Islanders appreciate the transformative power of the cowboy hat
Baseball caps and bucket hats are staple accessories in a region where the sun and fishing is worshiped. But coastal Texans are Texans just the same, and most own a cowboy hat, or two.
Whether it’s for the Galveston County Fair & Rodeo or the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, locals by the thousands participate and know how to dress the part.
“Over the years, I’ve always had a wardrobe,” Galveston resident Mary Branum said. “It’s fun to dress and be part of the festivities of the rodeo and wear that gold badge.”
She and her husband, Lee, have attended and volunteered with the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo for decades and both of them are life members, she said.
They even met at the rodeo, she said.
Branum has two cowboy hats she wears to the rodeo, one pale yellow and one black, she said. She bought both of them in the 1980s in Houston and they’ve lasted this whole time, she said.
“They’re taken care of,” she said.
Lee’s hat is silver.
Each year, they attend the rodeo in all their garb, complete with hats, belt buckles and rodeo badges, awarded from their years of volunteering, Lee Branum said.
The accessories help them feel the part, but they’re at the rodeo for a purpose, he said. They’ve been involved in the rodeo for so long because of the scholarships awarded to Texas students who compete and show animals, arts and crafts, he said.
“That is the most incredible gift that the rodeo can give to the state of Texas,” Lee said. “It’s absolutely phenomenal what the children can get. We enjoy the camaraderie and seeing friends out there once a year, but you can’t beat what those kids get.”
The rodeo committed more than $14 million to scholarships this year, according to the event website.
The Branums buy lambs every year from students trying to raise money for their college funds, Mary said.
“It’s all about education,” she said. “There are so many kids that would not have had a college education without the rodeo.”
Islander and actor Dan Braverman also appreciates a fine cowboy hat.
A cowboy hat pulls the wearer into a different frame of mind, Braverman said.
Braverman’s collection of about 10 cowboy hats helps him embody characters when he auditions for certain roles or performs in shows and movies, he said.
As an actor, it helps him to have a physical reminder of the character he’s playing, he said.
“I try to have something on me, something from that period, to help me connect to it,” Braverman said.
Braverman has been in about 30 movies or shows, and hats are an easy way to become someone new, he said.
One well-worn tan cowboy hat played an integral part of one character as a Mexican truck driver who crashes into a cow, Braverman said.
“I thought this looked like a very well-used-on-the-ranch type hat” Braverman said. “I think the hat got me the part.”
All of his hats, some dark and rough, some sleek and fine, came from garage sales around Galveston, he said.
He buys all kinds of things from garage sales — pocket watches, pictures, kitchen utensils, anything he’s drawn to, he said. He likes to imagine the tales that well-worn items can tell, he said.
“I’ve always been a kind of inquisitive person,” Braverman said. “I hate to throw stuff away.”
For Braverman, wearing these storied hats means connecting to another persona from another time, he said.