The Start Of A New Day

It’s 5:45 a.m. on a weekday but it might as well be high noon in Dodge City. The doors at the Sheetz at Bethany Pike and National Road in Wheeling are swinging open and closed as often as the gate at Miss Kitty’s Long Branch Saloon. The lights are on and business is brisk.

The beer delivery guy is maneuvering his cargo of Bud Light across the parking lot with grace and ease despite the minus 3 reading on my dashboard thermometer and some icy patches on the lot. Something tells me he could deliver that beer in his sleep.

Ssteaming cups of coffee appear to be the sought-after beverage of this morning hour. Most of the regulars bring their own travel mugs or thermos containers to fill with the temporary warming liquid. If there’s no cream on the coffee stand, they help themselves to a pint of milk from the nearby fridge to lighten their java. That’s how familiar they are with the workings of this morning mecca that serves scores of men and women whose jobs begin before the break of dawn.

The parking lot is crowded with pick-up trucks of many makes and models. Their occupants step out into the cold, each bundled in their own unique way against the bitter wind. The license plates and signs tell the stories of their work here. Pipeliners, welders, construction workers, road crews and on and on — they ready their day’s work at this place of hot coffee, doughnuts and snacks. Snuff and smokes are still big sellers here as well and the staff usually knows the customers’ particular brands on memory.

It will be another 90 minutes before the sun makes its stingy appearance on this January morning. It may break the clouds and provide a false sense of warmth as wind chill factors are well below freezing. Yet we welcome any sign of the sun today.

Morning people are a different breed. I will be the first to attest to that. For as long as I can remember, my husband and I have had jobs that require early morning starts. I relish the morning hours. Often they are quiet of distracting noises unless you find birds chirping at the windowsill annoying. The early hours have their own sounds, familiar after all these years — the sanitation truck rumbling past with its already full load, the scrape of a snow shovel on a sidewalk, the jingle jangle of tire chains added to the school buses when snow hits the roads.

I like the pre-dawn peacefulness of the world outside my front door as I head to work. I catch a glimpse of the birds pecking away at the suet cake in the pine tree, hoping I thwarted the squirrels’ attempts to run off with it. My car tires crunch the blowing snow that covers my country road. The moon is full and bright, guiding me toward that busy corner in the heart of civilized Woodsdale where the familiar faces and neon-striped clad workers will be found once again. It’s just another fine day in the working world of my hometown.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at