Don’t Touch My Hat! 2007


Publisher: Knopf

On evening, before I had finished my retelling of Beowulf, my wife and I were walking back up the hill to our house.  Suddenly my wife started poking fun at Beowulf and the boar helmet that he wore when slaying ogres and dragons.

“Beowulf is so weird,” she chided, “with his little pig-hat on!”

I had to laugh at her description of his helmet and said, “If you want a story about a hat, I’ll write you one!”

As soon as we got home, almost before we had put the groceries away, I sat down at the kitchen table and wrote out the story of Sheriff John and his ‘bullet-riddled, sweat-stiff’ ten gallon hat. The next day, I quickly illustrated the book with a marking pen and some watercolor.

A few years later, when I landed a contract for the book, I turned the quick sketches I had made into gouache paintings that reminded me a bit of old-time movie posters from the silent era.

Then just as I was sending the finished illustrations off to the publisher, I decided to make a portfolio for them. I covered the outside with some cloth with cowboy designs on it.  The inside was plain white. It reminded me a bit of the inside of an old trunk—I don’t know why really—so, I decided to paste faux newspaper clippings on the inside, much as a cowboy might have done  with his old trunk.  The clippings were about the sheriff’s long life and his exploits. My editor liked the clippings and they found their way on to the endpapers of Don’t Touch My Hat!