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Rita Greer - The Coffee House





Waitin’ for My Coffee to Boil





It’s my Grandmother’s fault. She started it. It’s the olfactory, see. My grandparent’s house smelled of secondhand smoke, whole wheat toast and percolated coffee. Grandmother’s house meant spoiling, great food and Christmas presents. You know, true and unconditional love. Smoke, toast, and coffee are the smells of love.


That said, staunch Southern Baptists, that we pretended to be, forbade the adult pleasures of cigarettes and coffee. Those ranked equal among the sins with liquor, fornication and dancing.


My brother and I knew, of course, that our folks and grandparents and most of the congregation danced, smoked, and drank both libations. With Southern Baptists the trick, and the deal you make with God, is to not get caught dancing, smoking, or drinking. My family was pretty good at that.


I have a vivid memory of my first cup of coffee. Back in the day there were no super highways. The route between far northwestern Louisiana and far southeastern Texas took all day through rolling, forested hills and little country towns. One stopped at the scattered roadside parks made of several cement picnic tables, cement fire pits and garbage cans of discarded oil barrels. Granddaddy hopped a barb wire fence for a stroll among the pine trees and Grandmother opened a thermos of her strong, dark roast coffee.


On that sunshiny day of my early puberty, perched on the cement bench, I watched my Grandmother pull out the sandwiches and potato salad for our picnic then opened her trusty thermos. Four hours into the trip the thing still steamed.


“Umm, smells good,” I said.


“Well, you’re old enough,” she said but I believed she just didn’t want to drink alone. “Want some?”


“Sure.” How grown up I felt just having her make the offer.


My Grandmother was no fool. Out came the milk from the ice chest. Out came the sugar from the basket. You might say that my first cup of coffee was more like a hot chocolate than one of coffee. I didn’t like it but choked it down manfully. And she made it for me much less regularly from then on.



Long hiatus.



College made me a real coffee drinker. Coffee and “Honey Buns” made my diet as they are what I could afford. Still put lots of sugar in it, but that was evolving. As a restless insomniac, I soon enough discovered the 24 hour diner in town. For a short walk and a dollar I could get an all-you-can-drink cup of Joe, an order of French fries and the company of stoic, worn, tired-eyed, middle aged waitresses. A lot of wisdom can be found in a cup of coffee and an all-night waitress. And, folks wonder why, with an IQ of 137, I was a C student.


I brought my coffee lust and penchant for all night diners with me when I left school to become a hippy peace freak. Odd jobbing and scrounging kept quitting those addictions for something above a higher bar quite impossible.


Besides, I began to set my sights on some of the younger waitresses.


Diner waitresses - now that’s a story for a separate post.


A man grows and starts hankering for air conditioning and a steady roof. I came in from the cold. I finished college by working as a psychiatric technician. As with most medical facilities, a psych hospital keeps its staff happy with free coffee. That is probably a job totally “undoable” without a cup in hand. Just make sure if you get the last cup that you start a fresh pot before you leave the break room.


Steady work equals the ability to keep a lease and the money to buy a coffee percolator.


Remember coffee percolators?


There were times in my nomadic young life that the only furniture I had were a TV the size of a hat box, two folding chairs, an air mattress, two clay mugs and that percolator.


That meant I started the day with coffee, spent the work day with cup in hand, spent the evening hustling waitresses as they enabled me with that ever-full steaming cup.


What happened to those days?


I could and did maintain the all-day caffeine infusion once married. And once My 3+ pot a day consumption could end at around 11 p.m. when I dumped the stained old friend in the sink. Then it was off to bed and happy dreams.


But, around forty years of age something changed. At around 40 I noticed I was rolling around in bed for hours no longer able to flirt sleep into coming to me.

Man, and I had work the next day!


Things changed. You may have noticed the earth shift in it’s orbit.


I had to start stopping. My last cup has to go away at around 5 p.m. if I want even a chance to get sleeping before midnight.


Things changed. You may have noticed the price of coffee these days.


That’s because they don’t get as much of my trade anymore. Depressed the whole market. I’ll own it. You may blame it on me.


Still do love my coffee muse. She is, however, missing the attention I used to give her.




(”Waitin’ for My Coffee to Boil” are the opening lyrics to an ancient ballad I once listened to in some of the old hippy joints I used to hang out in. I don’t know if they are also the title of the tune. I don’t remember any of the other lyrics except that the writer watched his toes as he waited. So, I can’t cite it. I therefore apologize. Maybe a gentle reader can attribute it.)










Made Attack.

Got Whipped.








“Made attack. Got whipped” wrote Judge Scrutchfield in his diary on January 8, 1865. A precise and laconic description of the Battle of Dove Creek fought on this date 150 years ago today.


