigail never made it home. Her bloomers were found the very next day by Pastor Cyrus on his way into town. Foul play was suspected until a telegraph arrived two weeks later: Won’t be coming back. Stop. Enjoying what New Orleans has to offer. Stop. Hat is on its way.

Abigail sent the hat back to Bramble via train. The railroad attendant might’ve returned it to Miss Hattie, and no doubt gotten a little reward for his effort, if his wife hadn’t intercepted the package. She hustled the hat straight to the Women’s Society for the Betterment of Bramble who voted unanimously to hide it away in the attic of the new town hall in order to protect the morality of the female population.

And there the Stetson remained for fifty years, until Elma Lowell discovered it while looking for decoration for the Fourth of July celebration. Not knowing its power upon men, she gave it to her daughter to wear in the parade. But before Mada could even get to the Cotton Pickin’ float, she ended up in the backseat of Johnny Dean’s mama’s Cadallac. Which resulted in a shotgun wedding and the birth of one, Rachel Dean.

Over the years, the hat has changed hands many times, growing the legend and enhancing the life, or sex life, of the women who get the opportunity to wear it. Today, its whereabouts is unknown. Some say it’s still blowing around Texas. Others say it’s found its way up North. All this writer will say is that if you should stumble upon a little red Stetson one day . . . don’t hesitate to try it on and enjoy!