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How I learned to like coffee


During the process of growing up around coffee drinkers, some people seem to naturally develop a taste for coffee. Even my grandchildren now watch closely whenever I pour myself a cup. You can always see it in their eyes.  It’s something new that they’ve never tried. This inevitably makes them want to ask for some.

I grew up with a mom and pop that drank their coffee black, what I call cowboy coffee. They would take a white sock, fill it with coffee and drop it in a pot to boil.  At least, that was the way it was done until modern technology came and they could no longer ignore it. Eventually, they switched to a pot with a filter built in. Even so, their brew was still black and thick enough to float a lead weight.

I can’t say their cowboy coffee ever really appealed to me. Maybe it was the sock.  I did sort of like the smell, though, that might have been the sock too.  But it wasn’t until I was about 30 when I took my first sip, and I did so reluctantly.

It was in the spring of the year when the cacti flowers were blooming in Arizona. Wayne, a motorcycle buddy and I were out in the desert practicing for an upcoming desert race. It was a 75 mile race, “balls to the walls” across the desert attempting to get from point A to point B as fast as we could. We weren’t about to go into the actual race without more training, plus it gave us an excuse to go riding. So we laid out a practice route on a topo map, about 100 miles of desert with no roads or trails, but full of cacti, dry washes, and plenty of other unknown obstacles.

About a third of the way in, we made a pit stop in a dry wash to simulate an actual pit stop, where we could gas up, hydrate and relieve ourselves. Now, the relieve yourself thing does not normally happen in a real race unless, of course, you consider the few riders that couldn’t help themselves when they came across an unexpected obstacle. Never happened to me, but I did see it a few times. Usually beginners that couldn’t take the pressure. Or a big obstacle, like a cable strung across a wash at about neck height. One that you couldn’t see through a dusty face shield at 60 miles an hour until it was too late.  

As we were standing there resting, my buddy, Wayne, spotted a strange structure down the wash about a quarter mile. He pointed to it and, naturally, we agreed to check it out.  So we hopped on our cycles, and headed toward it. When we got closer, we saw that it was a steel structure made out of old scrap iron. It was an odd shape, standing at least 20 feet high, with an embankment on one side that obstructed our view until we got real close. And as we arrived, we noticed a prospector busy fiddling with stuff on the ground.

He heard us approaching and was watching us to see where we would go. Being a sociable pair, we drove right up to him, but he wasn’t smiling. As I glanced at the firearm strapped to his hip and the rifle leaning against a nearby barrel, I was beginning to think that we had made a major mistake.  I coasted to a stop and I glanced around to look for a good escape route.  I noticed a trailer house off to one side, but a straight shot down the wash looked like the better option.  Plus, it put Wayne in between me and the prospector, which looked mighty enticing.

After getting past the embankment, I had a pretty good idea what he was building. It was a shaker table. What non-prospecting folk might describe as a thing-a–ma-jig used to separate the gold from large quantities of diggings. The embankment was used to drive the pay loader up to drop the load into the metal chute on top of the shaker.  I later learned he called it a “Make the Missus Happy Gold Shaker.” Think that’s funny? Wait till I tell you about the missus.

For those of you wondering, it is hard to describe. Picture a bunch of rusty iron welded together as a frame about 20 feet high, 15 feet long, and 8 feet wide and with four layers of different sized screens. The screens all welded into a frame in the center then the screens were attached to the outside frame with a bunch of truck shock absorbers. The whole jumble was attached to a Ford Falcon engine with a mismatch of wheels, belts, pulleys and God only knows what else. Above it was a bunch of pipes to feed water to the monster, and below it was a pit that drained to the wash.

The prospector was what I’d kindly call “rotund,” about 5’6” with a T-shirt full of flesh-baring holes and a protruding belly. We shouted a quick and friendly “Hi there,” followed by a “What is it?” and it brought a smile to his face. It didn’t take him long to launch into an explanation for every weld, nut, bolt, and belt with the pride of a new momma.  Well, after all, it was his creation.

He was going through all his explaining, with the excitement of a three-year-old, and told us that we should come back at 3 o’clock  when his buddies would be there and they would fire it up for the very first time. I was listening with a large amount of skepticism, when I heard a sweet female voice behind me say “Howdy.” And the hefty old prospector proudly declared, “That my missus.”

The missus was dressed in short shorts and a tank top that left absolutely nothing to the imagination. And while you might not expect a pudgy prospector’s wife to be a pinup, the best way to describe her is that she was stacked in all the right places. She looked like something you might see at a Hooters restaurant.

She promptly shoved a cup at me, saying, “I brought you guys some coffee.” Many thoughts went through my mind in a split second, but never did I doubt that I was going to drink my first cup of coffee. I instantly grabbed the mug, while trying not to ogle. I was determined to gulp it down, even though coffee had never touched my lips.

After my initial shock I regained my composure and I was then able to focus on the unstacked parts of her body and I realized this gorgeous creature with a beautiful face was covered from her silky brunette hair to her bare feet with tattoos.

 I said, “Thanks, that is very thoughtful of you” as I reached for the cup. I smiled as I took my first sip and said, “I appreciate it” and she gave me a smile in return.  

What I wasn’t expecting was that it would be toothless smile. I’m still surprised I didn’t start choking. And while the coffee still tasted bitter I never doubted that I’d drink ‘till I got to the bottom of my cup. I was hooked. Now when I drink my morning coffee I often smile and envision the missus handing me my first cup of coffee.

 Oh yeah.  I bet you are wondering if we made it back at 3 o’clock. We did, but that is another tale.