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Black As The Devil

Story ID:7747
Written by:Kathe M. Campbell (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family Memories
Location:Butte Montana USA
Year:1970
Person:Ken & Kathe Campbell
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Black As The Devil
by Kathe Campbell

The young lad looked forward to grandma's visit, so on her first morning he brought her a breakfast tray. "Billy," grandma queried, "why all these action figures in my coffee cup?" "Don't you know, grandma, the best part of waking up is soldiers in your cup!"

All the coffee in Colombia couldn't make me a morning person, but during our fifty-three year marriage, Pops and I orchestrated mornings to the tune of good coffee. Real coffee - home ground that became hazel dark, changing to a pretty golden bronze tempered with cream. Real cream - thick, almost yellow, perfectly sweet, neither lumpy or frothy atop our java. Making coffee is the only thing macho men do that doesn't threaten their masculinity. For we women, it's on the same domestic level as changing toilet paper, or taking a chicken out of the freezer to thaw.

It's amazing how the world begins to change through ones eyes when swigging down a cup of caffeine. It must be true that on the eighth day, God created coffee that smells like freshly ground heaven. Hot and wet, it falls into the stomach, ideas are born, things recalled are noted, wit awakens, nouns and adjectives come to life, and suddenly you have a full gallop urge to visit the throne.

In our office, with a potpourri of folks occupying the leather couch over second and third cups, there flowed matters of insurance claims, politics, common gossip, and whispers of low comedy. Coffee was the social binder - black as the devil, hot as hell, but pure as an angel foiling our sleep until we did it all over again the next day.

Upon miles and miles of Montana highways, we indulged ourselves with all the famous, and not so famous, jumbo-sized cups. Although drive-in styrofoam was against Pop's religion, our cups of the northwest's best right down to perfect demitasse-like cups after a big dinner, made us good Lutherans.

At one 1910 vintage express stop in the boonies, Pops asked if they had coffee brewing. I felt obliged to kick him in the shins, for there was a pot of scorchy smelling black stuff sitting on the wood stove alright. The spoon all but stood alone in the stained and cracked cup. We sat at the counter on tractor seats while Pops managed a couple sips and I took cover in a can of lukewarm soda. After another bitter swallow he decided to fill the car and purchased two rock-hard Snickers. Both of us felt better served in tending to other needs behind a big half-dead scrub down the road.

In keeping with Pop's Scandanavian side, we never hit the back woods or blue ribbon fishing spots without his famous camp pot. There was nothing notable about it, this well broke in, speckled blue, enameled eighteen-cup, scorched and dented relic. I could forget everything from the dutch oven to scouring pads, but God help me if I should forget Pop's precious coffee boiler. I may as well have taken a hike - a long one.

No innards, just the pot, for boiled camp coffee was the only way to brew in God's wilderness until it was near lethal. Nobody in our clan could come close to the smell and taste of perfectly measured, hand-cranked fresh ground joe simmering over a campfire. Also, nothing haunted the nostrils of our kids back from the day's first catch as did the aroma of their dad's coffee. And so, at ten and twelve, they sat by the fire sipping pure pleasure, though we watched their intake carefully to make sure our brood wasn't sleeping with their eyes open.

So serious and wicked, Pop's mud surely awakened folks in the next county as a couple egg shells encouraged spent grounds to fall out of harm's way. Those egg shells took away any bitterness, leaving the brew nice and smooth. We sure devoured a lot of eggs on those trips.

Then someone lowered the boom on our Pops, for he was diagnosed with everything from heart problems, to prostate cancer. No more swigging down the black stuff. His serious coffee drinking days ended abruptly, except for one or two civilized cups of decaffinated perk in the morning. I'll never forget the look on his face as he surveyed that first tin. He brought it up for a good sniff, then proclaimed it was the devil's blend. And after tasting that first cup, Pops grumbled... "Okay, I'll quit, but it won't be easy drinking my Bailey's straight because this stuff is like kissing your sister."


By the way, did you hear about the woman who insisted it was a manís job to make the coffee in the morning. She showed him the bible where it said Hebrews! I know... Boo!