Lisa Bondurant

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I spend my time raising kids, gathering eggs, cutting wood, scoping out trees for tapping, making syrup in the last days of winter, watching my garden NOT grow in the summer, writing, wishing that there were more hours on the clock for sleeping.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cowboy Coffee, Morning Fires

Whether summer or winter the morning would start the same every day. 
First the thumping of an axe as my father chopped kindling and the bang 
of the cook stove lids as he fired up the old Martha Washington cook stove. 
Soon the smell of wood smoke and warm currents of air drifted up the 
stairs to awaken everyone in the house.

The first order of business, after the fire was lit, was the
 making of his cowboy coffee. A large speckle ware coffee pot that held
 at least a gallon, was set over an open burner. Orange flames jumping 
against its blackened bottom and my father would add more dry oak 
wood. The water need to roll with boil, as he said.
Soon as the water was rolling up and small droplets jumped and 
spattered across the now hot iron of the stove top, my father would 
flip back the pots round lid.

“One, two, three, four, five, six,” he would count, adding heaping 
scoops of ground coffee to the bubbling water. I think he counted
 for the benefit of his young daughter who watched closely, trying
 to learn the exact science of this wonderful morning brew that
 everyone in the house drank, even ones perhaps too little.

“Now” he would nod to me and I knew it was my turn.
“One thousand one, one thousand two…” and I would count for exactly
 15 seconds. On 15 he pulled the coffee quickly off the hot burner and 
back to the cooler back of the stove.

“Now get the egg shells”, he ordered. Yes eggs shells to trap the

 grounds at the bottom of the pot and I would hand him shells saved
 from yesterday’s breakfast. Into the pot they went and he would smile.
“Won’t be long now,” he would say. I would fetch the mugs and wait 
with him as we watched the time tick slowly out another five minutes
 on the old Seth Thomas clock above the stove. This was a precise
 art that could not be hurried.  Sweet smells teased our noses and
 made our mouths water. The second hand swept past 12.

Finally it was time; he would pour the black, strong liquid into the
 mugs. Only two thirds full, then the milk, swirling like the currents of 
the early spring floods, brown and dangerous.
Heaping spoons of sugar, a quick stir and a cup so full it always 
spilled on the way to our lips.

For  just a moment hesitation was best, just as the mug reached your
 waiting tongue and warm, sweet , coffee flavored steam condensed on 
your lip and nose and stirred your mind to awaken fully.

He would raise his eye brows and then wink.
“Good stuff,” he would tell me.
“Good stuff,” I would agree.
"Now lets feed them horses," he would say as he headed for the door.
"Yep, horses," I would run after him. After all I now had lots of energy.

At least three more times,the old speckled pot would be filled before
 the day burned out.

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