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Ellsworth, KS 67439
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10/1/2004

Old Cowboy Hats

It is always interesting to engage new folks in conversation. It is sort of like an adventure. Ya just never know where the conversation will take you. A couple passed through Drovers Mercantile yesterday and it wasn’t long before we were ridin’ on one of those adventures. They had been in cattle and farming in central Kansas until the agricultural depression forced them out of business in 1986. Those were terrible times in rural America. Farms and ranches were closing up at a record rate. The suicide rate skyrocketed as families with several generations of history went bankrupt. The Ag economists told us in their typical unemotional way that these farms were inefficient and needed to go anyway never accepting any responsibility for the chaos their economic programs were causing. The plain truth of the matter was and still is today, that they want the family farm off the land in favor of industrialized agri-business. Never mind the destruction not only to the immediate families but to the security of this nation. Dollars are all that matter in sterilized world of numbers. 
 
My visitors had picked up the pieces and gone back to college becoming medical nurses and going on with their lives. What else could be done? And so it has been with thousands of folks. Time marches on.  
 
But time at Drovers Mercantile has a way of turning back. From the conversation I had learned that they had farmed near Windom, Kansas which gave rise to little currents of memory pulsing through the perceptions of my mind. That’s a fancy way of saying I remembered an experience from my younger days. 
 
We have had Hereford cattle since about 1912. So, I was raised around the breed and we often stopped by registered operations to look at the bull that they had for sale. On of the most memorable visits of this kind was to the Pearce Brothers south of Windom. They were a couple of bachelor brothers of either Swedish or Danish decent. They lived in a small stone house and after looking over the bulls we were invited in.  
 
Out of the cellar came a pop for me and some fine home-made wine for the adults. It was all very pleasant and had a very old world feel to it. Time passed quickly with these two engaging gentlemen. I was very young, and always wore my Cowboy hat and boots. I’m sure it was always a point of conversation for my dad. As we were leaving, the brothers gave us a quick tour of their garage where my eyes must have really popped! There, within the walls of that garage on every side were old Cowboy hats hung up in “retirement”. Each old hat had become such a part of who they were that rather than pitch them out, they just hung them up as though time was being held in place.  
 
I never forgotten that garage. The Pearce Brothers are long gone and with them has passed a culture that deserved to be maintained. Economists will tell you it is all for the best. The numbers prove them right. Our future will someday prove them wrong. 
So Long, 
The Cowboy 

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