Dove Creek stood as the largest fight between Native Americans and whites in the State of Texas and probably the second largest fought between plains Indians and whites in our history. A disparate collection of Confederate cavalry, Texas Frontier Defense forces, and called-up state militiamen ambushed some 1,200 Kickapoo warriors, women and children in a peaceful winter camp along a pretty creek some miles beyond San Angelo, Texas.



“He thinks we are Comanches.”




Said Oo-lath-la-hi-na when she volunteered to go out and talk with “the white captain”. The battle came to the Kickapoo group in a case of mistaken identity made by men locked up in a generations long blood feud, where no quarter was given nor asked for, between white settlers and the Comanche tribes. The whites looked for vengeance not particularly caring to ask who was who.


I wrote a historical fiction novel of that tragedy from the point of view of several white men swept up into this tragedy. I thought I would share something of the Kickapoo point of view. One tribesman is not identified but his testimony appears in an article by John Warren Hunter (Hunter’s Magazine, 1911). The other is a talk given to an agent (May 31, 1867) by No-ko-aht, or No-ko-what, the chief of the Kickapoo encamped along Dove Creek.




“Our old men held a council”




The Kickapoo are referred to as “The Lords of the Middle Border”. These brave, tenacious, and well led folk stood toe-to-toe against the fearsome Comanche for all of known history. For that reason Spanish, Mexican, American, and Texas authorities sought them out as warriors. For generations they called upon the Kickapoo to act as a buffer between “civilization” and the wild Plains Indians. When our Civil War began both North and South recruited Kickapoo warriors to serve in the armies. They stood witness to all the horrors of state-of-the-art European style war fighting in all major battles in the Western Theater of War.


Our anonymous Kickapoo stated: “The great war came on. We did not know why our white friends wanted to kill each other. They led some of our young men into war and some never came back because they were killed. They went in for twelve months, then they came home and said they did not want to fight with the white soldiers anymore. Our old men held a council. They kept the fires burning three days. The white men had been fighting three years. Soldiers came and killed our cattle. They took our corn… Our old men said it was not our war, and no man could say when peace would come back. They said as long as there was no peace, the war trail would lead through Kickappo’s country. They told our people they must go to Mexico where they could live in peace…


“Five of our chiefs went to see General Smith. He gave them papers. He told them they could take their people to Mexico. When the corn was ripe and all gathered, we started. It was a long journey but we had strong arms and hearts, and we wanted to get away from the war. We crossed the Red River and kept above the settlements all the way. Six white men came to us on the Brazos (River). They were friendly. They asked many questions. They saw all our horses. They did not claim any of our horses. We told them to look at all our horses. After that we saw few white men until the morning of the fight. We had a fight with the Comanches two days before on the Concho (River). They shot one of our men in the eye with an arrow. He died that night.


“When the soldiers came up that morning, one of our chiefs wanted to talk. He went out of the thicket with a white cloth. They killed him. Then a young woman went out with a white cloth. (Witness accounts from the whites say that she carried a piece of paper thought later to be the paper they were given by Union authorities. She approached the whites with her baby strapped across her chest.) They shot her down. They killed her baby also. Her name was Oo-lath-la-hi-na. She had gone to school at Fort Gibson. She could write, and read. She spoke good English. She said “I will go and talk with the white captain. He thinks we are Comanches. The white men won’t shoot a woman” They killed her. Then we had to fight or stand still and be killed like rabbits. Our young men wanted to follow them when they ran off, and kill all. Our chief and old men said no. We must go quick. They will bring more soldiers and surround us. We buried our chief and Oo-lath-la-hina (sic) that night. We carried our wounded with us. Many died on the way. We traveled day and night till we crossed the Rio Grande. We were hungry all the way. We were sad and wanted revenge. We took no scalps in that fight.”




“And, leaving a white flag, went on.”




Kickapoo chief, No-ko-aht, led this the third of the major treks south into Mexico during the fall and winter. He shared his thoughts to Kickapoo Indian agent, Franklin G. Adams dated May 31, 1867.


“In the winter we had a fight with the Texans. It was very cold… We traveled slowly along over and hunting buffalo on the plains. We joined the other two parties – not until after the fight. The other two parties had no trouble…


“Our first trouble in going out was the killing of one of our number by one of the wild tribes – Kiowa, on the Red River, pretty well west. He was cut off while out hunting. After that we went on till we got to where we saw some tracks of soldiers. We camped and sent a messenger to hunt them up. We failed to find the soldiers, and leaving a white flag went on…


“I was out hunting horses, and I went across a mountain, and as I was going home I was fired upon by soldiers. I saw as I was on the mountain, a good many horses, and thought they were ours, but think they were soldiers. All our young men were scattered that morning hunting horses, and one or two were killed while out.


