Friday, August 22, 2014

75. Finding Something You Thought You Lost, Part 2

Whistle has a red woolen, knit hat. It is very nice, and she carried it with her for the entire Appalachian Trail. I want to tell you the story of how Whistle lost the hat in Tennessee, and then went on an epic adventure to retrieve the hat. I will henceforth just call the hat, Hat, like a proper name, because it has such a dramatic pull on Whistle that it is clearly its own character.

I would like to make sure that you all know that all of this is completely true. Even the bit about the soup.


Once Upon A Time,

A man in Peru had many hats. Each day he woke up and sold his hats, his special reversible hats, to tourists and locals alike. He had a very unique selling style, one that involved standing directly in the path of someone walking by, thrusting the hat into her face and shaking it around a lot, yelling a lot about the positive, reversible qualities of the hats.

A young lady was visiting Peru, and she was so startled by the hat man that she bought a hat. She bought a red one. This young lady brought it back with her to the United States, and gifted it to her friend Whistle. And so it was that Hat belonged to Whistle.

Hat was very excited, because Hat had never had a friend before, just lived in a box with lots of other hats, and only got to come out to play when it was being forcibly thrust in the faces of startled strangers. But now Hat was going to have a home! A head to live on, and to keep warm through the cold winds of life!

Hat learned that his new owner, Whistle, was going to be going on a very long walk in the woods. At first Hat was sad, because he thought he would miss Whistle terribly while she was gone. Would he have to spend that time in a box with all the other hats, just like his childhood? Would he get along with the other hats, or would there be more hat fights about knits versus synthetics? Would he ever know true love?

But then, as Whistle prepared for her journey, she gingerly picked up Hat from his napping place and declared, "I will take you with me!"

Hat was very happy.

At the beginning of the long walk, it was very cold, and Hat bravely sat upon Whistle's head, protecting her from the wind and snow. Hat did his best to stay as dry as he could, and to keep Whistle's noggin nice and warm. Whistle felt that Hat was very special, and saved her brain from hypothermia on many occasions.

Clingman's Dome, in Tennessee
One day, in Tennessee, it was a little warmer, and Whistle plucked Hat from her head and tucked him into the waist belt of her backpack. Hat swung his little braids back and forth as Whistle hiked, happy to be close to her even though she did not need his warmth on that day.

But then something terrible happened.

Whistle stopped to drink some water and eat a snack, and she took her pack off. In doing so, Hat fell to the ground, no longer held in place by the hip belt. Whistle was talking to her friend Dumptruck, laughing and happy. Hat waited patiently on the ground, sure that Whistle would notice him and pick him back up.

But that's not what happened.

Whistle put her pack on her back, picked up her hiking poles, and walked away, leaving Hat behind.

In the dirt.

All alone.

Hat would have cried, but hats, as a general rule, do not have any tear ducts.

A few hours later, a few strangers came by. One of them stopped and bent down to pick up Hat. Hat was elated! Maybe this strange man was his rescuer, here to take him back to his beloved princess!

Alas, no. The hiker hung Hat upon a tree branch, and walked away. Now Hat was alone and uncomfortable.

Well, thought Hat, sighing in the silent put-upon way that hats do, I guess I live here now.

The day slowly faded into night, and little stars peeked their twinkling eyes out through the dark blanket of the night sky. Hat felt cold without Whistle, and wondered if maybe a mouse would come by to claim him, or else a family of birds would use him as a nest. He wondered if bears ever needed hats, but then he got sad again, remembering that bears are very well insulated and usually don't need hats.

Eventually, he slept.

In the morning, many miles away, Whistle sat up in her tent, stretching and well-rested. But something wasn't right. It took only a few moments of searching before she burst from her tent, declaring,

"My hat! My hat is gone!"

Her hiking family, knowing how important Hat was, felt very sad for Whistle. A few moments later, a couple of other hikers came marching down the trail.

"Have you seen a red hat?" Whistle asked them, her eyes wide and full of sadness.

"Why, yes we have!" One of the hikers declared, flashing a grin of helpfulness. "I picked it up, and put it in a tree!"

Whistle's face fell.

"Why didn't you bring it with you?"

"Well," the hiker answered, "it looked like it was waiting for someone to come and find it."

Whistle turned to her hiking family, her face set. She told them that she was going to go back to find Hat, and that they didn't have to wait for her. Her hiking family laughed and told her that of course they would wait! There was a hostel very nearby, and they would wait there until Whistle's return, whether successful or not.

And so it was that Whistle began a new journey.

In this part of the mountains there were many dirt roads, and Whistle remembered that where Hat must have fallen was near one of the road crossings. Leaving her pack behind, Whistle took off at a run down one of the dirt roads that wound around the mountain.

She did not run far before she found a pair of nice-looking people, a man and a woman with a car, giving food to hikers.

"Would you like some soup?" they offered.

"I would! But I am on a journey, looking for something I have lost."

"Oh my!" declared the man,"can we help you find it?"

"Yes!" exclaimed Whistle joyously. "It is my hat, you see. And it is somewhere on the trail, near one of these roads."

"Excellent!" said the man, "I have a map! You can read it and take us to the place you need to go!"

Whistle climbed into the man's pickup truck, and they started off down the road.

"Which road should I take?" asked the man.

"I can't read maps."

The man stared at her.

"But... you're hiking the entire Appalachian Trail?"


"And you can't read maps."


"Well how about I just drive around until you see something you recognize?"


And so they did.

After some time, Whistle declared that they had found the right spot, leapt from the car, and told the man that she would be back in a jiffy. She leapt onto the trail and ran down it as fast as her legs could carry her. At some point she had to shout "Excuse me!" to sprint around a sour-looking hiker, who gave her a disapproving look that seemed to say you should not be running so.

"I have to find my hat!" Whistle hollered over her shoulder, and continued on her sprint. The man was not amused. But this story is not about him. Good stories are rarely about grumps.

Hat, meanwhile, was dangling from his new tree home, thinking about life and the inevitability of mortality, when he heard the sound of running feet.

"MY HAT!" Whistle cried, plucking Hat from the branch and hugging him to her chest.

Hat's heart jumped for joy! He was not going to be slowly eaten by rodents after all! He was back home, because his home was with Whistle.

Whistle had run about a half of a mile, and thus it was that she had to run a half a mile back to the truck where it was waiting for her on the road. The grump grumped at her again, but his grump-energy had no power over her, as she was full of happiness. The grump-lasers just boinged right off of her, ricochetting up into the trees where they eventually caused an argument between a pair of squirrels.

Whistle got back to her hiking family, her belly full of soup and Hat on her head.

And what became of the pair of them, the girl and her hat?

They continued on their journey together all the way to Maine.

The End


  1. Best. Story. Ever. Hooray for hats, loyalty, and staying warm. Love, Mom and Dad

  2. Lovely story, Clever Girl:-) I am planning remedial map reading lessons for Whistle the next time she comes home (if she can find her way)!