The Legend of “High Hat”

Isn’t it funny how words can have a different meaning based on how you use them of where you’re from? Growing up, I learned the term “high hatting” meant someone was acting aloof or “better than you”, to the point of exclusion. When I became a rancher, I found the term had a much different meaning. While we might still accuse people of high-hatting from time to time, when it’s a cow it means they are watchful, nervous, anxious, and jittery. A little calf spent seven months teaching me that lesson.

The tiny black baldy heifer calf looked to be three months old. Turned out a couple of months early, or escaped from mama, she was in the wind. For two weeks, my neighbor Mr. Tom and I would watch the tiny calf make its way from his woods to my north fenceline. With my winter grass coming in, I’m certain the allure of fresh forage was tempting. Each time he or I would attempt to approach it, hoping to identify its owner, the little calf ran away. One morning as I was feeding, I noticed I had an extra cow butt at the bunk feeder—and it was black!

As soon as I started toward it, the little calf bolted away; running to the other side of my pasture. With that, I nicknamed her “High Hat.” I checked my north fenceline for breaks in the wire, but there were none. My guess is that she was so small, she slipped between my one and two wires (the two bottom strands on the fence). I let her alone and integrate with the rest of my herd. While I had calves younger than her, and all my cattle are red, she would be easy to monitor. Later that afternoon, most of my herd made their way into the small, southeast pasture.

While she followed along with the rest of my herd, and tried to nurse a couple of my mamas, my girls would have little to do with her. I’ve learned that cows are like many people in that respect; we’re pretty guarded around new folks. True to her nature, she kept her head on a swivel and whenever I would approach the fenceline, she would run and hide. With a safe distance established, she’d stop and look back at me with watchful eyes. I chuckled as she reminded me of a base runner looking to steal second; she’d get a lead, and then at my first move towards her she’d scamper back. As I watched her watching me, I recited Matthew 6:25; and thought about Philippians 4:6-8.

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what
you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food
and the body more than clothing?”
(Matthew 6:25, NKJV)

Deciding she must belong to one of my other neighbors, I caught her on the east-most end and I closed the pasture gate so she couldn’t escape. Knowing my cattle would respond when I called, they all headed for the gate. “High Hat” remained at a safe distance. Soon, all my cattle headed back to my west pasture, and I contained my little friend.

Sometimes, our fears and anxious thoughts betray us. Click To Tweet

I called Mr. Freeman and told him he could come get his nervous little calf. I thought perhaps they’d rope her, then load her up and take her home. He suggested that as small as she was, he worried he’d break her neck roping from a horse. He asked if I would let her stay with my herd for a few days until I could catch her in my feedlot. From there, we could safely load her into a trailer through the barn. As neighbors do for neighbors around here, it wasn’t a problem at all.

It was a brilliant plan, but no one thought to tell “High Hat.” Even after I moved the feeders back into the feedlot, she would not enter when I was anywhere around. I would not trap her again. After a month of playing cat and mouse with this nervous little rascal, I just let her hang around. I applied the Matthew 11:29 approach on her; by letting her hang with my calm herd, perhaps it would help gentle her.

Over the next six months, I saw quite a change in the little calf. While not quite a yearling, and never fully accepted by my herd, she calmed down to where I could approach her without her taking flight. As she hung around with my calves, when weaning time came, it was much easier to get her caught in my barn. Once separated from my calves inside the barn, some cowboys working with me that day could load her and take her back to her owner.

With all this taking place while the Covid pandemic was in full swing, I pondered how her anxious behavior and fears were like so many people. During 2020, how everyone wore masks, no one seemed to look you in the eyes or smile, and many were so afraid they locked themselves away saddened me. I wondered if the little calf missed its herd, mother, or fitting in. I thought of how there was little fellowship anymore with churches closed, no visitation with loved ones and friends at hospitals or nursing homes, etc. These things made us divided individuals, rather than community.

Another thought was how the little calf had adapted to living with, yet outside, my herd. She found comfort in knowing she wasn’t alone, even though she was outside the group. Oh, they’d let her eat a few bites from the same feeder, and even munch on hay or graze with them. But they never allowed her within the interior of the protective circle. I was grateful that “Frances”, my grand dame who had lost her calf at birth last year, let her stay close by.

As I look back on this experience, it concerns me how we as a people are forgetting the importance and blessing of fellowship. We have gotten so comfortable being alone, of living remote/virtual lives, and being hyper-vigilant about everything that we’re becoming like little “High Hat.” Please friends; don’t immerse yourselves so deep into this world that we forsake Christian fellowship and community. It is when we stand together, united, that we are strongest.

God’s blessings,

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46 thoughts on “The Legend of “High Hat”

  1. “Comfort in living a virtual life” is a powerful statement. It reminds me of the frog in the boiling water illustration. I appreciate Frances. She illustrates what humans experience and hopefully follow- when we know the compassion of God in hard times we can then share with others. I have especially seen that among widowed people- bringing others in and not letting them do life alone, but in community albeit different from their married life.. I hope people put feet to your wise words and move away from Comfortable isolation to extending fellowship.

