Sturkie Family History

My Brother's "Hard Boiled" Straw Hat

by Paul D. Sturkie
When I was growing up, boys wore short pants or knickers, and on approaching manhood, at 15 to 16 years of age, they put on long pants, the male adult attire.

When my brother, Ira, was 16 and I was 14 we lived in a city and attended school there. Our family then moved from the city back to the farm, some distance away; all except Ira who remained there to finish a critical year in high school before joining the family. He boarded with a friend of the family and worked after school in a drug store as a “Soda Jerk” (one who serves soft drinks at the fountain). During the interim (some four to five months) he obtained his first long pants and a “hard boiled” straw hat, evidenced to us by a photograph which we received a few weeks before he came home.

My younger brother, Lloyd (11 and a half), and I viewed the photograph with concern if not alarm, because we surmised, and correctly so, that Ira might be a little difficult to get along with, and we weren’t going to be bossed by him. Ira was then no larger than I, and as an adult he was the smallest of the four brothers.

Our first encounter with Ira occurred when my father told us to take the ‘Model T” pickup truck and go to my grandfather’s place, five miles away, to pick up several bags of hog feed. Ira immediately jumped into the driver’s seat. Since the car had no self starter, it had to be cranked by hand.

“Paul, crank the car”, ordered my brother. I did not move or speak. After several repetitions of the order and no response, he said, “Lloyd crank up”. Lloyd did not move or speak. Finally in desperation, Ira dismounted, cranked the car, and away we went, until we reached the gate at the end of the road entering the farm. He stopped the pickup and again ordered me to open the gate, but having no luck, he called on Lloyd, who likewise did not respond. Ira opened and closed the gate and drove on in anger and silence.

On arrival at Grandfather’s place, we quickly located the feed and met my Uncle Lloyd who was working nearby, and whose presence seemed to make Ira more determined than ever to assert and enforce his seniority over us. Immediately, he pointed to the feed bags and looked at us and said: “Paul you and Lloyd load the feed.” We did not move or speak.

Ira could restrain himself no longer and angrily lashed out at me. I ducked, he missed, and his “hard boiled” straw hat blew off, landed on its brim’s edge, and began rolling down the hill. I could not resist and ran after the rolling hat. At the opportune moment, I planted my right toe into the hat as if place kicking a football. The hat sailed into the wind with the top going in one direction and the brim in another.

Ira’s humiliation at the loss of his hat, his dignity, and the laughter of my uncle has not been forgotten or forgiven even after more than seventy years, but from then onward, he treated his brothers differently.