Last Laugh: the Most Important Supply

"Some things have to be believed to be seen."

| March/April 1984

Well sir, some folks jist cain't get a good start on the day until they's had a cup of hot, fresh coffee. Why, heck, there's even a wild rumor that one or two of the editors of this here magazine have a wee weakness for thet ol' devil caffeine theyselves. Still, most people's coffee habits don't have a veritable heritage behind 'em.  

Which is why a lot of folks prob'ly wouldn't understand what happened the other morning when ol' Ott Bartlett wallowed into the Plumtree Crossin' General Store looking more ornery than a constipated bear . . . but didn't say a cussed syllable while Doc Thromberg walked right up to him and led him to one of the store's two back rooms. An', if thet weren't strange enuff, next Newt Blanchard stepped in the store—as grouch-faced as a man what swallowed a beehive—and Doc repeated the same procedure (only he shut thet silent feller up in the other back room)! 

Well, them goin's-on was too much for the other good ol' boys of the Crossin's General Assembly to take quietly. But when they asked Doc Thromberg jist what this side of senility was a-goin' on, the old physician jist went over and plugged in the store's percolator. Then he pulled up a chair amongst the group, leaned back, and commenced to tell the followin' story:  

Boys, way back before your grandpappy was a gleam in his mammy's eye, Ott's Great Granddaddy Bartlett and Newt's pa's pa's Pa Blanchard had cabins back in these woods, two frontier shacks what were each a good day's travel from the nearest store. Now, ever' six months or so, backcountry fellas like Amos Bartlett or Cephas Blanchard had to ride their wagons into town and swap whatever they'd hunted or growed up for the three supplies a mountain man needed most . . . flour, salt, and—most especially— coffee.

One early spring Cephas had come into luck, having bagged him two bears what was fighting over a hive full of sourwood honey in an oak tree that jist happened to be surrounded by an entire patch of wild 'sang and that—when he shot the bears—dropped a dead branch an' plum killed a passing 12-point buck, which collapsed into a nearby stream, where its horns speared a passel of four-pound brown trout. Well, Newt's ancester took the entire swag to town and ended up with so much credit at the trading post—even after he'd bought all the goods he could possibly desire—that he didn't know how to use it all. An', since he figgered he'd better use it all up on something, Cephas decided he'd jist buy all of the 500 pounds of coffee beans the man had in the store!

It so happens, though, that Amos Bartlett had run out of supplies hisself about the same time. An' when he got to town to trade his own cache of goods, the storekeep had everything Amos needed, exceptin' the one thing them old mountaineers needed more'n babes need milk . . . coffee. When Amos heard that it was Cephas Blanchard what had hoarded up all the beans, he knew the only thing he could do was pay a visit to the Blanchard cabin an' see what kinda trade the two of them could work out.

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