Black Medicine under the Night Skies

8 x 10″ watercolor barely underway

Good morning, blog reading friends. Right now, I’m sitting up in bed with my Cowboy Coffee (my usual morning ritual). I’m going to have to go on the road again, so this story will be paused for a short while.

For any of you new readers, let me introduce this. I have begun a series of short stories and watercolor illustrations I am calling Turvey’s Corner 63050. The zip code is invented, falling between the two Missouri towns of my youth (High Ridge 63049 and House Springs 63051, four miles apart along State Highway 30 west of St. Louis). The stories are loosely based on details from my past life along with my friend since second grade Wayne White (another blogger as well-

I can honestly say I don’t have a clearcut plan for this cycle. I just feel compelled to write these stories and make these paintings. Perhaps someday they could mature into a book, but for the meantime they are doing my soul a world of good. If you find anything of value in reading them, then that pleases me as well. Thank you for your interest.


The pair of wandering mendicants finally reconnected yesterday in Lubbock as Randy disembarked from the Greyhound bus and spotted Hank at a nearby bench waiting for him, his backpack at his feet. Now, twenty-four hours later, they were on the caprock beneath the night skies, drinking cowboy coffee by the fire.

“Hank my friend, how in the world do you make coffee taste this good on an open fire? I’ve drunk bad coffee more times than I care to remember, you know, the stuff that burns in your chest for hours after drinking? This is really good stuff. And you cooked it in an open urn. No percolating. And it’s really smooth stuff. How do you pull this off?”

“You can thank old Lizzie Allen at the freight depot in Sweetwater. I dropped by there last year on my way out here, got a bite to eat, and this recipe for the best coffee I’ve ever made. I’ll show you how to do it. I think we should brand and market this, call it Paezhuta Sapa.

“What in hell is that?”

“Black Medicine. It’s what the Ogalala Sioux called it a long time ago.”

“Well, if you put it on a label, I think ‘Black Medicine’ will market better than whatever that other name was. Do you even know how to spell it?”

“No. But I like how it sounds.”

“When did you learn about the Sioux?”

“Oh, I’ve just been picking up stuff here and there since I came out this way. You know, I never had any interest in Native American life before. Cowboy and Indian movies were my only exposure growing up, and that Hollywood crap wore off by the time I was in junior high. But I never had an interest in the real culture of these first Americans until I watched something on Dick Cavett a couple of years back.”

“I never watched late night television. Native American stuff on Cavett?”

“He interviewed John Neihardt, the one who wrote Black Elk Speaks a long time ago. It just came out with a third edition because everybody was buying and reading it. I picked it up in paperback at Waldenbooks at South County but never read it. The only reason I brought it with me out here was because of my interest in the history of Turvey’s Corner. You know it was Osage Indians who murdered the first inhabitants of our town. Once I decided to come out this way, I decided I would try to find out more about the pre-history of this country.”

“Were you always interested in history?”

“Not really. In fact, in school I wasn’t interested much in anything, to tell you the truth.”

“That’s certainly true of me. But you always made better grades than I, and seemed to be with the program.”

“Nah. I just gamed the system, did enough work to pass.”

“Well, look at us now. Real success stories, yeah?”

“Might be. Why don’t we raise a cup of Black Medicine to the stars and chant awhile?”

“So. What exactly is your angle on this Native American quest? Reverend Elton said you were on a vision quest.”

“Frankly, I’m not too sure what that is, exactly. All I can say for now is that I have a genuine interest in their religious perspective, grounded more in their observations of nature. Church back home never really did it for me, and my friends on college campuses were getting stirred up by the Jesus People. I just thought I would get away from Turvey’s Corner and St. Louis to see what was out here under the open skies. See if I can glean words with more meaning than ‘Far out'”.

Randy laughed out loud, took another draw from his coffee cup, and looked up into the stars as Hank continued:

“Of course I don’t have all the religious background that you have. What are you now, by the way, a recycled theologian?”

“More of a re-tooled one, actually. I hadn’t given much thought to Native American religions, but I cannot honestly say that church life ever really penetrated to my inner life. College and seminary opened me up in ways that I’m thankful. But I have far more questions than answers when it comes to religion. I’m grateful that they taught me Greek and I packed my New Testament along with me. I’ve done a little translating on the bus along the way. But I’m also getting a lot from this theologian Karl Barth. I brought along one of his books, and now the Reverend has given me a second one. So I’ve got plenty to chew while we’re out here.”

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7 Responses to “Black Medicine under the Night Skies”

  1. Bucolic Bill Says:

    What is Lizzie Allen’s recipe for cowboy coffee? I have tried on several occasions and have more coffee grounds than I have drinkable coffee.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Put 4 cups of water on the fire. Use coarse grind for beans. Don’t put grounds into urn till water is hot. Once rolling boil starts, boil for 4 minutes. Then take urn off fire for 1 minute. Once the minute is passed pour 1 cup cold water down the spout and around the edges of the coffee to settle the grounds to the bottom. Guaranteed smooth full-bodied coffee. Learned this from YouTube: Kent Rollins, Cowboy Coffee.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Forgot to mention, Hank was the one who told me about the YouTube recipe.


  2. Ilze Says:

    I was so intrigued about the name, that I checked the youtube 🙂


  3. Clarry Hubbard Says:

    Good stuff. I enjoyed reading. Some interesting connections: this past weekend, I had a lengthy discussion with a good friend about why I like cowboy coffee better than French press brew. Also. I have a collection of writings in what I am calling Missouri stories. I have a funny one or two in mind for old Highway 30. That old highway, the parts that remain. Just think what stories they could write about if only they could. About time they come to life.


    • davidtripp Says:

      Thank you. I’m just now finding things in your posts that connect with me. Didn’t know about your life in letters. Anxious to read what you write of Thoreau (incidentally my favorite chapter of Walden to teach was chapter 2 and my favorite one for my own edification is the one titled “Reading”). Was privileged to attend a week of lectures delivered by Walter Harding).

      Would just die to read your Missouri stories! Old Highway 30 could certainly spawn plenty of them.


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