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The Deerstalker That Won't Disappear

I've always thought of myself more as Dr. Watson than as Sherlock Holmes, his ''excessively lean'' friend of ''rather over six feet.'' I am rather under six feet and not lean at all. I am certainly not ready for a deerstalker cap like Holmes's. Its rakish fore-and-aft brim and upswept spaniel earflaps were fine above his ''thin, hawklike nose.'' My nose is relatively bunnylike.

But when a deerstalker mysteriously turned up on our doorstep the other night, my wife asked if I had bought a new cap and already lost it. I took one look and knew it wasn't mine.

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At first I left the misplaced headpiece in plain sight, assuming it might belong to a hurried United Postal Service driver (we signed one of those waivers so they can leave packages without waiting for us) or perhaps a young political canvasser.

After a couple of days, including a rainy one, the deerstalker resembled a small exhausted animal. Why me? What if its owner were still searching? I displayed it on a bush far enough away for deniability.

The next night at a party, a neighbor mentioned that she was the one who dropped the deerstalker at our door. She had picked it up in the street while exercising her dogs and naturally thought it was mine.

I laughed along, of course, acting quite unappalled at my apparent fashion image in the neighborhood. A deerstalker would make me look like an endangered mushroom.

But think, Watson, didn't one of our postmen have the height and nose of Holmes? The corner mailbox was not far beyond the bush from which the deerstalker soon fell or was pushed. I palmed the poor thing as I slunk past with some letters. With a glance both ways, I abandoned it on top of the mailbox.

After the 10:30 pickup, I noticed from an upstairs window that the box was bare. Aha! But later I saw someone had perched the cap jauntily on another neighbor's fence. He isn't excessively lean either. So if you or a loved one has lost a deerstalker, please write for details.

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