Decent coffee defines the American Cowboy

I wrote an article and a poem about cowboy coffee back in April of this year, but this is a subject that is so complicated that it requires to be revisited! 

Remember that I said, “You must understand, that of all the things that define the American Cowboy, a decent cup of coffee ranks right at the top, whether it is at the bunk house cook shack, at the cow work chuckwagon, or just a lone cowboy at his own campfire, coffee was king! Pappy liked his “saucered an’ blowed.”  

My Ol’ Daddy would say, “Use lotsa coffee an’ damn little water!” Now this is what cowboy poet S. Omar Barker had to say about cowboy coffee, 

“Now here is the recipe, time tried and true,

For chuck wagon coffee, the buckaroo’s brew:

Use Arbuckles Roasted, in case you can get it,

Pour in enough water to just sort of wet it,

Boil hard for an hour, then into it toss,

The well rusted shoe off a club footed hoss;

Gaze into the pot for a few minutes steady—

If the hoss shoe is floatin,’ your coffee is ready!”

Now, when a cowboy was ready to remove the pot from the fire, he would throw in a “scant of a cup” of cold water to help the grounds settle. Then, if on the range, he would pour a tin cup full and blow on it a bit before he took a sip. Otherwise, he would get a scorched lip. But if he was at the bunkhouse cook shack, he tipped a bit into a saucer and blowed it cool enough to drink. And, if a cowboy got up to get a refill, another cowboy would yell out, “Man at the pot!” So, to the cowboy that got caught, his job was to refill every cup that was stuck out to him. 

When you boil coffee you take the acid out of the bean, and this results in a product that won’t give you indigestion nor acid reflux. Coffee makers that drip or spit and spew don’t get water hot enough to neutralize the acid in the coffee bean. So, for the best coffee ever ... boil it!  

My folks were coffee drinkers and I started drinking coffee at an early age. Often, when we bedded down under the stars, we would awake to the savory smell of boiling coffee. The coals from last night’s fire were banked to be ready to start the morning cook fire and the first to stir would set the coffee on to boil. As I said earlier, my Ol’ Daddy used lots of coffee and not much water. We used an old syrup bucket for the coffee pot and Dad poured in a little water and a heaping handful of Arbuckles Roasted. 

Next, he laid a green twig across the top of that syrup bucket to keep the bucket from boiling over and it boiled for a while. On a blustery frosty morn, a feller can build character waiting on that coffee to boil to the just right point. You get it in a cup, moisten your tongue to give the rim of that tin cup a lick while gently blowing to cool it down to a bearable hot and that first sip will put a smile on your face!


The Cowboy Way

At last, the day dawned, but cloudy with a gusty wind,

Shore ‘nuff blowin’ wet an’ cold,

None the less, he had stock to which he must tend,

So out of that bunk he rolled.


Hoppin’ up an’ down, one foot then on the other,

Tryin’ to get that kindlin’ lit,

He’d scratch a match only to see it smother,

‘Til one caught hold before he quit.


An’ soon had a blaze roarin’ under that pot,

Then he rared back with a grin,

That boilin’ coffee was shore ‘nuff hot,

He reached an’ picked up his tin.


Just a splash of cold water to settle the grounds

Then he filled that old tin cup,

He’d manage a taste afore he started his rounds,

Could hardly wait for his first sup.


Time can shore ‘nuff pass slow while that brew cools down

He knew to give that rim a lick,

He would soon take a swig of that brew so renown,

An elixir so strong an’ thick.


The horses would wait while he had one more sip,

He hoped they would understand,

‘Cuz a feller shore needs to get a grip,

Before he can make a hand.


Ahhh, now that boilin’ hot coffee has cooled,

An’ he gets it swallered down,

Now he feels like he has shore ‘nuff been retooled,

An’ steps out that door with a frown.


Pulls his hat down tight an’ breathes a big sigh,

My, but that wind shore is raw,

As dark angry clouds blowed acrost the sky,

Makes it hard to come to taw.


But them horses depend on him for their feed,

An’ they’re glad to see him up,

An’ he’ll do what it takes to meet their needs,

Then back for another cup.


So, he hurries to get them horses fed,

Knowin’ that pot is waitin’ there,

Hears the coyotes yippin’ beyond the shed,

Six or eight or just a pair?


An’ the hoot of an owl adds to the sound,

Of early morn serenade,

An’ he thanks the Lord for this life he’s found,

As he bowed his head an’ prayed.


 His thoughts go to how this life ain’t so hard

An’ how he’s blessed throughout the day,

Knowin’ its bounty given by the Lord,

An’ thanks Him for the Cowboy Way!

©  Ol’ Jim Cathey


God Bless you and God Bless America!








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