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Sleep and the outdoors enthusiast

Now that winter is almost upon us and the days are about to get longer, the outdoorsman and outdoorswoman faces one of nature’s cruelest jokes.

On one hand there is more time to be outside in daylight, which is good. On the other hand, there is no longer an excuse to sleep in.

For most of us, this is bittersweet.

You see, somewhere along the way, we outdoors enthusiasts decided that rising early, often long before the sunrise, is the only thing that separates us from the apes. Consider this another reason why they are smarter.

Eventually, we used early rising as a point of pride that we could lord over everyone – except, of course, farmers, who as far as I know, do not sleep at all. Instead, I believe, they merely go to bed early and think of vaguely folksy sayings like, “It takes two good oxen to draw a heavy cart” for use on any idiot looking for a simple answer to a complex question.

What is it about getting up early that you could possibly lord over everyone?

Well, we commonly go on about the beauty of sunrise, seeing the world as it wakes, getting to see animals on the move and catching fish when they are most active.

What we don’t divulge is that each of these is a best-case scenario. We ever mention that there are also plenty of times when the clouds, snow and rain obscure sunrise, the world sleeps in, animals move away from the area you are in and fish are less active.

We don’t let non-outdoorsy types in on this because they already think we are crazy for getting up at 4 a.m. for the chance to miss a duck, and we don’t want to add fuel to the fire.

Worse still, we outdoorsmen and women do not have the common sense to go to bed early before a day outside. We intend to, but end up fussing over our gear, checking weather forecasts, planning for the wind, making the next day’s lunch and deciding how we will over- or under-dress for the occasion. This typically keeps us up late enough that it’s hardly worth going to bed.

The short days of late helped make all this less painful. And secretly, every outdoors person I know has been taking great satisfaction in not having to wake up earlier than an overachieving rooster. Sadly all that is going to change on the 21st of December, which is when the days get longer and the sun rises a bit earlier again.

From that point on, the outdoorsy folk in every household will start getting up a little earlier every morning to go ice fishing, rabbit hunting, late season goose hunting, or any one of a  number of other outdoors pursuits.

I’d tell you why but, if you prefer laying in a soft, warm bed for as long as you can each morning, with your head on a nice plush pillow, dreaming sweet dreams and anticipating a hot coffee and a delicious, leisurely breakfast, you probably wouldn’t understand why someone might prefer getting up at an ungodly hour and laying on the frozen ground in a goose field or watching ice floes while fishing in a frigid river. Don’t worry; neither do they.

I once asked an old-timer why he thought that might be and he uttered a wise, folksy saying. If I recall correctly, he said, “It takes two good oxen to draw a heavy cart.”

Then he shook his head and started his tractor.

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