McLean column: Cowboy hat etiquette and basic respect |

McLean column: Cowboy hat etiquette and basic respect

When did cowboys start wearing their hats indoors? My grandfather, when my dad was young, had a ranch in the foothills of New Mexico near Cloudcroft. He always wore a hat. It was not always a cowboy hat, but a hat. He never went indoors with his hat on. He never ate at home with his hat on.

My father was bald. He always wore a hat or cap. He never went indoors with it on nor ate with it on. I seldom wore a hat, but when I went in the Navy I quickly learned not to wear my cover (Navy for hat) indoors nor to ever lay it on the bar in the O’Club, with a penalty of buying drinks for the house which I could ill afford.

According the rules of Cowboy Hat Etiquette by Bernard Hats, hats should be removed indoors, or when meeting a woman, or starting a conversation, or meeting a member of the clergy. Hats should always be removed by the crown, not by the brim.

Do real cowboys wear hats indoors? Perhaps those wearing hats indoors are what my grandfather called “drugstore cowboys.” Generally, real cowboys are known for having good manners.

If wearing hats indoors is indicative, when did good manners in general become unfashionable? Have civility, consideration and manners been replaced by generally boorish behavior? My sons and grandsons do not wear their hats to the table. If they do, they are asked to remove them.

When we brought a girl back from Ethiopia to live with us I made the mistake of immediately giving her a smartphone. From then on it became a battle to get her to put down the phone during the family meal. I often see young people and not so young people texting or doing something on their phones while in restaurants with family and friends. It seems incredibly rude to me.

Most of my friends are older. Many seem to believe that the younger generation will never amount to much. Probably our grandparents’ generation thought we would never amount to much as we entered the sexual revolution of the ’60s.

We grew our hair long. We listened to Elvis, the Beatles and those Rolling Stones without getting any satisfaction. We wore tie-dyed clothes and bell-bottoms, often used bad language and seemingly had little respect for our elders. While some went to Vietnam, others protested in the streets while protected by student deferments. Some burned flags and showed total disrespect for the country.

I wonder how the grandparents of my mother’s generation viewed the flappers of the Roaring Twenties with their outlandish dress, immodest behavior, drinking, partying and staying out late.

I often hear comments that our country is in the worst shape it has ever been in. The conservatives cite the problems with Korea, Iran, health care and our lack of civil discourse.

The liberals view the Trump election as evidence that the country has sunk to new lows. At a recent forum on immigration, I was shocked to hear a prominent educator state that our country was being governed like Nazi Germany in 1933. It shocked me that someone so educated could be so ignorant. It is understood that he does not like Trump, but in Germany in 1933 he would certainly have been imprisoned and probably executed for making that statement. I would at least be arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo for many columns I have written. The paper would have been shut down.

To my conservative friends, I ask if the country is worse off than it was in the Revolutionary War when Washington’s troops were starving at Bunker Hill and the British controlled Philadelphia and New York? Are we worse off than in the Civil War when 360,000 Union troops died to end slavery and preserve the Union while 258,000 Confederates died attempting to maintain slavery and states’ rights?

Are we, as a country, worse off than we were in either of the World Wars, the Great Depression or the Vietnam War?

If anything, it seems that we have been spoiled by our success. As a nation, we are incredibly blessed and rich compared with most of the world. Additionally, we are blessed to live in a free society even if we do not agree with those in power.

Everything is relative. The recent graduate facing seemingly insurmountable student loan debt while trying to start a career could easily feel overwhelmed. However, it is all relative. Imagine being a farmer in Ethiopia facing a drought, an engineer in Venezuela with no prospects or a refugee from Myanmar who has lost everything.

We should all drop to our knees and thank God every morning that we are fortunate enough to be in the United States of America. Thanking God for our blessings could do a lot toward returning to a civil and caring society with respect for all.

Roland McLean, an Aspen Glen resident, is a University of Colorado graduate, Navy veteran and retiree after more than 30 years in international construction. Reach him at

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