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Ron’s latest idea for making a quick buck involves selling his favorite fishing hat on eBay for 75 dollars. The reality is, he probably couldn’t give the thing away, but this week’s column gives him the opportunity to explain how his smelly old hat could be so valuable.

I relied on my training and many years of reporting experience to get to the bottom of his scheme. Much like those wily reporters on TV news magazines, I caught him when he was at home, trying to have a peaceful dinner.

The interview began with a double-whammy, as I asked my beloved how much he paid for the hat, and when did he buy it?

“Well, it didn’t cost anything,” he said. “The hat came free with a subscription to B.A.S.S. magazine in the mid-1990s.”

The next question was obvious. Why was an old hat that came free with a magazine subscription years ago now worth so much money?

“It’s a collector’s item, rare and patriotic,” he explained. “Plus, it has already been broken in.”

The “broken in” part is obvious. What used to be a red, white and blue hat has now faded into gray oblivion. I supposed being broken in provides for a more comfortable fit.

There are grease stains and what appear to be sweat marks across the bill of the hat. And it smells like his boat, sort of a mixture of grease and sweat. (By the way, his truck smells even worse!)

Ron explains the hat’s smell as coming from years of wearing it while changing the oil on the truck and Suburban. The human aroma, he says, is the result of all that hard work he puts into “landing those lunkers.”

I’m going to encourage everyone to take a laughter break now after reading that last sentence.

When I asked Ron how he would describe his beloved hat to potential eBay bidders, he said: Vintage B.A.S.S. Collector’s Item Hat, Rare, and Patriotic, Broken-in.

Then, I really tried to press him, using Ron’s own words to get some emotion into the interview, sort of like Barbara Walters does in her TV specials. “So, if your hat is a vintage collector’s item, what does that say about you?” I asked.

“It makes me mature,” he fired right back.

By this point, it became obvious I was dealing with one cool customer … or a very fanatical fisherman who wasn’t about to admit that something so valuable to him could be worth any less than 75 dollars.

“Has anyone every asked to buy your hat right off your head?” I asked.

“No,” he said, smiling. “But many have looked at it with envy.”

That was definitely the quote of the interview, so I put down my reporter’s pen and started loading the dishwasher. As I did so, I wondered just how many pictures I have of Ron wearing that hat and a goofy grin as he holds up fish of various sizes.

Something tells me that hat is never going to make it to eBay. It carries the memories and smell of too many fun times out on the water for my favorite fisherman to part with it.

A mother of three boys, Pam Zich has moved eight times in 17 years of marriage to her Marine Corps husband. They have been stationed in various locations, including Okinawa, California, Texas and their current home in Springfield, Va. E-mail her at homefront@stripes.osd.mil or find the Zichs online at www.lifeonthehomefront.com.


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