WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The Cow Lot was a staple around Texoma for more than 50 years, and when Nat and Tawana Fleming closed up shop more than a decade ago, they wanted to see the hat collection they built live on.
It’s got a perfect home at the Museum of North Texas History in downtown Wichita Falls for future generations to connect.
“Whenever a customer would come in to buy a new hat, he would ask for their old hat, and he would hang it on the wall with their name and where they’re from, so he ended up with a huge collection” Madeleine Calcote, Museum of North Texas History Director, said. “We have over 500 hats.”
One of the hats on display belongs to Rusty Lindeman, the man who donated the current building to the county for the museum.
“He knew that he had a really unique collection that told all the stories of North Texas, ranging from cowhands and oilfield workers, to judges, racecar drivers, country music singers, really every walk of life in North Texas, so he knew that he had something really neat he wanted to share with the rest of the community,” Calcote said.
In 2006, when Nat and Tawana Fleming retired and closed The Cow Lot, the western store they had owned and operated since 1953, they donated that large collection to the Museum of North Texas History.
When you look at all the name tags on Nat’s Hats, you can see just how local all these hats are.
“So, it’s really fun to have someone come in and say, ‘Hey, that’s my uncle, that’s my grandfather, that’s my dad’s best friends,'” Calcote said.
That’s the project now: expanding on the tradition Nat started by nailing old hats to the wall and gathering the stories of those behind the hats.
“And there are just so many normal regular people with such good stories, and we just can’t wait to learn all of them, and we’ve already started collecting a few,” Calcote said. “And as you can tell, some of these hats have some wear and tear, some of them look brand new, so we’re sure they have lots of good stories to tell.”
Calcote said the sky’s the limit with this one — from a pamphlet to a book — as they continue looking for relatives and friends, the options are endless.
“We’re not 100% sure what its going to turn into yet,” Calcote said. “We just don’t know how much information we’re going to collect, and so we’re just excited to see where the project goes. We’ve had so many people already contact us and ready to share stories about the hats we have in this exhibit, and we can’t wait to learn more about them.”
The Museum of North Texas History has high hopes for this project with more than 500 unique pieces of history and with still so much to learn.
Fun fact about Nat: He was even on KFDX back in the day for five years. Nat broadcasted thirty minutes a day, five days a week right here on Channel 3.