  2. What wise observations. In these days where isolation is the norm, my introverted self has had to be intentional about making contact with friends and family. Most of them are better about reaching out to me than vice versa. My church has opportunities for in-person gatherings, but I miss my weekly prayer and Bible study fellowships with close friends.

    1. Yes. Us introverts have to work even harder to engage with others during these trying times. It’s so each for me just to never come out of my “shell of solitude”, but that’s not who God calls us to be. Thank you ma’am.

  3. Oh my goodness, J.D. You must write a devotional book that includes these heartwarming but powerful stories!

    The analogy is spot-on. As an introvert, I’ve had to be more intentional about staying connected. Thank you for sharing another post that lingers a little longer in my heart and mind.

  4. Sadly, this pandemic has made so many of us as wary and jittery as your little High Hat, J. D., and that is so very sad. We were meant to live in community, not isolation. May God be our source of comfort and healing in these troubling days.
    Blessings!

    1. Amen Ms. Martha. I join you in your exhortations ma’am. Even in our isolation, we can support each other. It isn’t the same as getting those wonderful hugs from all my “church mamas” on Sunday mornings, but seeing them smile from the safety of their computer or smartphone screen is at least some consolation.

  5. This was so good JD. I so appreciate the story and find I identify far too much with High Hat. Covid isn’t helping with my natural skittishness. Just appreciated you bringing it into the context of community. I needed this nudge. Thank you!

  6. Oh how I miss fellowship with others, especially my church group. I also see those who are getting too comfortable with online worship or with maintaining an emotional distance as well as physical distance when we are together.

    I’m afraid it’s had a negative effect on my son too. He’s always been a bit on the loner side, but I used to see him frequently. Now, not so much. And it worries me.

    1. I think every family in America, perhaps the world, has suffered from this long-running episode Ms. Candyce. It has certainly disrupted our world. What I’m certain of though, is that even though things have changed for a while, we will get back to normal one day. I too look forward to hugging, shaking hands, and smiling again. 😀 I miss that!

  7. Amen. During this pandemic, we must follow the rules in order to help each other and ourselves stay well. I pray we won’t become afraid of each other. Fellowship and community are important. J.D., thank you for sharing your love for Christ through your words and actions. You always brighten my day.

  8. Great post (as usual). It is amazing how much we learn from your cows. I agree, we need community in our lives. God made us that way and we suffer when we neglect the fellowship of others. Thanks for the encouragement.

    1. Awww… Thank you Ms. Diane. I’m pretty sure I saw her in a nearby pasture a few months ago. She’s still “high-hatting” everything and everybody, but she looked healthy and nearing breeding age.

  9. So true, J.D. I love this story of that little calf. I see the same fear in many people these days. We have become “enemies” in the sense that “you may be the one who gives me Covid.” Looking at each other with fear and suspicion. It is sad. Praying God intervenes on our behalf and removes the threat this virus causes. Thanks for a great post.

    1. Yes ma’am. So many, it seems, are driven by fear these days. The virus is terrible, but I can’t help but wonder why the fear has ratcheted up so high, when Covid is not even close to the leading cause of death in the United States. I wonder what our world would look like if people acted the same with heart disease, cancer, homicide, other respiratory diseases, etc.; not to mention abortion! Well said ma’am. I join you in your prayers ma’am.

  10. Wow, this is so relevant. I posted a article on this very same thing – how comfortable a person could get sitting at home and “attending” virtual church. I am so thankful to God, that our church is allowed to meet together (okay, outdoors, and it gets a bit cold), but we can look each other in the eyes, talk personally to each out, and if we dare… squeeze a hand, or (gasp) hug a friend with our friends, heads turned away. It is WORTH it. In pajamas and sipping a coffee while “watching” church may be convenient, but oh, how dangerous. Remember all those Twilight Zone shows…. how easily TV audiences can be brain washed, how things can be inserted into our “innocent” viewing. Oh, double up on masks, and if you wish, sit 10 feet away, but IF YOU CAN, attend your church in person. Remember, even Jesus touched the lepers, and how filled with joy they were. Healing yes, but that touch….

    1. Yes! I saw that and thought to myself “Thank you Lord for the affirmation.” It seems He is putting this on a lot of hearts and minds this month. I wondered why I kept putting this story off. LOL God knows!

  11. This is certainly an analogy for our times. We are anxious and worried, but I cannot say I’m comfortable with isolation. I miss my church family, extended family, and colleagues. but I continue to do my part in protecting others by taking precautions. I view it as showing my love for others–to protect them (and me) as much as possible from from terrible disease that has taken the lives of so many and left much sorrow in its wake. I’m looking forward to gatherings and hugs sometime in the future. Can’t be too soon to suit me. Wishing you blessings, my friend, and continued safety.

