Mega Millions fever hits home

Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor

“You gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, 

Know when to walk away, know when to run…”


Those words of Kenny Rogers’ popular hit “The Gambler” came to mind this past weekend, as my wife, daughter and I were glued to the TV set watching as the Mega  Millions numbers were read.

We had one winner out of 15 tickets… for $3 that is. I guess our stab at being the big winner of the world-record $656,000,000 didn’t pan out. But it sure was fun dreaming about winning all that money.

Mega Millions fever ran rampant last week. It even hit The Argus office. The five employees here each threw in a dollar. We discussed if we would hit the jackpot, would we come to work Monday and get the paper out first, and then start celebrating? We planned to play it by ear. But the question was moot, as we didn’t win a single buck for the five we donated to the cause.

I’m not a gambler. If all of the state and nation-wide lotteries, scratch games or even the charity-type lotteries had to depend on me, the only ones that would come out ahead would be the charitable ones. I do try to help the charities, but that’s usually as far as it goes.

I’ve only dabbled with lottery or scratch tickets three times. And none proved successful.

The first time was about 10 years ago when I was working for Phillips Publishing in Spring Valley. My morning routine included a stop for coffee and a treat at the Kwik Trip in Harmony. As I was walking into the store, I noticed a ten dollar bill in the gutter. I picked it up and the first thing I saw after stuffing the bill in my pocket was the Power Ball sign, announcing the jackpot being over $85 million.

I always thought this type of gambling was a waste of money, but something told me I should use the $10 to buy tickets. I went to the counter and asked the clerk if she could help me purchase 10 tickets. I took my tickets home that night and waited for the big drawing.

On four of the 10 tickets, I had some correct numbers. But I’d never played the game before and thought I had to have them all correct. I had written the numbers down, for some strange reason, and then threw the tickets away.

Several days later, while visiting with my brother-in-law, I told him about the $10 I found and showed him the numbers I had written on the piece of paper. He sometimes plays Power Ball and still had the winning numbers written down. He compared my numbers and informed me that I threw away $155 worth of winning tickets. That should have been reason enough for never buying any more tickets.

The second time my wife and I were in Decorah shopping and decided to stop at one of the watering holes for a drink. She gave me $10, asked if I would buy her 10 scratch tickets and went to the bathroom. My wife rarely buys scratch-off tickets, but said she found $10 in her purse she didn’t know about and felt lucky.

I was sitting at the bar and was about to ask the bartender for 10 tickets, when a young lady sat down and I politely told the bartender to wait on her first.

She asked for 10 scratch tickets and then I bought 10 tickets. My wife came back from the bathroom, started opening up the tickets and about the time she got to the third one, the young lady sitting on the other side of me let out a shriek. She had just won $250 on a ticket. My wife didn’t win anything. I never told my wife how my politeness had cost her $240 (you have to subtract the $10 purchase!)

The third time was this past weekend, when I spent a total of $11 (including the office pool) and won $3. While it was fun dreaming about what I would do with all that money for a day or so, spending $11 to win $3 kind of reminded me of how our federal government handles money.

As my wife said moments before they read the winning numbers last weekend, “if we win, we’ll be able to order shrimp next time we go out to eat instead of a burger.”