Our Outdoors: Welcome Notes

By Nick Simonson

Coffee for the outdoorsman is more than just a morning drink.  It’s the dawn-delivered lifeblood of adventure, that sip that puts some pep in each step and kicks the adrenaline up a notch when that initial fish taps the line on a gorgeous spring day or the slightest crackling of leaves echoes through the crisp morning around the deer stand in autumn.

No matter where you are, coffee just makes you feel at home – in the boat, in the blind, or sitting in the pickup waiting for first light. So, upon waking up in a strange room in a new house following a move, after trying every outlet in the place, including the bathroom and garage, and not getting a single drop to fall out of my decade-old coffeepot, I rifled through a box marked “Nick’s Misc. Clothes” and found a sweatshirt and a pair of pajama pants suitable enough for an emergency run to the nearest gas station and presentation to the clerk working the last hour of the nightshift.

Moving, which gets harder with age, increasing family size, and accumulation of junk, is enough to test the mettle of any man. Like Sisyphus’ boulder, the stacks of cardboard boxes seem to be an eternal nightmare: empty one, fold it up, throw it away and – poof – there’s another one to be dealt with. All the while, the days which could be spent fishing, or shooting, or running or doing any number of marvelous vernal outdoors activities slip away into the unusable left side of the timeline.  Add in the fact of starting the morning off cold without a shot in the arm from a warm cup of joe and each passing minute seems like forever.

The Dawn Patrol. A rooster pheasant takes a morning stroll along a fenceline near the author’s new residence. (Simonson Photo)

On top of the maddening monotony of unpacking, a move certainly triggers thoughts of how the river of life will now flow after such a major change.   Was it the right decision? Will our plans play out as expected? How will the kids adjust? New blinds for the windows are going to cost how much!? Where’s that meowing coming from – did the movers pack the cat in one of these boxes? Short on caffeine and long on those thoughts and a thousand other concerns that were glomming up my slow-moving pre-coffee brain, I made my way through the shadows of the brown towers in the living room and out the front door into the blue light of dawn.

The two-note call of a rooster pheasant blasted up from the nearby draw like the brass section in a symphony.  Another one tumbled down from the hill behind the houses on the other side of the street.  A third rattled around the neighborhood from the grass of the undeveloped lots behind me and others soon joined in.  In all, at least a dozen of the competing male birds made their presence known, and the tremolo of a pair of western meadowlarks from the hill joined in the sunrise welcome.  I got into the car, lifted by the presence of not only my favorite game bird but also the songbird which reminded me of warm summer days as a youth on my grandmother’s farm.

Pulling out of the driveway and up through the half-built neighborhood, I was greeted by a rooster and hen working their way through the decorative rock and landscaping plants of the house on the corner.   By the preserved pocket slough along the way to the gas station, two roosters ran from the roadside to the matted cattails, startled by my early morning quest for coffee.  On the way back, after a wrong turn into the neighboring subdivision, I had to slam on the brakes as I made my way around a corner, when another matched pair skittered out in front of me on the street.  They paused for a moment and bobbed their heads as if to send a welcoming nod before hurdling their way over the curb and into the grass running up the hillside.  A sense of calm came over me as I shut the car off in the driveway of our new place, then a feeling of excitement for getting to the many tasks that lay ahead – and the new adventures to come after them – rose with the caffeine creeping into my veins and the sound of continued crowing that followed me in the front door.

The world sends out little signs, and while we’ll never know exactly what the future holds, there are reassurances all around.  The dozen pheasants calling in their neighborhood abutting mine, the melody of the meadowlarks ringing out with the rising sun, and the welcoming committee of hens and roosters along the drive through the soon-to-be-familiar area were as needed as the coffee in the 24-ounce MegaGulp cup.  Setting to work on the herculean task stacked before me, I was lifted by my morning experience and carried by the thoughts of things to come in what suddenly felt like a place where I belonged…in our outdoors

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