In praise of the bandana.

Farm chore of the week: spreading fertilizer around 1,600 young Christmas trees. Dad and I did some today and some yesterday. More await us on Friday. Yay.

The late-summer sun felt plenty warm to me, and the humidity had it beat by a couple of percentage points. My bandana got quite a workout; not only did I wipe my face fairly often, I used the blue hanky to mark my spot in a row. When I walked back from the fertilizer cart, I always knew which was the last tree I’d surrounded with 14-7-14 granules.

That bandana cost me a buck several years ago, and has been in my backpack ever since. Who carries a pocket handkerchief any more? I do, and you should, too. It’s incredibly useful for a number of tasks.

Children’s entertainment. Apparently some people can turn a hanky into a little bunny. I can’t do that, but during particularly long Little League games I distracted my three-year-old great-nephew in other ways:

  • Tied it to Britain’s belt loop and told him he was a cat, a monkey or a puppy. Many animal noises ensued.
  • Tucked it into the back of his T-shirt as a superhero cape.
  • Tied it in a corner where two fences met to create a hammock for the Beanie Baby he’d brought along.

My favorite, though, was the pirate headscarf. After all, his first name is the name of Capt. Jack Sparrow’s country.

Arrrr! Me hearties.

Bib or bandage?

It has other uses, too. This is one multi-purpose square of cotton.

Cough-muffler. I have asthma. Sometimes I have what I call a “bad air day,” which means I cough a lot. No sense grossing out folks on buses and planes; I grab the folded-up hanky to silence the hacking.

Tablecloth. While having picnic lunches in the United Kingdom earlier this year, I’d spread out the bandana on whatever patch of grass or piece of wall I chose.

Napkin. Sometimes a hostel’s kitchen doesn’t have paper towels. I’m a messy eater, so it was good to have the bandana as backup during my travels. Speaking of messy eating, the hanky may also double as….

Bib. While in South Jersey I’ve been eating frozen custard as often as I can get away with it. On a warm day it’s hard to keep ahead of the drips. Bowing to the inevitable, I tuck the bandana into my collar – where it probably looks dumb, but definitely protects my shirtfront.

Washcloth. Hostels provide towels only.

Emergency bandage. Last January I fell down the steps at a house-sitting gig in January. Tied around my sprained ankle, the bandana helped me hobble around until I could get an elastic bandage.

Hyperthermia prevention. I was in Death Valley in the summer. Yes, on purpose; my then-husband was covering a sporting event called the Badwater Ultramarathon. Dipped into ice water and placed on the back of my neck, the bandana kept me from overheating. It sure dried fast, though.

Which is actually another thing to recommend it. I can wash it daily at the hostel and it’s always ready to go in the morning. It doesn’t stay damp and start smelling mildewy, the way a terrycloth rag might.

The only thing I don’t use it for? Head colds. Although it’s a silly thing to be squeamish about, I don’t use bandanas to blow my nose. I’m not quite eco-friendly enough to eschew tissues. Gesundheit.

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  1. Beth in STL

    We have a local barbecue restaurant chain named “Bandana’s”. They have a huge board on the wall by the register that has 50 uses for a cowboy’s bandana. I think they hit all the uses in your post, including the nose-blowing. The rest of the uses had a bit of a wild-west flavor, like using it to pull a coffeepot off the fire or hobbling a horse. A bandana is a true multi-tasker.

    Thanks for the reminder and the smile. (Although now I’m hungry for barbecue.)

  2. I am with you on the no-nose-blowing on cloth….gag….I cannot wash it. If I don’t have tissues, tp, or a paper towel…ouch, I would dip into my material stash and start cutting. There are no tissues or paper towels here, ever, but I can pull out the company roll of tp.

    Bib? You too? I am getting messier as I age or something. A bib does not look as dumb as a messy chest all day.

  3. I thought the title was “In praise of the BANANA.” I would have so been behind that!

  4. I can’t be the only one here who’s used a bandana as an emergency diaper?

  5. Is there anything you don’t know?

  6. Add this to your bandanna info:

    More than a few historians think Grover Cleveland would never have become president WITHOUT the bandanna. (His staff used it to persuade the everyday working man that Grover was one of them — literally dozens and dozens of different designs.)

    Hey, I study this stuff for my ‘other’ job as a teacher/writer about quilting.

  7. I am the only woman I know who uses old-fashioned hankies (I’m 52). I don’t blow my nose in them unless I can’t find a tissue, but they are great for a dripping nose, cleaning my glasses, an emergency band-aid, a small napkin (I’m a messy eater, too), a cleaning rag, etc.

  8. If I’m near a bathroom, I ‘ll go there and blow my nose into my hands, then wash my hands and my nose. This reduces my spending on tissues, and also helps keep my nose and upper lip area from getting rubbed raw.

  9. LOL! What a great collection of bandanna uses.

    Well, let’s see…when I was a young hippie girl and had long mop-like hair and spent every day I could on horseback, I used bandannas as…

    * Headbands. They exactly fit around your head when you tie them at the back of your neck behind your ears.

    * Face mask. Keeps the trail dust out of your nose; also manure dust when you’re working in the garden.

    * Hatband. Tie around the crown of a wide-brimmed hat. Decorative.

    * Dog collar. Tie around dog’s neck.

    * German shepherd leash. Tie one end through the metal loop on dog’s collar. Hold other end. Dog must be fairly tall for this to work.

    * Impromptu athletic bandage. Wrap firmly (but not too tight) around sprained ankle or wrist.

    * Water filter. Strain stream water into pan before applying iodine. Gets out a fair amount of the mud and sand.

    * Bag. Tie ends around small stuff (berries, stones, fruit, whatever) that you’d like to carry. Keeps the junk out of your pockets.


  10. john dillinjar

    I use my bandana when I am short on cash.

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