I started drinking coffee when I was 15 but didn’t become a “coffee drinker” until about 10 years ago.

There is a difference.

Someone who drinks coffee might have an occasional cup to keep them awake or maybe warm them up a little on a cold afternoon. They might also partake when offered a cup during a social gathering, just to be polite.

A coffee drinker craves the stuff like air. They drink coffee to wake up in the morning, but can also drink it late at night without worrying it will keep them awake. I don’t know how that works, but it does.

I still remember my first cup of coffee.

My Dad and I were camping at beautiful Watauga Lake in East Tennessee. We’d been there a couple of days, and one chilly night while we were out in the boat crappie fishing, he asked me if I wanted a cup of coffee from his Thermos to cut the chill a little.

I’d always heard some of the adults in our circle speak in hushed tones about Dad’s coffee. They swore it would raise the dead, cut engine knock and scare off any critters that might be lurking about if you poured some on the ground at the campsite.

It was cold, and I wasn’t about to let my Dad know I was afraid of a little bean juice, so I drank two cups.

I finally quit shaking enough to sleep around 3 p.m. the next day. When we went back out to our crappie hole later that evening to drown another batch of minnows, Dad offered me more coffee. I took it, but I’m ashamed to say I poured most of it in the lake when he wasn’t looking.

Thankfully, the fish and turtles I killed floated up on my side of the boat, so he never knew what I had done.

I eventually was able to handle Dad’s coffee in small doses. I left Tennessee four years later and moved to Texas, and only had one other occasion to drink coffee with him before he died in 1991.

I’d give anything but my wife and child to park a boat over a crappie hole somewhere and drink one more cup of my Dad’s rocket fuel with him.

It was just a matter of time before I morphed from someone who drinks coffee to becoming a full-fledged coffee drinker. It happened about 10 years ago when my son asked me to give up the diet sodas I consumed in mass quantities because his beloved physical education teacher told him diet drinks “rot your brain.”

I switched to coffee because Coach Larry had no issues with the stuff — or at least none he passed on to my son. Now I don’t drink coffee to wake up.

I wake up to drink coffee.

A friend dropped by the office Wednesday for some business downstairs and brought me a bag of fancy coffee her husband had gotten from Costa Rica. I mentioned I have a Keurig at home, and on Thursday she brought me a bag full of Keurig cups gathered from hotels by her husband during his travels.

Not all angels wear halos, but they do sometimes deliver coffee.

I love any kind of coffee, but I’m particularly fond of the kind you get at a gas station or truck stop. The closest I’ve come to a cup of coffee like my Dad used to make came from a gas station in Gadsden, Alabama, late one night while driving from Texas to Tennessee.

With just one cup, I made the final five hours of the drive to my sister’s house without needing my headlights. I could also see noises and hear colors.

I’m sure there are studies out that claim too much coffee is bad for me, but so is sleeping on the front porch during the muggy summers or bitter cold winters we have in East Texas.

That’s where I would end up if my wife had to deal with me for one day without coffee.

So, here’s to my fellow coffee drinkers and to those who serve it strong.

And, here’s to my buddy at the convenience store earlier this week who bet me I couldn’t write an entire column about coffee. He lost, and you guessed it.

He owes me a cup of coffee next time I see him.

— Jack Stallard is a Kilgore resident and serves as sports editor of the News-Journal. Email: jstallard@news-journal.com; follow on Twitter @lnjsports.

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— Jack Stallard is a Kilgore resident and serves as sports editor of the News-Journal. Email: jstallard@news-journal.com; follow on Twitter @lnjsports.

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