“Then the soldiers came upon our camp. There was a stream between the two camps. The first killed was Aski. The Indians continued firing yet. Then a woman was killed. This was before we fired. The fight was but a few minutes. A good many were killed on both sides. When we drove them to one side another force came in behind us. Then we whipped the second party back and the third one attacked us and we fired on them once. We killed a good many of that first party, a few of the second and none of the third. When we were first attacked we divided, part pursuing the first Texan party and the others fighting the rest. The second and third Texan forces went to the mountains and we couldn’t do anything with them. We followed the first force quite a distance. The two parties at the mountain went and drove up all our stock. After it was all over, we went up to the mountain and saw a good deal of blood. After the Texans drove off our stock we pursued for awhile, when we returned. We saw bodies of two or three Kickapoos who had been killed before the fight. They had taken two of our boys prisoners before the fight, and they took them along with them. Afterwards they got away. We had fifteen killed altogether…


“All our stock was taken away nearly; some families had none. We were obliged to leave most of our things. Aski tried to shake hands and make peace with the Texans, but they shot him.


“We found some papers among the Texans which showed that they had followed us ten days…


“We think we killed about forty Texans. They left their dead on the field of battle. They came back and buried them…


“From there we had a hard time. Some had to walk. We had sent for water – it was a dry region…”




Facts, descriptions, casualty counts, all vary greatly among the white witnesses. The common thread is that white participants believed, despite much evidence to the contrary, that they were following a major incursion of Comanche. They wanted revenge. They wanted to quash future depredations by Comanche in their endless blood feud.


The bloodletting did nothing to ease the situation and in many ways made things worse.


“In Hamilton County alone, from the end of the war to July 1867, three people were killed, two wounded, and one child captured and the reclaimed. Four cattle and 215 horses were stolen. During that same period in the seven counties surrounding Hico, thirty-one men, women and children were killed; twelve wounded; fifteen captured, and 1,122 horses stolen. And that list is incomplete. In 1867, Governor James Webb Throckmorton reported that, since the end of the Civil War, Texas has seen, 162 persons killed, 43 carried off into captivity, and 29 wounded.” (Ike Malone – Westerner, True West, Feb. 1993)


For years after the Dove Creek battle, vengeful Kickapoo warriors raided back into Texas, often joining Apache and Kiowa raiding parties. By the 1870’s, depredations became so destructive Texas citizens demanded that the cavalry “invade” Mexico and suppress the tribe. General Phillip H. Sheridan did just that ordering the Fourth U. S. Calvary into Mexico near Remolino. Many were captured and some 300+ more surrendered later. These were removed to the Indian Territory. Most that were not caught or killed chose to remain in Mexico.


However, the Kickapoo Nation was suppressed.



















I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Not anymore.


The last ones I made, back in 2011 I think, looked like this:



  1. 1.      Sit on the floor more.
  2. 2.      Meditate more.
  3. 3.      Pet the cats more.



Simple is best, I decided.


At the next New Year I looked back to remember. All three of those things happen, however they happened on their own. Within two days or so I forgot what they were. I forgot that I’d made them. Still, I avoided the chair more. I meditated more. In fact, I learned four or five new methods over the year. Methods better than most of the others I’d been doing. Even the little hairballs, bless their needy hearts, got more time in Daddy’s lap.


Much different than in years past when I set specific goals. Finish that book by whenever. Submit articles. Clean that garage. Exercise twice a day. Meditate twice a day. Do Tai Chi twice a day. Lose 10 pounds. Quit this. Quit that. Quit the other. Start this. Start that. Smile more.


The list went on. Maybe a half a page. Lists to make a guy proud. I even remember I made them and where I put the copies of them.


Guess the result of the resolutions?


I might as well have resolved to live the Country Joe and the Fish song “All I Need”:



All I want is to never grow old

I want to wash in a bathtub of gold

I want 97 kilos already rolled

I want to wash in a bathtub of gold



Those I might have made happen. Well, all except for the never growing old and I’ve left behind the rolled kilos. Maybe I’ll add that bathtub of gold.


The TV is crowded with stories of why New Year resolutions fail and even more giving advice on keeping them. They did that last year and for the years before. The story remains the same. I suspect that is because people remain the same.


How many people, I wonder, aggravate themselves each year dreaming up stuff to make themselves better, more successful, prettier? I wonder how many get disappointed again when time comes to make new lists.

I could be better. I could be more successful. I might even find a way to be prettier. I even try to do those things. Adding a list that will leave me making comparisons at some specific time in the future doesn’t really seem like a good idea. There is enough ugliness in the world now without me adding something to it in a year.


I will make no resolutions this year.


Hey, is that a resolution? Damn.