I am not a fancy dresser. My wardrobe is pretty simple consisting mainly of blue jeans, some light weight oxford button downs and t-shirts mostly of which say either "MIZZOU" on them or "BAMA". Caps are a big part of my wardrobe as well and like the t-shirts, you will almost always find me sporting a Mizzou or Bama ball cap. It is a simple wardrobe and one that fits me well. I like things simple.
Probably the most important part of my wardrobe to me are four red bandanas. Like the rest of my style, they are simple. Each of them is a simple red square of cloth with a fancy design printed on them. Anytime you see me I am almost certain to have one of these bandanas in my left rear pocket of the blue jeans I will probably be wearing most of the time.
These bandanas belonged to my grandfather, Oscar Hill. Like me, grandpa was not much of a fancy dresser except for on Sundays when he would go to church or special occasions. To be honest, I am not much of a fancy dresser even on Sundays, usually wearing the same outfit of blue jeans and a button down shirt even to church. To grandpa it was important to dress nice for church. It is the way he was raised. You go to church and you dress to the best of your ability to show reverence and respect. When he did dress up, he looked sharp. He was the kind of man that could wear a tuxedo or blue jean overalls and look just as comfortable in either one. He wore clothes with confidence and when he would come home from the rail yard, those he looked like he was made to wear overalls he looked so natural in them. On the other hand when he would put on a suit on Sunday mornings you got the same feel. He looked like a man that was made to wear a suit.
He was a man who always knew that he would need something to wipe his hands with or blow his nose during some portion of the day and so a major part of his wardrobe were made for that purpose. I don't think anyone really knew how many of these implements he had except for maybe his wife. When dressed nice and sharp, you could always count on seeing a classy looking white handkerchief either in his suit pocket or in his pants pocket. He had plenty of these nice ones, but in pure number, the size of his white handkerchiefs paled in comparison to his number of red and blue bandanas. I am probably exaggerating a little bit but it seemed like he had bandanas in to the three digit range. After his passing, one of the constants that his grandchildren wanted as a reminder of him were bandanas, and I think all of us got at least one. Well, I am not sure of his grand daughters received one but the grand sons did. These bandanas were a part of the everyday grandpa. He always seemed to have one at the ready.
Grandpa had many different colors of bandanas, but the vast majority of them were either bright red, or dark blue. I can't say that I saw him carry a red bandana more often then he did blue or the other way around. He seemed to pretty well even it out as to which color of bandana he would have on his person. Grandma made sure he had a clean bandana every day when he took off to the rail yard to go to work. This has got to be the reason why the man owned so many. He may have gotten a lot of his collection as Father's Day gifts or at Christmas time or his birthday. I really couldn't tell you for sure. While his bandana was clean everyday, I don't recall seeing a bandana that seemed "new". With grandma around taking care of him though, you would be hard pressed to be able to tell the difference between a new bandana and an old one. These bandanas were washed, ironed and neatly folded sitting in his dresser drawer waiting their time to be used.
I have four of his bandanas, all of them red in color. To me I think grandpa looked better with a red bandana then a blue one. The blue ones tended to merge in with color of his overalls and didn't bring attention to themselves while the bright red ones stood out from his clothing and made a statement about grandpa. In my mind I think the brightness of these red bandana are why I always think of him carrying a red one instead of a blue one.
A little while after grandpa died, I got a few of my things that I had been given. I decided to make a shadow box display consisting of the essence of grandpa. It was my way of remembering him the way that he was to me. In this shadow box I put a picture of grandpa standing tall and confident. He is wearing jeans and a denim shirt. His hands are firmly on his hips and he looks as handsome as I remember him. In his mouth is one of his many many pipes that he use to smoke his Grainger tobacco. Awful smelling stuff but he seemed to enjoy it. Although you can't see it, I am almost positive that in his back pocket was a red bandana. Along with the picture, the shadow box is home to a Frisco time table from August of 1951, five years before I was born. There is one of grandpa's short stem pipes with a chip knocked out of the edge of the bowl from pounding it on his big glass ashtray to clean it out. Up in the corner sits the pin that the Frisco gave him marking twenty five years of service. And, finally, there is an ironed folded red bandana. These are things that I can look at and see the essence of grandpa. Each of these items bring to my mind different memories of the old man.
I love my bandanas that were handed down to me from from my grandfather. I cherish them. Every day when I get dressed, one of the red bandanas is placed in my back pocket of my jeans. I carry one with me wherever I go and I use them much the same way grandpa used them.
The bandanas are getting old and are starting to wear thin but still there is one with me everyday. I feel that by having one of those red bandanas with me that in a way grandpa is with me. I carry him with me wherever I go and each time I pull it out of my pocket and use it or just hold it, I remember my grandpa who I loved so very much.
I hope that when my time is up and I am buried, that One of the bandanas will go with me. I know you can't take anything with you when you go, but it just feels comforting knowing that a part of grandpa will be with me as I leave this world.