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Life out here by Bret Kofford: Beer can hat diplomacy

October 03, 2001

It was a wonderful time in America.

People sat in lawn chairs a lot, squirting their kids with the hose as the little yard apes passed. Men often went shirtless, showing their farmer tans, because polyester shirts stuck to their bodies in the heat and had to be discarded to allow hairy bodies to breathe.

People drank a lot more cream soda in those days, grilled a lot more wieners. They said "far out, brother."

Yes, it was a wonderful time in America, when we were all one, big, happy, wacky, tacky family. Yes, as most of you are recalling right now with reminiscing grins, those were the beer can hat days.

In these times of stress, of imminent danger at every turn, of people condemning their neighbors because of the way they look or their country of origin, nothing could make all America feel better than everyone in this great nation putting on a beer can hat, lounging in a lawn chair and waving to his neighbor and family as they bicycle by under their own (matching, we should hope) beer can hats.

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Anyone who lived through the 1970s remembers beer can hats, a mix of used beer can portions attached by crocheted yarn. They were pliable and floppy, at least as pliable and floppy as mostly metal hats could be.

Beer can hats are hard to forget, although many people might have hazy recall because they were spending a lot of time back then in haze-filled Chevy Novas and Dodge Darts.

I had a beauty of a beer can hat as a kid. It was made of white and gold Olympia cans. Oly and Hamms cans were best for beer can hats, although some people had an affinity for Budweiser beer can hats. I thought the Bud beer can hat look was a tacky look. My beer can hat, a classy one, was crocheted together with bright orange yarn.

I wore that hat proudly for years. When I reached college my roommates were in a particularly disreputable fraternity. It was a filthy place often filled with some of Fresno State's top tarts.

I spent a lot of time there in the early 1980s.

As much as I liked to go to the frat's parties and enjoyed the free beer, the hot tub, the free beer and the free beer, I never wanted to join the brotherhood. I had two birth brothers — more than enough. Whenever the fraternity brothers would start pressing me to join Theta Chi, I would wear my old beer can hat to a kegger and boom, no more pressure to join.

Along with warding off unwanted advances, there are many other benefits to beer can hats. They usually are wide-brimmed, reducing the chances of skin cancer when you fall asleep in the lawn chair on the front lawn. They are a recycled product, helping America be cleaner and more resource-conscious. They are undeniably stylish. They are a cottage industry. All you need is empty beer cans (and there is never any shortage of those in our great land) and yarn and some crocheting skills and there you go, making beer can hats at home, supplementing the family income and maybe saving enough to send little Johann to Harvard in his own signature-line beer can hat.

And in these dangerous times, beer can hats are made of metal, providing immediate protection against terrorist attack.

Now some folks, particularly the religious right in this country, will object to beer can hats because they object to beer. There is a simple solution — near beer hats. (I am picturing Dr. James Dobson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell in near beer hats right now, and I must tell you they look quite fetching!)

As for the kids, many would argue they shouldn't be wearing beer can hats, for it might corrupt them more than those video games in which they kill thousands of people per hour. That's fine. Soda pop can hats would be just as good, and they actually made some particularly lovely hats in the 1970s. No hat looked better than the Tab can hats, with the pink and yellow cans often crocheted together with hot pink yarn. This would be just one more reason to push for the resurgence of Tab, a much-missed taste treat brimming with cyclamates.

We Americans would be a much likable people if we were all wearing beer can hats. How could Muslim extremists hate us if all the photos they saw of us we were all wearing beer can hats, sitting in lawn chairs and squirting our kids with the hose?

If President Bush would wear a beer can hat while on his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Muslim extremists could not longer derisively call him a "cowboy." They would have call him "a strange but likable man in a beer can hat." And if the Muslim extremists, after a few viewings, indicated some liking for our beer can hats — how could they not? — we could send a few shipments to Karachi and Kabul. If they started wearing simple and stylish beer can hats instead of the complicated headgear they currently favor, it would be one giant step toward bringing our divergent people together.

I am not saying beer can hats are the sole answer to the world's turmoil. I am just saying they are one giant, yet stylish, step toward uniting mankind.

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