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Collector in Duncan says old cowboy hats have 'a lot of character'

Some people can identify the owner of an old hat without looking at the name tag, says Duncan, Oklahoma, Western store owner Mark Crutcher, who displays a collection of old cowboy hats at his store.
by Bryan Painter Modified: August 24, 2012 at 6:42 pm •  Published: August 25, 2012

— Mark Crutcher's statement needed a little more explanation.

Crutcher's eyes were scanning the top two of four rows of cowboy hats along the north wall of his Western wear store in Duncan.

“These hats have a lot of character,” said the owner of Crutcher's Western Wear.

What's your definition of character, he was asked.

“Dirt, sweat, and more,” he replied.

The two top rows contain well-worn cowboy hats. There are felts, straws and even a hard hat shaped as a cowboy hat.

Crutcher remembered seeing such a collection across the Red River.

“I came across the idea from a Western store owner by the name of Nat Fleming, who owned The Cow Lot in Wichita Falls, Texas,” he said. “Cowboys would come in, buy a new hat and leave their old hat.”

The Cow Lot Western Wear store closed, but Fleming's extensive collection of cowboy hats is displayed at the Museum of North Texas History in Wichita Falls.

“So I got the idea from seeing it there when that store was open,” Crutcher said.

In 2006, Crutcher started taking in a few hats — and then it took off.

There are 28 hats on display, many with the names of the owners tucked in the hat bands. Crutcher estimates there are an additional 50 cowboy hats in the back.

Among the 28 is Lee Patterson's old felt that is not only stained but torn.

Nearby is David Jobe's straw that is splattered with “black gold,” Crutcher said.

A ranch hand wears a cowboy hat for purpose, not looks. A hat is there to take about anything the job or Oklahoma weather can throw at him or her.

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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