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Marvin Rowland
I Believe in the Coffee Can

I believe in that old familiar coffee can, with its wonderful glory, sitting upon a dusty shelf, begging to be used. Sometimes it’s full or maybe half-full, begging, pleading, wanting to be noticed. I await the day, the last moment, the final second when all the wonders of the coffee can are displayed before me. What will those glorious wonders be? What will be bestowed unto me?

Yes, oh yes, I believe in the coffee can. But no, not what you’re thinking, not the coffee that was contained inside its metallic walls: Not the hot, bitter taste that the contents provided. That short, tubular container, no top or lid …well, maybe a plastic lid, that vessel that once held two pounds of a brown, roughly ground powder, that old metallic repository is what I seek. I believe the life of a coffee can extends beyond the coffee. I believe that life exists further past a point of flavor, possibly to a point of rust and decay. I believe in all the treasures I may find when I am peering into an old beaten coffee can, way up, high, higher yet, unseen for years, atop that old shelf. Yes, here in this priceless receptacle is history, a time lost – items sorted and stored for later use.

Recounting all the years as a child, exploring my grandfather’s workshop, my grandmother’s storage room, or even the shelves in my dad’s garage brings back to my mind all the items found but forgotten in all those coffee cans: Buttons, nuts and bolts, canning lids, fencing parts, spark plugs, hair ribbons and bows, corn seed, bean seed, sunflower seed, wire, phone cord, lamp parts, sewing machine bobbins, or any other item that needed storage.

I recall many times in my life when a coffee can came to my rescue. Once I couldn’t find a gas can, so I grabbed an empty coffee can to do the job. I even kept lawnmower gas in a coffee can for a while. Hoping to give aid in starting a bonfire, I stored old, used oil in a coffee can. Recently I discovered an old red coffee can sitting on a shelf in the home I now live in. As I reached to grasp the can, raising it from its perch, I discovered, surprisingly, the bottom had rusted away. I was showered with a large assortment of nuts and bolts. I set the topless, bottomless sleeve aside, in a place to be seen as a reminder of what was and can no longer be… for, you see, the metal coffee can has been replaced by plastic in a plastic world. I believe in the coffee can, and for all the coffee cans that remain: May they hold history; May they hold hope; May they be there when needed.

Born on the day before Thanksgiving in 1957, Marvin Rowland was raised in a suburb of Dayton, Ohio, in a community called Beavercreek. While growing up he spent a lot of time in Johnson County, at his grandparents' farm, learning the way of life in eastern Kentucky. He has three children and three grandchildren, all of whom he adores..

 

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