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From the North 40: It's the sounds of morning

I think that because my typical day starts before most people’s does, before the noise of civilization in motion, it’s the sounds of morning that captivate me most.

I am used to the beloved sounds of home, which, on a Friday in February, start around 4 a.m.

There's the squeak and groan of our home's old floorboards, the quiet padding of dog feet, horses nickering in anticipation of food, the cat's faint “mroww, mroww, mroww” growing steadily louder as he announces his approach from the shop with authority.

An owl hoots in the distance. Some mornings coyotes' yip and howl. The horses’ feet clunk and crunch on the frozen ground, their massive jaws and teeth grind their hay.

The cat purrs against my chest. The dog scritch-scratches a paw on my pant leg, asking for his due attention.

There's also the hoarse squeak of the barn gate and clang of a chain against its hollow metal tubing, the sharp rattle of my hay cart like an erratic plastic drum solo as it rolls and thumps across the uneven ground.

The all-consuming rumble and echo of a train motoring through the valley. The "bloop, blewp, blup" of air bubbles in deep oil as I pump used oil into the furnace at the shop, which has its own wide-open echo.

Back at the house, I’m greeted by John and his morning, just-for-fun, Spanish language tutorial. “La casa tiene un techo verde,” says the computer in a woman’s voice. “The house has a green roof,” says John, as he types out his answer. And then there's breakfast noises and married-couple small talk until it’s time for “Love you. See you later.”

Sometimes there’s music while driving, news rarely, usually there’s just the sound of the road and my thoughts until the bells clanging at the front door of the newspaper office.

Friday mornings I am the second arrival. Greetings break the relative silence of the building. The overriding sound of the editorial department at this hour, though, is the click, click, click of computer mouse buttons, with the occasional tapping of keyboard keys, as editorial puts together and proofs the day’s pages. Occasionally, someone blurts out a snippet of news.

The building, though, hums with different tunes. The loud fans of the industrial furnace blow from above, two pop coolers whir in the back room, the fax machine randomly pitches in with a high, two-tone hum and buzz and beep behind me with incoming info.

The click-clicking increases as more editorial staff appears. The door’s bells chime with each entrant. The big printer whirs out pages.

The guys in the print shop show up, adding a heavier mechanical and lighter conversational back beat to the clicks and taps, as they process plates for the press and start churning out the B-section. Talk of shop and debate of serious matters, like sports, music, movies and which super power would you rather have, tumbles out of their back room to the editorial area.

A higher pitched tone adds to the mix as circulation and advertising staff arrive up front, firing up computers, readying the day’s tasks, gathering coffee and sharing news of “How was your evening?” and other life matters, along with counting cash drawers and answering phone messages.

As the rest of the reporting staff rolls in, the tap-tap-tapping of articles-to-be begins, as do discussions, writing assignments and interviews

The clamor of the ceiling fans in the two bathrooms starts in with all the charm of a flock of mosquitoes. Customers arrive, business is discussed. Announcements come as assigned tasks are completed. “Cash drawer balanced.” “I have the B-sections.” “The school story is filed.” “That cutline is saved.” “Did that page print?” “You can have A5.”

The office is in full, sometimes deafening, swing.

The tapering off comes after deadline, after the editorial talk, talk, talk, when alert circulation staff finally hear the anticipated rumble and squeal and announce: “The press is running.”

Then it’s noon. My day in the office done. I move on to other sounds.

None so captivating as the mishmash of morning noises.

(Honestly, though, I could do without all the fans at [email protected].)


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