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A bandana’s life
THESE BANDANAS were hung out on the clothesline by local columnist John Gibbs as a sort of “rural peace flag display.” He says that it is the country version of Buddhist prayer or peace flags.

GAYS MILLS - I don’t feel properly dressed in the morning until I have my wallet in my right rear pocket, my jackknife in my right front pocket, and a colorful bandana in my left rear pocket. With my pockets so equipped, I feel ready to meet whatever the day brings.

Bandanas and I go way back, back to before I had a wallet or a pocket knife.  A red bandana was part of my get-up every day, when pre-school friends and I acted out our cowboy dreams around the neighborhood. Real cowboys call bandanas glad rags: big, colorful, oversized handkerchiefs that serve a multitude of purposes. They can be just a plain stylish statement when tied in front and worn as a scarf. When things get dusty, they can be turned around and used to cover your nose and mouth. We used ‘em to instantly become the ‘bad guys’ to hide our identity, say when we were robbing a make-believe stage coach.

I remember being upset one day to find my young sister using my bandana as a table cloth for a tea party she was hosting for her dolls. I lobbied my parents for a second bandana (a blue one) in case that ever happened again.

I assumed bandana was a Spanish word until I looked it up in Noah ‘take my word for it’ Webster’s book. Come to find out bandhnu originated in Hindi and Urdu languages, referring to brightly dyed material used as scarves and head coverings. Synonyms for bandana are babushka, do-rag, handkerchief, kerchief, madras, and mantilla. When you think about it, much of the world uses things similar to what we think of as bandanas as part of their daily attire. It’s a bit ironic that here in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic we are turning back to this basic piece of clothing to use as masks for protection.


Confession time: I don’t use my bandana to blow my nose. It has always grossed me out to see someone blow their nose into a hanky and then fold that hanky up carefully and put it back in their pocket. Yuck! What about the next time you go to use it? Probably too much info, sorry. I always search out a tissue for nose blowing and use my bandana for everything else: dusting something off, soaking up a coffee spill, light cleaning, first aid, and, a few times, attaching it to the end of a load of lumber that is longer than a truck bed.

Bandanas are a quintessential part of rural America; they just seem to say: ‘country.’ But bright-colored bandanas are also commonly seen in urban and city situations. The classic bandanas are red and blue, but they come in a rainbow of colors. I found a package of 12 bandanas on line, each one a different color.mThere was a black one, a white one, purple, orange, pink, light blue, lavender, green, etc.  So I bought the dozen, not to use but to display. Maybe you’ve seen Buddhist prayer or peace flags. Our daughter Rachel introduced us to them after serving in the Peace Corps in Nepal. I hung the 12 bandanas on our clothesline as a sort of a rural peace flag display.