At the onramp gas station lot in depressed Miles City, Montana, fading town with home made anti-meth posters in store windows, on the high plains between Badlands and Billings–sits a tiny Espresso Hut; and Rob W., our morning driver, comes to life, makes a hard turn into the lot. Four fire fighters in shorts, one of them female, are fueling up, pouring half a jar of sugar into their coffees. They’ve just come off a big fire to the south and are heading north for another blaze.
A very nice lady pours double cappuccinos, chatting cheerily as the espresso drizzles from the machine. She’s not stopping the flow, now clear as a mountain stream. Still our barista chats, as we urban degenerates watch in silent horror. Finally she shuts the machine off. And now for the soy milk. Not bad, nice foam, doh! She stops pouring the steamed milk into the cup before too much of that icky foam can spill in. Here you go!North Dakota is depressed. Collapsed 19th century houses and rotting barns stand on many farms, and little towns are half boarded up. This is what happens when farm culture is thrust, blinking and bewildered, into the global economy. When the tables turn, we’ll take canning and composting lessons from our barista.