My New Hat From Jackson, Wyoming: A hidden treasure deep in the mountains

My New Hat from Jackson, Wyoming

About a year ago, one of my daughters was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for a photography assignment in the Teton National Park.  As she waited for all the elements to come together, she stopped by The Beaver Creek Hats and Leather store in the ski town of Jackson to get a new hat, and she found a real treasure trove of a wonderful hat store.  She knew I was looking for some new hats for my collection, so she promptly told me about it.  We made a deal that if we were ever in Jackson, Wyoming together, I would get my next hat there because the variety and quality were unique due to the town’s economic circumstances.  That made it the perfect place for me to get my hat because Jackson is not only the highest per capita income center of the world, but a need for real cowboy hats founded it. It’s a high-altitude kind of place where the sun can do a number on you without some level of protection, making it a great place to buy a cowboy hat that not only looked good but was also functional.  After all, that’s why she had gone there in the first place.  It was quite a pleasant discovery, so at that moment, we started plotting ways to get both of us there at the same time accommodating our busy schedules.  About nine months later, we were in Jackson, Wyoming, with most of our entire immediate family and the first thing we did was buy my new white Stetson that I had been looking for that I needed to purchase for a while now.  My other hats are pretty beat up, and I needed one for some of the formal things I get myself into. 

It’s not that I couldn’t have gotten a hat in Cincinnati or the many other far-flung places I had been this year.  There were opportunities to get hats in other areas, such as Texas and New Mexico.  I saw nice hat stores in Oklahoma and Kansas, but I held out for that Jackson trip with my daughter for one because I had promised her I would.  But for the other, Jackson could afford to serve customers who had more money and therefore could afford to cater to more of the diverse needs of a hat buying public.  That gave me many more options for a very nice Stetson than I would have in other places.  As much as I think they should be, cowboy hats aren’t that popular in other parts of the country, and where they are popular, money isn’t all that easy to come by.  However, I have a particular taste in hats that is difficult to accommodate.  I like wide brims, especially now that I’m older, but I’m not particularly eager to curl them up in ridiculous ways.  I want the benefit of the brim to shield my face and head from the sun and the rain all seasons of the year, and as I did look around in some of those actual cowboy regions for a good hat, most of the styles just didn’t fit my needs for something uniquely me.  Because of that wealth in Jackson, all the correct elements combined, which is why my daughter made a big deal about it in the first place.  Her entire life, I have worn hats.  And well before she ever came along, deep into my childhood, I have always worn hats, specifically cowboy hats or outback hats from Australia. 

I had a lot of thoughts about the Tetons in general and Jackson the town specifically.  The town was wealthy because of Hollywood transplants.  Jackson Hole was the hideout of Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch of western legend.  After the movie with Paul Newman and Robert Redford, many actors made Jackson their home, including Harrison Ford, who has a house right around the corner from the McDonald’s there. That’s how the per capita income became so high because there is a low population density. The people who moved there from Hollywood and other high-paying industries set the benchmark which skewed the numbers from its origins as a cowboy town.  After John D. Rockefeller bought up secretly many of the old ranches of Jackson Hole and turned the Grand Tetons into a National Park, the government stepped in discreetly.   The government of Jackson has a mix of a rugged cowboy town foundation and exterior with the financial wealth of a tiny population that brought with all the California transplants their love of Agenda 21 United Nations policies in zoning which irritated me quite a lot.  But the tourists likely weren’t thinking about those things the way I was.  The Tetons is a paradise on earth where the government has obtained an illusion that they have discovered Utopia.  It is a place isolated from reality as the outside world well beyond the mountains that surrounded it was burning politically and literally.  It reminded me of other places I enjoy a lot, such as Glendale, California, and the Liberty Center area in my hometown.  But to say the least, I liked the way Jackson was, yet I was all too aware of the undercurrent of liberalism that was sapping itself off the fine history of the area. 

But all those elements made for a great cowboy hat buying trip, and I am proud to have found the perfect hat for me.  I am even prouder that I could get that hat with my daughter from that original trip several months prior.  My entire family ended up at that hat store, and it was fun to start a new thing for all of us.  I may make that hat store a regular thing for me.  It used to be for me that I wore the same hat no matter what the occasion and that was fun for me.  A perfect felt hat, after all, can serve such a purpose.  It might be battered a bit from crawling through caves and jumping through broken windows as most of my life has been everyday use for my hats.  But I’m a bit older now, and hats for an occasion are more of a thing than they used to be. I’m not so scrappy and earthy these days, which is a natural evolution.  Sometimes in life, you get where you are going, and you have to figure out what to do when you get there.  Because the mission was to get there, but what comes after is not always so well defined.  If it’s about the adventure, not the destination, then that problem will arise.  But getting there in life has its challenges, and for me, getting a nice hat in Jackson, Wyoming, couldn’t have made me happier.

A distant place on the map that is certainly hard to get to is now much closer.  Jackson by car is not easy.  To make it easy, you pretty much have to fly into it.  To the north is Yellowstone and its vast expanses.  To the south is a long drive up from the deserts of Utah.  To the east are deserts and more mountains and enormous open places.  And to the west was Idaho and a big mountain that must be crossed with 10% grades that take you up and over the range.  So it means something to get to Jackson and buy a hat from there, which enhances my life in positive ways every day in some manner my daughter and I will share for years to come.

Rich Hoffman

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