|A bottomland buck
|A bottomland buck
Arriving home, I mentioned that I was feeling lotto-lucky to my wife, and she said that she'd been talking to her daughter about buying some tickets also. We decided that Hy-Vee was an auspicious location to pull God's finger, so I bellied up to the counter and said, "We want to win the 1.4 billion lotto ticket! How do we do this?" I know that sounds like I had no clue, but I lowered my voice when saying it so that I'd sound like Orson Wells or Morgan Freeman. We bought ten Mega Millions tickets for a total of twenty dollars. "Now, I don't buy these things to lose," I told the cashier, "so these had better be lucky!" She just chuckled to herself, amused by my comment--at least, I think it was a happy chuckle and not an evil cackle. . . .
For the next thirty-six hours my wife and I engaged in scintillating conversation, planning how we'd spend our seven hundred million in cash after taxes. We'd live off the fat o' the land. We'd give money to our children so that we'd never have to worry again about their cars needing tires or about leaky water heaters or the dog that chewed a hole in the sofa. Trust funds for the grandkids were a given; a charity to help single mothers was a heartwarming idea, and a gift to the local university would be a great way to share the love.
We had asked when we purchased our ten "Megaplier" numbers what was the procedure for verifying our win. The online dot com was the answer. Therefore, the morning after the ten o'clock PM drawing, I fired up my computer, typed in the ialottery.com URL, and checked for my winnings. Of course, the title of this article does spoil the climax for any lotto optimists out there. We hadn't won. Sad emoji :(.
I wonder, though, if perhaps even though I hadn't won big . . . perhaps I had lost big! I mean, if winning big is a rarity, then isn't it possible to lose big, too? What prompts me to say this is my experience playing solitaire on my phone app. Sometimes I lose in such a spectacular fashion that I ask myself, "What are the chances of that happening?" It goes like this: The solitaire app loads up my game. The face-up cards have no moves. I flip through the stack, and not a single move is available, not a one. I have lost the game without being able to move a single card. Now, that has to be unusual, at least it is from my experience! I didn't just lose the game; I epically lost the game!
The lotto ticket looks like a receipt from a cash register, about three inches wide, printed black on white paper with a side strip in red declaring "IOWA LOTTERY." We bought ten number sequences, labeled A-J, five numbers and then the Mega Ball number. I'm not sure if numbers range from 00 to 99 or from 01-99. I checked the winning number posted online with our ten series of numbers and discovered . . . of the sixty numbers (10 sequences) not a single winning number was on our stub. To win, I would have had to have six winning numbers sequenced in the winning order. I didn't have a single winning number on the stub, much less in the proper sequence! It's like I go catfishing with a friend and use axle grease for bait. No bites.
Have I learned my lesson? Of course not! Am I going to buy another ticket soon? Of course not! And if you're interested, I searched my articles and found this title from 2013: "I Take a Gamble . . . and Lose." What I've discovered about myself is this: I rarely lose when I gamble . . . because I rarely gamble. However, sometime in the distant future when I try my lotto luck again, I really would like to win. Will it happen? Well, I'm not going to bet the farm on it, that's for sure!
|230-year-old White Oak
|Trail camera night photo
Purchasing a trail camera that is connected to our phone plan has provided us a much better awareness of the animals that live on our land. The photos sent to us via our cellphone plan do give us a real-time glimpse into wild animal activity even though we have bought and mounted the cam primarily to determine if any cattle have escaped our neighbor's pasture. Our joke has been one steer saying to the other, "Why you want to escape and get over on their land? Our farmer's been treating us right, feeding us regularly. Why, he's even been fattening us up lately!" We haven't digitally captured any strays yet, but we have managed to catch images of a number of deer, a raccoon, a fox, and a heron with the trail camera, although most images are infrared taken at night.
Sometimes the image of an entire deer has been captured, and sometimes only a portion of the deer--the head of a spike buck, an ear, the south end of a doe heading north. Once a photo displayed no deer at all, only a landscape with some brush to the fore, and then we realized that the "brush" were the antler tines of a buck passing close to the camera. That was when we realized we had a good-sized buck that regularly spent time on our land. We became used to seeing images of the buck crossing our bottom land down by the creek. He became our most photographed citizen, with both black-and-white nighttime images and colorful daytime portraits.