  12. My heart went out to the calf. That must have been scary for her. And what a great application, J.D. I’ve wondered how brave I’ll be when the “gate” is opened a little to socialize more. Will I depend upon getting the vaccine for my “safety” or trust that God’s will for me will overcome any danger. A lot still to be faced but I’ll remember the sweet calf. Thanks!

  13. Enjoyed this sweet and powerful story of little High Hat. I’m glad she was able to get a few bites at the feeder and graze, and stay close to Francis. Poor girl was away from her real family.

    So I like the analogy of fellowship and community within the body of Christ! Thanks, J.D.

  14. We all have our “high hat” moments – – those times we feel insecure or out-of-place. I’m grateful God provides His calm reassurance, either through a soft whisper of His spirit, or through the soothing, encouraging words of a friend. We need each other, in the Body of Christ. Covid has affected our opportunities, but nothing can ever destroy that supernatural bond. Thanks for that good word, J.D.!

  15. I think at sometime in our lives, we all face the “high hat” situation. Even an extravert like me. But I always wasn’t that way. I would blend in with the wallpaper and was very self-conscience. The times then were still the ones where children were to be seen, not heard. But eventually, something came along to help me blend in and even stand out. It was an organization called “4-H.” It taught me more skill than probably all of high school.
    Thanks JD for helping me to remember my “high Hat” days and how far God has brought me into the inner circle.!

  16. Americans are resilient people, and Christians even more so. I’m confident the Spirit that lives inside us will gather us up again soon. I can’t wait. I sure have missed the fellowship of my brothers and sisters.

    1. Oh, yes ma’am. I can’t wait until we can fellowship with one another again. I miss hugging those I love. One day, in God’s perfect timing, we’ll be able to eternally hug all in the family of God. Amen my sweet friend. Until that time; we persevere. God’s blessings Ms. Lori.

  17. Another great story, J.D. As always, I really appreciate the way you bring the Word of God out in the pasture with you and use your cows to teach us stuff about life and better ways to live it. It occurred to me that the same fear we assume to be protecting us can be a tool the enemy uses to keep us isolated, undernourished, and always running away from the those who want to bless and help us instead of running toward them. Great job my friend–

    1. Yessir. I’m so glad you picked up on that my friend. Satan is always looking to capitalize on our natural human instincts. I think it perfectly natural to fear what this latest pandemic can do (whatever statistics one chooses to accept), the ever-increasing kinds of cancers and other ailments that attack and harm our human bodies, and the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters that can strike at random. I’m all for maintaining a steady-state of situational awareness, a healthy respect for disease and other dangers lurking in this world, etc. It’s when we allow our fears to become greater than our faith that Satan can gain ground. While I understand that every person has to deal with their own level of fear in their own way; I pray daily that more (especially Christians) comes to understand that even if something happens in this life, God’s gift of salvation assures us of an eternity with no fear. Perhaps it’s because I’m closer that day than many; I’ve chosen not to hold onto this world, and this life, so tightly that I no longer long for my eternal home. God’s blessings my friend.

  18. J.D., little High Hat does sound a lot like the people I see when I’m out. It unsettles me that people no longer want to look you in the eye and are afraid to talk. Not everyone, but we do need each other. What a sweet story.

    1. Thank you Ms. Debbie. We do indeed need one another ma’am. I think it’s the way God made us; wanting communion with Him and others. I continue praying that the fear that has overtaken so many will be reduced and we can one day soon return to living our lives in relationship to others. God’s blessings ma’am.

  19. Great analogy, J.D. People are like little High Hat, running away in fear from anyone who gets too close. I miss the freedom to go to my church most of all and hope we can soon fill the pews as usual. My worst fear is losing our freedom permanently. I’m on the side of standing up and reclaiming it!

    1. Oh yes; so many today are “afraid of their own shadows.” I’m praying along with you for this to pass quickly. It either will, or we’ll have a decision to make. Accept it and become serfs, or boldly stand on God’s word and live is the freedom and liberty that He provides.

  20. Sadly, I still see and know people who live in fear and are afraid to do anything. Isolation and Zoom meetings most certainly don’t fit my personality. I intentionally go to some store almost daily where I can have real face-to-face engagement with people. I was excited last week to have such a conversation with the manager of the grocery store I enjoy frequenting. It was great to talk about life, share some personal experiences and tell her how much I appreciate her and level of engagement with her customers. Love your High Hat story J.D.!!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post Ms. Cindy. And I agree, it’s sad that we’ve allowed fear to cause us to become socially distant, distrustful, and afraid. I wish more Christians could live life being respectful of others and their choices, fears, etc., but live victoriously all the same. Because I’m God’s adopted heir, I’m not too overly concerned with losing my human life, but with how I’m living it. Hope that makes sense ma’am.

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