Texas history museum raising money to exhibit collection -- 511 hats

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WICHITA FALLS, Tex. -— For more than 50 years, Nat Fleming's western wear store didn't just sell cowboy hats — it became a shrine to them.

The hundreds of worn hats nailed to the wooden rafters actually were a tribute to his customers -— the ranch hands, wealthy oil investors and businessmen who gave him their old hats when they bought new ones. He even had one from Gene Autry, although it was stored in a glass case and on loan from the collector who owned it.

But Fleming, 85, closed the Cow Lot when he retired late last year in this North Texas city near the Oklahoma border. Now the Museum of North Texas History wants to preserve the 511-hat collection and has raised about a third of the $40,000 needed to build the display room.

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