We warned J.B. about it, that he was building up a lot of antagonism, but he never paid no mind; he just went on flaunting that hat. Now at that time we were eating Vienna sausage and crackers out of little roadside grocery stores and sleeping in $5-a-night motels. I wanted a Leddy Supreme, as did every other man in our outfit. In that day a Leddy Supreme, made by M.L. Leddy of Fort Worth, cost $90, and I could never get within $40 of owning one. Since that time, since I've gotten too old and belly-buckled to stand with my arms folded and look up into the grandstands and wonder which Shiny Bright would like to take me home, a friend has given me one. It set him back $350, but still my wife wonders why I treat it with such reverence. Well, she never knew what that hat could get you.
So there we were, with that wonderful human being, mostly riding between me and Player—Player driving, me on the outside, and him with his hat on his head in the middle.
It was a beautiful hat. Some hat companies rate a hat by the amount of beaver in it, triple X or four X or even eight X. A Leddy Supreme was all beaver, 10 X, and the maker didn't have to put a symbol on it to prove it. J.B.'s was a high-crowned, pearl-gray beauty with a 4½-inch brim. He used to sit there in the pickup, being careful that it wouldn't touch the roof where the sheet metal was.
We used to eat in a lot of cheap cafés in small cattle towns. They were the kind of places where you'd walk in the door and find a little hat rack right there where you could hang your hat before you went on back to sit down at a booth or table. I guess it was one of those kind of places that gave Player the idea about J.B.'s hat.
The rodeo circuit ended up at Dallas, where they also had the Texas State Fair in conjunction with the rodeo. One day me and Player were kind of wandering around the fairgrounds when we come upon one of them booths that stitch your name or your girl friend's name or whoever's name you want on hats the booth provided. A whole bunch of hats were hung up like strings offish from the poles around the booth. They was nothing but cheap junk, and I could see that and was about to walk on past when Player said, "Now, look here. Just wait a minute."
He was staring hard at one of them poles of hats. I couldn't see what he meant. All I saw was a bunch of cheap beaver-board imitations, the kind that would wilt if you got them out in a light fog.
But Player said, pointing, "Look at that! Don't that look like J.B.'s hat?" Then I saw what he was seeing. It was at the top of one pole. True, it was pearl gray and it had a high crown and a 4½-inch brim, but I knew it was just made out of cardboard. I said, "So what?"
But Player was already pushing through the crowd of teen-agers around the booth and taking the hat down and asking the lady how much it cost.
She told him $2 and he bought it. We walked away, him carrying that hat and me asking what the hell he wanted with it. But he had that crooked, cynical grin on his face, and he just said, "Never you mind. I'll show you later."
Well, it wasn't until we got to Weatherford, Texas that I found out what he intended. We got out of the pickup there and went into a cafe to eat supper. We'd just made one of our standard drives of about 300 miles, and we were all tired and should've been just a little cranky. We all stopped near the door and hung up our hats just like we always did. Then we went on back and found a table. That's when I should have seen something coming, for just as J.B. was about to take a seat that would have had him facing the door, Player got him by the arm and steered him around to a chair on the other side of the table. J.B. said, "Now what the hell is this?"