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The Last Windrow: Remember this?

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Every old farmhouse had one. Every country elevator had one. The now-gone country stores and gas stations always had one on a backroom table.  

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They were the common thing that drew folks around, made them bury their hatchets for a day and made cause for casual and serious conversation.  

Of what I write is the old metal coffee pot. Not the modern, glass style coffee urns that come with the automatic dispensers, timers and blinking lights. The coffee pots of which I speak were the black-stained metal type of pot with the glass bubble on the top and they usually had a dent or two somewhere on their countenance. Adorned with black Bakelite handles and metal strainers were contained within.  

There were few hours during the day that our farmhouse’s coffee pot was not simmering some brew atop our wood/coal/corncob fueled cook stove. A place on the stove’s cast-iron top was always found that was just the right temperature to either brew a pot or keep it warm until it was drained.

It was common knowledge among neighbors and relatives where the coffee pot sat and they didn’t ask permission before ambling over to the cupboard, grabbing a cup and pouring themselves a full ration of coffee. It was expected that coffee would be available.

Sometimes the freshly brewed java was tame to the tongue and other times the coffee had simmered long enough to grab you by your shirt collar and jerk you to attention. No matter, it was downed with relish and a new pot was started without a thought.  

Blue cigarette smoke drifted above the kitchen table as strong men wearing bib overalls pulled up a chair, struck a blue-tipped match on their overall buttons, lit up and talked about the price of hogs or fertilizer or perhaps who the local barber’s daughter was marrying in the spring.  

The old pot bubbled in the background and poured cup after cup until the discussion was over.

An old coffee pot sat in just about every grain elevator in farm country. There was no cost involved in pouring a cup. Farmers thought it was about the only perk they received for spending their hard-earned dollars at the elevator. 

It would have been a marketing snafu for the elevator manager to have started charging for coffee. There was always another elevator down the road that would offer the coffee benefit without obligation.  

Those dated metal pots were not meant to brew “lite” coffee. It was sacrilegious to make coffee so thin that you could see the bottom of your cup. We joked in our family that our dad brewed coffee strong enough to stand a spoon upright. That wasn’t far from the truth. One sip from that pot caused your heart to palpitate and raised your blood pressure about 20 points. Ah, that was good stuff!

Today we see stainless steel coffee makers, we have machines that produce multiple taste choices and we have actual coffee house franchises that have become a part of modern culture. A total economy has been built around the beans that are picked by hand in the misty mountains of South America.  

I come from a much simpler background and time when all one needed was a banged up, stained old metal pot that bubbled on the stove and brought us all together. Sugar and cream, anyone?

See you next time. Okay?

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