Sunday, May 3, 2009

Stormy's Hat: Just Right for a Railroad Man by Eric A. Kimmel

This past Christmas, Grandpa found a new hat under the tree. Boy was he proud. A genuine Stormy Kromer he told us. “Men everywhere put these on when they leave the house and forget to take them off when they return. They’re that comfortable.” He gave me a bit of the hat’s history – Stormy was a railroad man whose hat continuously flew off in the wind until his wife created this one. The perfect hat.

Something was familiar about that story. I knew it. I’d read it. But where? I couldn’t remember the title, but I distinctly remembered reading a picture book about it. It took a few months, but I finally tracked down Stormy’s Hat: Just Right for a Railroad Man by Eric A. Kimmel.

Stormy was an engineer. He drove the Red Stack line from St. Paul to Chicago. Stormy loved everything about being an engineer except one thing. Losing hats. No hat would stay on his head in the wind. No hat was just right for a railroad man.

He complained to his wife, Ida. He’d lost his new derby hat, and that was the third one in a month! He tried a cowboy hat, but the brim got in the way and the white hat quickly turned black from the coal dust. He tried a pressman’s hat like the men who ran the Chicago newspapers, but a spark set it on fire! He tried a fireman’s helmet, but it was too heavy and too hot.

Ida had finally had enough. She had tried offering suggestions, but Stormy wouldn’t listen. He would now – she’d make sure of that. She sits him down and tells him to describe what he needs in a hat. Ida sketches and erases, sketches and erases, and together they create the perfect hat. Ida modifies one of Stormy’s old baseball hats, and when Stormy wears it, it’s the perfect hat for a railroad man. All the other railroad men want one just like his. “Would she make hats for us?” they ask.

“She might. Why don’t you ask her?” And the rest is history.

Stormy’s Hat is a great story, and Stormy’s hat is, well, a great hat. My only question is why the book shows the traditional striped engineer’s hat, but the Stormy Kromer hat of today is considered a cold weather hat. The official story is the same as the book, but the hat is different. Hmmm… I’ll have to do some more digging. In the meantime, don’t let my cap confusion keep you from enjoying a great book. (Don't let Stormy scare you either.)


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