Fall had arrived and deer had begun moving more, mating season and hunting season causing a stir, and that's the time when our neighborhood buck got himself into a bit of trouble. I'd been down at our bottom land along the creek with our tree guy, working on a plan to both clean up the creek of deadfall and to determine the run of a barbed wire fence to create a north pasture area. We walked the creek and checked out the places where fence crossed the creek, the weakest spots and most likely places for cattle to breach the fence. We made our plan, and I walked the man up the hill to his truck.
Heading back down the easement that skirts the gravel road a half hour later, the scene of meadow, creek, and bridge had altered; adding to the bucolic peace was our buck, he head stuck through the barbed wire fence and his antlers firmly trapping him between the strands. Well, there go my plans for the afternoon, I thought, realizing that I needed to rescue the animal.
|Buck caught in barbed wire
I back away and considered what to do. Deciding first to talk to my neighbor who I knew was a hunter, I jumped into my UTV and jammed to his house, following the gravel road across the bridge. He wasn't home, though. Next I tried to call the local state Department of Natural Resources but received no reply. Deciding that the sheriff's office was my last resort, I called, and the dispatcher took my information but wasn't too enthused. Texting a message and photo to my wife, she contacted our neighbor--yes, the one who had been so negative to me the first time we met--and then texted me back that our neighbor was on his way, a quick message considering that the communication trail had been from me to my wife to the neighboring farmer's wife to the farmer himself. No direct link to Mr. Curmudgeon.
I arrived from camp back down the hill to the trapped buck to find my neighbor approaching the animal, which jerked at the fence mightily until my neighbor laid his hands on the animal, which then froze, not moving. Then with some jerking and pulling, the buck was free. As I walked down the hill toward man and deer, I saw that the buck wasn't moving but was just standing by the fence, still imagining that it was entwined in the barbed wire, I suppose. My neighbor shooed at it, and then it backed off and leapt down the creek bank and crossed beneath the bridge, following the stream bed to freedom. I saw that my neighbor had some scratches on the back of one hand--more blood given to the land.
This was my chance to thank my neighbor, who was the hero in this little adventure. After shaking his hand and providing thanks, he said, "I've been doing this for fifty years. It may seem heartless for you to hear, but I do it as much to save the fence as the animal." I replied that I understood, having seen how the buck had almost jerked a fence post loose when I had first approached the trapped animal.
I felt glad that the buck had been saved--and the fence--and that an opportunity had been provided for my neighbor and me to have one more interaction that was positive overall. Trust can be gained bit by bit over time, with patience and understanding. That's my hope, at least.
"I tried DNR first and then the sheriff's office," I said. "A deputy come out to help?" he asked. When I replied in the negative, he just chuckled. "Yeah, they didn't sound like they were coming with sirens screaming," I said. It was, after all, deer season, and the DNR in Iowa plans for between a hundred and a hundred twenty thousand deer to be harvested each year. A deer stuck in a fence? That's probably right up there with someone calling in saying there have been some old tires dumped along the road.
We're not at the end of the story, though. As my neighbor was driving off in his UTV, he stopped and gestured me over, saying that the buck was stuck in a thicket of multiflora across the road. These wild roses thickets can be brutal, and evidently the buck after his barbed wire experience psyched himself into thinking the thorns of the multiflora were barbed wire. My neighbor asked if we should shoo the buck out of the thorn patch.
|Early photo of me setting up the trail cam
Later I phoned my wife, and she said that the farmer's wife had texted reassurance, that everything would be okay. She was right! We had all cooperated in a neighborly way, and the buck had escaped the danger of the barbed wire just in time to deal with the opening of the shotgun segment of deer hunting season. I wonder now, a couple of weeks later as I write this narrative, how that buck has fared. He may be free, he may be venison for some hunter, food for the table, but at least he isn't stuck in that barbed wire fence, suffering his way toward a cruel death. We do what we can and let the wide ways of the world roll on. It's a good world, in part because of good intentions and unexpected heroes, some of whom arrive in a muddy UTV, wearing blue denim and Carhartt canvas. Actions speak more loudly than words.
Note: This is one of a series of articles written about the thirty-five acres of land my wife and I own in southeast Iowa. To read all the articles, go to the label link aggregate provided here: Landowner.