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Good time to wear a hat  

By Clif Knight 

Dressing properly for protection from extreme heat and the sun’s ultraviolet rays was a practice followed by farm workers when I was a boy many years ago. 

I was reminded of that recently after working outside bareheaded most of the day.  

The sun’s rays blistered the top of my head where the loss of hair has left a bare spot. 

I remember seeing men, women and girls working in the fields wearing broad-brimmed straw hats and hand-sewn bonnets. They served the dual purpose of shading their skin from the sun and fanning their faces during an occasional rest break. The boys marched to a different tune, however, much to the displeasure of their parents. We limited our summer dress to a pair of cut-off blue jeans and soaked up the sun without fear of the consequences. The only exceptions were blackberry picking and going to church. 

“You boys need to wear a hat and a shirt,” our mother would say. “If you don’t, you’ll be sorry someday,” our older sister would add. 

“It’s too hot to wear a hat and a shirt,” we’d say and rush out of the house barebacked and barefooted. 

Hats were also the custom of the day for church and social gatherings as the embodiment of proper dress. Women adorned themselves with a variety of head pieces compete with ribbon and other decorations and used gemstone hatpins to keep them in place. Men opted for more modest felt hats to top off their “Sunday best.” When not in use, they were placed in hatboxes and stored on top shelves of closets. 

It turned out that both our mother and big sister were right on target in their efforts to get us boys to wear something on our heads and backs to protect ourselves. My mother never had to visit a dermatologist for skin treatment during her lifetime of 95 years and my older sister has youthful-looking skin at age 88. 

Unfortunately, my luck ran out recently I developed a skin condition related to sun exposure and was referred to a dermatologist for treatment. He found skin cancer on my back and removed it successfully. I was fortunate to get help when the cancer was operable. Now, I wear a floppy old hat when I’m working outside to keep the sun off my head, face and neck.