Open Minds Open Roads

Written by Benji Peck

Photography: stevenvisneauphotography

Creative Direction: Benji Peck for PDA

Models: Madi Kutz, Danielle Kress, Kendall Word, Benji Peck

The prairie swings long arcs across the sky. Double yellow lines divide and rejoin like a beautifully timed pirouette. In the rear view I catch a glimpse of long straight hair, carefree and wild , whipping back and forth in the wind.  It covers her eyes for a moment, and all I can see is her smile.  My willing accomplice.

My memory wanders over fire roads, through the scrub, past heifers and prairie dogs. Somewhere out there my childhood was lost, roaming in and out of the mesas and canyons. The road ahead drops off at the edge of the horizon, but my mind drives on, restlessness riding shotgun. My life lived fast, hard, a little reckless, and as wide open as the suicide doors in this drop-top Lincoln.

In an instant I’m 8 years old again, chasing the long steps of my grandad, his gait tripling mine. It was always a hustle just to keep up. The sky threatens, its towering rain clouds dwarfing the landscape—the unkept promises of a Texas sky, dry as a bone with twice the bite. Kneeling beside me my grandad takes off his hat so I can see his eyes, that hardened gaze made strong by years in the rice field, cracked like the drought-ridden ground we stand on. And though I’ve seen him remove his hat a dozen times before, this time he puts it on my head. In the next moment, he is gone forever.

There’s nothing more personal than a well-worn hat. A hat wears with you. It breaks and bends and shapes to you. I can still see the finger stains on the crown of my grandad’s hat, stains that tell a thousand stories, most of which I’ll never get to hear. The curve of the brim, that ever-so-subtle crease that shows up in only a certain light, the tilt that just feels right when you put it on.

I steal another glance in the mirror, and this time there’s a different eight year-old in the back seat. Riding high on life, the world a playground of possibility and endless roads to roam. Someday we’ll take that trip like one I took so long ago.

We’ll park the car and walk hand-in-hand across dry riverbeds a million years gone. That day another hat will get passed on. But this time I’ll take it off my own head and put it on my daughter’s—my memory, my blessing, my legacy. Remembered or forgotten, blown this way or that. I hope she takes with her the good and the bad. I hope she’ll see the creases and the stains of  experience. Most of all, I hope she’ll see that open minds open roads.

God made daughters to give men perspective. My son will always have my love, but my daughter will have my heart—and my hat.

Event Information:

Keep Shop Nashville x Stetson Pop Up Event

Open Minds Open Roads

March 22, 2019, 7-9pm

Featuring Live Music by Kirby Brown