All hat and no cattle
By Lisa Smartt
Posted: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 8:01 pm
When I was in college, I once traveled with a friend to visit her family in Birmingham. We both got ready for church on Sunday morning. But when my friend walked down the stairs, her very sophisticated beautiful mother said with a pure Alabama drawl, “Dahlin’, that dress is as wrinkled as a dog’s behind.” I had never heard that saying. I laughed out loud but not too loud. I didn’t want her mama to say something like, “Your friend is louder than a cicada at bedtime.” Of course, my friend quietly marched back up the stairs to iron the dress. That’s when I developed my own philosophical statement. “A wise woman knows not to trifle with a strong-willed southern mama.”
I’ve been known to use my own little unusual phrases when it comes to children. “Give me a hug, you little cheesy biscuit.” “You’re sweeter than an apple dumplin’!” “Come on over here, you little cocoa bean.” “I could just pour you on a pancake and eat you for breakfast.” I know. I know. There’s a definite food theme at work in my personal life. Can we just choose not to over-analyze that right now? Yeah, thanks. I don’t want to be as depressed as a turkey the day before Thanksgiving.
I’ve always been fascinated with southern sayings or western wisdom. I recently heard for the first time a phrase that I absolutely love. All hat and no cattle. A brilliant picture in a few simple words. Because I’ve spent most of my life in the great state of Texas, I can assure you that a big expensive cowboy hat doesn’t always indicate a ranch full of cattle. Sometimes the biggest hats are worn by suburban residents who eat scones, drink cappuccino and never get their hands dirty. And sometimes those with the most cattle wear old unimpressive hats which mark them as a commoner, not a cattle baron.
But, of course, we all know that the term “All hat and no cattle” is not about hats or about cattle. It’s about something far deeper. When speaking to young people, I often exhort them, “The more time you spend telling people how awesome you are, the less likely they are to believe it.” The more you work on your outward impression, the less time you’re able to devote to your inward character. This has never been more true than in our current culture. When someone who is deeply in debt drives a big expensive car, it’s an example of all hat and no cattle. When a person brags about his high-paying job, it always sounds like all hat and no cattle. Why? Because people with high-paying jobs don’t tend to talk like that. When someone constantly explains the sheer brilliance of their child in comparison to all the “regular” children out there, it’s an example of all hat and no cattle. Insecurity tends to produce that kind of jargon.
As a true Texan, I can tell you that a well-crafted cowboy hat is a beautiful thing. Impressive. The problem? You can’t eat a cowboy hat. In order to have a hamburger, someone somewhere has to own a field of cattle. And that thought makes me happy. Happier than a pig in slop. (Again, don’t over-analyze that, please.)
For more information about Lisa Smartt, visit her website lisasmartt.com.
Published in The Messenger 7.6.11