Giving A Shirt

Roger Clark
December 2020

I was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana a couple years ago delivering a cooling tower to a university. It was July and that means hot and humid. It also means shade is a precious commodity.

When the job site foreman arrived, I stepped out of the truck wearing a full set of PPE over a short-sleeve shirt. It seemed like the prudent thing to do, in the shade of a giant Linkbelt crane. But the man only shot me a quizzical look, and I couldn’t tell what was bothering him.

Careful not to appear offended or upset, I approached him with a questioning expression of my own. 

“You ain’t from here,” he growled.

“Yup, you’re right. I’m not,” I said.

“I could tell,” he said with a grin, “Cuz nobody from here would be wearing a black shirt in July!”

 Some years earlier—okay, over a decade ago—I was the morning guy on an Alaska Radio show. It was a Christian station with very conservative views. Located on Bristol Bay, I knew there would be some unique and logistical challenges. Little did I know shirts would be one of them. 

My wardrobe back then was western wear, head to toe. Many of my shirts were cotton Wranglers in a rainbow of colors, tucked into Circle C slacks, hemmed to fit perfectly over Dan Post boots. 

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve never been a member of the PBR, and rode a real rodeo bull only once in my life. It was the shortest ride of my life, and I spent more time in the air than I did on the bull. But I looked really cool, for a second!

One day someone left a box of short sleeve western shirts at the station for me. They were fine, I could tell, totally free, and completely boring. I also thought someone was being very generous, because no-one on the staff was overpaid.

But it wasn’t generosity. Station management had arranged this little outreach because of concern for my appearance. They believed colorful Wrangler shirts ‘minimized’ my Christian mission. I didn’t know I even had a mission, and there I was diminishing it! 

I thought I was there to broadcast a morning show, with Christian parameters. There was a lot of ‘no’ in those manuals. No profanity, no heretics, no political jokes, and no news stories about dinosaurs. But there was no rule about shirts worn by unknown disc jockeys in unseen studios, 75 miles from the nearest city. 

Speaking of no, marriage will change your attitude about shirts. It did mine. Oh, I still get to wear what I want, but now she tells me what I want. They’re not as bright, I suppose, but my shirts do have collars, pockets, and tucked in tails. As for colors, they coordinate well with accessories, like butter, mustard, egg whites, and coffee. Materials are better too, simplifying dinner time, movie night, man cave, and hospice care. 

 And finally, there’s this. We all change, as we get older, and I’m no exception. Always a big guy anyways, I’ve grown from regular, to husky, to extra-large and now OMG. Just last week, in fact, while weighing at a CAT Scale, the fuel desk cashier kept saying, “One at a time, please. One at a time!”

The numbers went up so fast that driver behind me thought it was the Richter scale, and believed my PPE vest was a hot air balloon. Luckily for both of us, the scale actually did what it had to!!