Wed 11 August
Cherokee is nestled deep within a thickly wooded valley and sadly seemed little more than a tourist centre replete with tack. We walked through a Snake Zoo. . . and wondered why. But Cherokee had one trick up its sleeve. Lurking in the shadows, and waiting for the one who was about to release it was a hat.
Throughout my entire time in America, I’d tried Baseball Caps, Panamas, Stetsons, even a Fedora, but none fitted my strangely shaped head; somehow or other beneath a hat my face resembled an ambiguous after-thought.
And then, in a Cherokee store, I found it: - a 70’s Black Pimp’s brown suede cap; all baggy and malleable. A sheep, even an orangutan would have looked good in this hat. I tried it on and posed; an extra from Shaft. I fell in love - with the hat.
I took it to the counter, hat and wallet in hand. The owner of the shop, a Cherokee Indian, stared at me and then at the hat. He shook his head. Who did he think he was – my style counsellor? I opened my wallet:
His face remained stoic, impassive, not even a blink. He shook his head again and then pointed at the hat.
‘Mine,’ he said.
‘But it was at the very bottom of a big pile of hats.’
‘Lost,’ he said, ‘until now.’
I stared at him with all the resolution of a nineteenth century land-grabber. He stared back with the resolution of one who played poker. We haggled, me oscillating in uncertainty: was I being obsessively greedy in wresting ‘his hat’ from him – or was he taking me for a fool? We haggled some more, his face barely twitching a muscle, until my want and his price eventually approximated.
It’s a fine hat, but my wife refuses to let me wear it.
South African Roland (as opposed to Austrian cocktail champion, Roland) joined me in a seven mile walk back to the camp. Kim, less nature-loving but more astute, hitched a lift. Perhaps in ecstasy at having at last found the perfect hat I seriously over-partied that night, and in consequence was unable to enjoy a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains the following day.