August 26, 2023 at 8:00 a.m.
A summer of muddy cattle yards and swarms of bugs are a fortuitous combination for barn swallows. A vexation for one species can be a lucky break for another.
I recently espied a flock of swallows perched on a powerline. Their numbers were such that the line sagged almost to the ground. The utility poles were pointing at each other instead of the sky.
We have also had a tremendous crop of cicadas at our farm. Our grove is home to approximately 1 billion boisterous bugs. Their chorus rattles the windows and makes it difficult to hear the television. Conversations must be shouted, giving the impression that my wife and I are arguing.
The cicadas that are serenading us have waited years for August to arrive. They spent most of their lives underground as ugly, slimy slugs. This summer, the nymphs emerged and molted and began to noisily announce that they were ready for love, which is pretty much the story of my life.
August is the month when I suffered my first major financial setback.
My uncle Ray had given me a silver dollar when I was 8 years old. That was an era when silver dollars were made of actual silver instead of cheap alloys.
I was extremely proud of my 1921 Morgan dollar. Owning real money meant that I needed a real wallet.
I went to Woolworth’s and purchased a red plastic wallet that featured a cartoon Model T on its cover. The wallet came with a card for important Information, which I dutifully filled out: name, address and all four digits of our phone number.
I stashed my silver dollar in the wallet’s coin compartment and carried it in my back pocket whenever I went to town. I had no intention of spending that dollar, which I regarded as my good luck charm. Plus, it was there for emergencies such as if I were captured by bloodthirsty privateers. The pirates would be impressed by my appreciation for real silver and let me go.
I went to town with Dad one blazing August afternoon. A street carnival captured my attention and wouldn’t let it go. I begged Dad to let me visit the carnival, arguing that I was old enough to do so unsupervised. He finally relented, probably just to get relief from my incessant begging.
The Tilt-A-Whirl left me feeling tilted, and the Scrambler scrambled my innards. While wandering around the carnival, my eye fell upon a claw machine.
I fed the machine a dime and was deeply disappointed when it failed to reward me with a stuffed toy. It had looked like a sure thing.
A small knot of boys formed around me and watched as I wasted several more dimes. When I was done, one of the older boys clapped me on the shoulder and said, “Congratulations, kid. You’ve just been had.”
Dad and I then went to our local welding shop. Dad checked on a welding job and began to jaw with other farmers, so I entertained myself by visiting the scrapyard behind the shop.
Wandering aimlessly through the fascinating odds and ends, I wondered if a carnival ride could be constructed from the rusted scraps. It certainly seemed possible, although safety might be an issue. But then again, it would be a carnival ride.
Upon arriving at home, I reached for my wallet only to discover that it was missing. I scoured the car. Nothing. We returned to the welding shop, and I searched the scrapheap but couldn’t find anything that vaguely resembled a red plastic wallet.
A metal detector is usually deployed to find lost coinage, but it wouldn’t have been much use in this case. Imagine all the false alarms.
It was eventually concluded that my wallet and my lucky silver dollar were irrevocably lost. Maybe it whirled out in the Tilt-A-Whirl or scrambled away in the Scrambler. It’s also possible that I was pickpocketed by that boy at the claw machine. The more I thought about it, the more he seemed like a “carny” kid.
I recently related this tragic story to my wife. She wordlessly went to her dresser drawer and retrieved an old coin purse. She opened the purse and drew out a 1921 Morgan silver dollar.
Was it my silver dollar? There could be no doubt. It has the same date, the same Lady Liberty in her frumpy cap staring vacantly off to the left.
This clarifies many things, including why I wasn’t able to find my lucky silver dollar all those years ago. But above all, it explains why I’ve been so fortunate ever since I met my wife.
Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry works full time for Dairy Star as a staff writer and ad salesman. Feel free to email him at [email protected].