Hat season

Mom in the berry patch

Ah, summer — time of berry picking, vine-ripened tomatoes, corn on the cob, and big ol’ floppy hats. Because it’s also high noon for deerflies, mosquitoes, no-see-ums, and, well, high noon. (There’s a video that goes along with this shot, by the way. Catch it at my mother’s blog.)

Dad in the woods

I’ll admit, though, I was a little shocked when my dad traded in his usual stylin’ John Deere cap for a shapeless straw hat he found in the closet. “The brim goes all the way around with this kind of hat,” he marveled. “The mosquitoes don’t come under it.”

I’m not entirely sure the hat was made for men, but whatever. My dad is nothing if not secure in his masculinity.

mushroom sombrero

It might be that Ma Nature is sending us subliminal messages, though. Between the Indian pipes and the mushrooms, hat-like things have been popping up all over the place. I watched gnats swarming around a rotting amanita yesterday: they crawled all over the top-side, but I didn’t see a single one venture beneath the brim.

Which got me to thinking there might be a big evolutionary advantage to this sort of behavior, because the underside of a mushroom, or any other projecting shelf, would be an ideal place for a spider to lurk. Maybe to the Diptera, it’s not that mushrooms are hats; hats are great big mushrooms.

Just, you know, a theory.


When your hat is your home, you take it off at your peril. Things will never again seem as safe and dark and quiet as they did under a hat. Mosquitoes will come and sing in your ears, and not only because they’re looking for a blood meal. They get a darn good echo in there. Ears, being put on sideways, probably don’t look like hiding places for spiders in most cases.

But think of the way an ear is shaped. Maybe, just maybe, the mosquitoes too are looking for a hat.

13 Replies to “Hat season”

  1. Nice post – love the amanita. But the horseflies and greenheads we get around here are attracted to the undersides of things. In areas where they want to control them, rangers put upside-down boxes on stilts to attract them – apparently the flies like the undersides of cows and horses (although my experience is they go for the eyes) – and they get trapped under the box and don’t know enough to fly out. I’ve had horseflies pester me when walking out in the countryside and I found when I went in under an awning or overhanging porch, they’d go under there and leave me alone.

  2. I loved the video, Dave
    and as I watched
    i listened
    and I believe
    your mother
    captured the essence
    of berry-picking conversation
    she said everything
    I have said
    e.g., ohhhhh_____
    LOOK At those – OUT OF REACH
    and the whole what to do with them
    when I picked with my grandmother Suzanne
    the economics of free fod
    ALWAYS came up

    this dialogue I might note
    does not require anyone else
    in attendance
    it’s the same dialogue
    as goes on when one picks solitaire

  3. Great post – you may be right! – and I especially liked the last two pictures. The coolest bicycle helmet (migrating over to bikes from skateboards and rollerblades) in Montreal these days looks just about like that eggshell.

  4. Enjoyed the video, and this! The mosquitoes of Manitoba (their provincial bird, they brag!) were not stopped by anything except maybe a beekeeper’s hat/mesh! I remember my father wearing it sometimes when out picking wild blueberries or fishing in the evening.

  5. The eggshell-on-leaves photo is particularly beautiful. Something about the way the colours work, the way the speckles on the shell carry over onto the leaves, the way the curves of the shell contrast with the planes and lines of the leaves. And that beautiful light, of course.

    Actually, the more I look at this photo, the more I see. I love it. At a guess I’d say you saw this on the same walk when you saw the Indian pipes (the latest on your photo blog)?

  6. The Ma Nature hat theory is sound, Dave. A small, unprecedented crop of hat-shaped mushrooms has just popped up from between cracks on our patio. They are clearly the hats worn by Little Folk as illustrated by Heath Robinson. We have a webcam trained on them night and day.

  7. I have become a hat-wearer in recent years. Plenty of hair on my head, but I appreciate the shade. I usually wear the type of hat I call “dork” hats. Canvas or something like it, brim all around. Nobody ever got laid wearing one of these!

    The eggshell on leaf phots is a dandy! Good eye.

  8. Thanks for all the comments (and sorry for my scarceness here and around the blogosphere lately).

    Petera state of mind I prefer to summer itself
    Amen to that!

    leslee – I’m not familiar with greenheads. Horseflies I know and fear – but they’re a rarity up here on the dry mountaintop. I don’t think their behavior completely invalidates my mushroom-hat hypothesis; it’s just that they’re too goddamn mean to have to worry about most spiders. But if as you say they still avoid awnings, then maybe we do need a new hypothesis…

    suzanne – Yep. And I have inherited from my mom a strong tendency to talk to myself, in the berry patch or elsewhere. (Hey, it’s one way to guarantee an appreciative audience.) She used to get funny looks in the supermarket, but now people probably just assume she has a Bluetooth earpiece hidden under her hair. And being able to hold such a one-sided conversation really does prepare one well for interviews. In her various appearances on local public televison and the Pennsylvania Cable Network over the years, she has practically interviewed herself – reporters can rarely be trusted to ask the right questions – which I why I titled the video as I did.

    beth – And do you and J. wear such high-fashion helmets yet? Pictures! We want pictures!

    marja-leena – We lived in the Maine woods until I was five, and I am still plagued by memories of summer as one long bug-infested, mesh-hat-wearing misery. I’m glad to be living in a place with wimpy mosquitoes!

    pohanginapete – Thanks. I considered saving that photo for the photo blog, too, but I get tired of posting all my best photos over there. You’re absolutely right: both photos were shot on the same walk. We don’t often get light that clear in the summer (though this year has been better than most). High humidity is the price one pays for living in the most diverse temperate forest bioregion in the world.

    Marvin – There is that. In my case, no bald spot, just a growing forehead as I come closer every year to attaining buddha-nature.

    Dick – Maybe if you eat them, the little people will appear.

    gerry rosser – Yup, those are dork hats all right! I have one, but rarely wear it because an embroidered logo for a “wise use” group compounds the dorkeyness with jerkeyness. So I’m sticking with my qarrtsiluni ballcap and putting up with the singing in the ears.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  9. Chef’s caps… Don’t forget those mushrooms. And berets that look like bracket fungi.

    Lovely photographs of the natural hat and the speckles of two kinds.

  10. Or inky caps. I realize it’s not exactly an original observation… but that’s the great thing about writing humor – you don’t have to be original.

    Glad you liked the photos. Thanks for stopping by.

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