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The Wide Angle: Life is stressful — smell a horse

My morning struggles are real.

I understand that was an overly dramatic way of starting this column, but nevertheless, it is a fact.

It starts with the idea that I once was a morning person, back when I was in high school, when we owned and raced horses. You kind of had to be. Getting up at 5:30 every morning to go down and take care of the horse before getting ready for school was almost ritual — a ritual I thoroughly enjoyed.

By the time I was a senior back in the evened-year 1992, I was taking care of Whipper (majestic name for a horse I know) by myself. I loved the solitude, especially in the winter. Stars still glittering, air fresh and crisp went well with the fact I got to hang out with Whipper. Often times, when I was done with my chores, I would sit outside, back against the outside of the barn, watching him get his morning crazies out of the way, and watching the sun rise.

This early rising continued into college for my freshman year. I took all 7 a.m. classes that first semester, often times choosing to wake at 5:30 a.m. for equal part reasons of being paranoid I would miss a class and because I missed our horse — especially my first semester. Continuing the trend of getting up at the hour allowed me, in some part, to still spend time with him. Close my eyes and thinking hard enough and I could still take in the familiar scents of straw, hay and Whipper himself.

Or maybe that was just living in an all-male dorm. It’s a coin flip.

As time moved on though college, all of its trappings soon wiped away any notion of getting up early. Later classes and other “activities” made getting up early harder and harder.

I adapted as I went, finding ways to still get my day accomplished while avoiding the increasing pain of getting up early.

By the time I was again a senior in 1997 I started adopting early mornings again because I knew that as I got closer to full time employment my times would change.

And internship about an hour away upended everything. Despite it being a weekly I found myself getting up at 6 a.m. every day to make the drive to nearby Pipestone, Minnesota for my internship at the Pipestone Star as sports writer. Well sports editor really, but that turned out to be a “delightful” surprise. The man I would work under was let go a week before I got there and so — trial by fire.

My first job in Huron, South Dakota, changed things quite a bit though. My hours shifted to 10 a.m. every morning which was magnificent. Sleep as long as I could, have a leisurely breakfast and wander across my parking lot to the office. Such an easy start to the morning except for those days we were working on a sports tab.

Something you should know about Huron — our coverage area was gigantic given some to believe this was the mythical middle of nowhere. It’s the inherent problem of working for a daily in South Dakota. When you are in a state that has a population roughly equivalent to the Metro area, then what comes with that is a stretched coverage area. Our farthest school from Huron was little Harold, South Dakota. Population: tiny. It was on a slightly raised chunk of land and had one paved road — Main Street.

It took about an hour and a half to get there and while they eventually started merging sports with nearby Highmore, a leisurely hour drive from Huron, I still had to hit a couple sports there. Football was extremely early, so I would have to get up at 4 a.m. to make it there before practice to take the team picture.

Still, most days at 10 a.m. was a blessing.

Moving forward and coming to Austin changed things. 8 a.m. Yes, I know 8 a.m. isn’t a terrible time to be to work, but I’m dramatic so to be frank — it kind of sucked, but you adapt to these things and so I did. Grudgingly.

Now we are at another turning point. The Austin Daily Herald is moving to a morning publication and my hours have once again changed, but now it’s something I’m familiar with. Ten o’clock mornings are back, though with it comes later evenings as I now lay out the sports section. I think in large part I’m okay with this because it’s familiarity. However, it had a rather unexpected effect.

I’m thinking more and more about those easy-wake mornings of Huron and then to those early days of college and finally to the familiar smells of straw, hay and horse.

For these first brief mornings, I’ve sat on the couch for more than a few, set my head back on the couch and found my stars, found my sunrise, found my horse.

But as I write this, it should be noted that my intent wasn’t really for you to try and understand my struggles, because we all have them — whether it’s struggling to wake early or any other struggle that’s remarkably more difficult.

Now, as I bring this to a close, it’s evolving to a very simple point. Take the time to enjoy leisure, but more importantly, find a horse and stick your face in its neck. It’s heaven.

And yes, I just ended this column urging you to smell a horse.