The magic red bandana

Like many farmers and cowboys his age, my dad adheres to a basic uniform code when dressing for a day’s work even though he’s retired and work is more like chauffeuring my mother to appointments.

Blue jeans and boots protect the legs and feet. A straw cowboy hat shades the face and neck from the sun. A pair of pliers on his belt loop, and a red bandana in his back pocket complete my dad’s uniform.

As sure as the sun rises in the east, I could count on my dad carrying a red bandana in his back pocket. It was just as handy if not more than even his trusty Leatherman multi-tool.

It dried little kids’ tears and cleaned runny noses—when we weren’t using it playing cowboys and stagecoach robbers in the shade trees around the barn. It was a cooling device in the summer, warming layer in the winter, and a bandage substitute year-round. That bandana was also a grease rag when Dad was fixing equipment, a napkin for meals in the harvest field, and an oversized load flag a time or two. Plus, you just can’t beat a red bandana for a jaunty fashion accessory for those trips to town.

I thought Dad’s red bandanas were magic when I was a child. They could fix anything, from broken hearts to scraped knees. I was maybe 6 years old when I realized that the “magic bandanas” came 3 to a pack from Walmart, and Mom was in charge of refilling the supply in his dresser drawer.

They may not have been magical after that, but they were still pretty handy.

Of course, today Dad’s red bandana supply is now getting a new life as face coverings for him and my mom as they go out and run errands in public. See, both are in their 70s, and both have co-morbidities that make them medically susceptible to even common colds, let alone the coronavirus. Both are independent and stubborn and not about to curb their activities outside of the house, either. So, out come Dad’s red bandanas as the answer.

They may look like they’re a geriatric Bonnie and Clyde about to rob a bank, but it fits the bill.

In the last few months I’ve thought a lot about Dad’s hankies and how they could fix anything when I was a kid. And now that doctors are recommending face coverings in situations where it’s impossible to be spread out, I think I’ll go buy me a 3-pack of red bandanas at Walmart and get to fashioning something that will work.

That way, after the coronavirus is over, at least I’ll have a head start on my own magic bandana collection.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or [email protected].