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Peggy Ray, 53, Milliner; owner, Fancy Hats of America

A year later, my husband was on strike with AT&T. We were trying to decide what to do about income. And I kept having the dreams. It was not until my husband said these words: "Maybe the Lord is trying to tell you to do something with hats." I didn't even realize it to be a gift — to make hats.

So we started calling people to find out how you get supplies. We went to New York. We didn't know what we were doing. But we called up some of the hat companies and made appointments to go see them. I don't know if you know about New Yorkers, but they're very business-oriented. They said, "Well, you two are a very nice little young couple, but you come back when you're ready to make some money, big time. You're too small for us right now. But we'll help you." [Laughs.]

So they made calls for us and said, "There's a young couple here that wants to make hats. We're going to send them over. Show them what to do. Give them everything they need. Set them up." One company sent us to the next and so on. One for feathers, one for stones, one for felt.

We bought how-to books. I've never used them. But I have them because we do period hats, like from stagecoach days. I made a hat for an opera singer who needed a really huge hat — and she needed a bird in it. It was as large as an umbrella. But we made it up.

If you came in and said, I like this one but I want it in a different color, I would know what to do. As far as the uniqueness of the design, I always ask God to guide my hands. He tells me what to do.

— As told to Brandon Walters; photographed by Scott Elmquist.

Fancy Hats of America is located at 621 N. Washington Highway in Ashland. (804) 752-7676.

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