COBWEB CORNERS: Small-town cafes

By Mel McFarland

       You already know I like going out for breakfast. As I sit and enjoy my meal, my imagination takes me to a scene like this: A typical farm town in eastern Colorado and western Kansas in the days before the interstate. There is a two-lane road, and on one side is a railroad track that serves a couple of grain elevators and perhaps a bulk oil dealer. Along the road are a couple of gas stations, and one or more cafés. Outside each cafe sit several pickups and a flat bed or two. There was a time when we had a couple of these along Colorado Avenue, even in Manitou.
       Some of these small-town cafes had big signs that just said EAT or FOOD, but most had windows so you could see inside to a counter. Lined up at the counter on stools are several gents, perhaps wearing faded overalls and caps with various company names on them. Perhaps the cook had the radio on with the latest farm reports. KOA and KLZ radio in Denver used to have a seemingly endless morning report, heard all over the West, on the latest hog, cattle, wheat, and corn prices.
       As the customers drank coffee or had breakfast, they solved the problems of the world and their little town. On the counter were the essentials: napkins, salt, pepper and sugar. There might even be a juke box with the latest country and western or big band tunes. Rock and roll might be asking a bit much. Do not forget the menu in its cellophane folder with the stitched edges and hand lettered, typed or, in the prosperous places, printed pages. Perhaps the tables have red and white oilcloths on them.
       It was the same in many little towns from Canada to Texas. It could be Calhan or Colorado City, Limon or Great Bend. These men, tall and short, big and small, belong in a Norman Rockwell painting. Then again, maybe it is out of one of his paintings. In fact, I painted a picture like this and it hangs in my living room.
       If you haven't been in a small- town cafe lately, they still exist. There are a few modern concessions, decaf coffee, artificial sweetener, and egg beaters, but the spirit is the same. I bet you know the places, right here in Old Colorado City. (Can I get a refill on my coffee?)