It Pays to Play

cow 0719
Leisure activities with cows might be udderly ridiculous, but sometimes they pay off.

Despite living in what is defined as “rural America,” I lead a completely urban existence. This was pointed out multiple times this weekend, as Mosquito Season has officially begun out at Riverwalk.

I saw my Some Day neighbor and HOA president the day after he had the county spray our area for the little blood-suckers. I expressed surprise that the service came out that far, but he said we pay taxes into the mosquito district (yes, that’s a real entity on our property taxes), and that they do a good job.

Well, that was a Friday morning conversation; by Saturday evening’s walk with Lynn and Oz the bugs were omnipresent, and while I was sweating profusely in my jacket, I didn’t dare take it off and in fact turned the collar up to protect my neck. And then yesterday midday, as we were giving some current neighbors a house tour, I suggested we not linger outside as the mosquitos were piling up, or on.

I will be spending every summer for the rest of my life inside my house.

Lynn also tried a hand at “glamping,” which is a hot new term that I believe is a mash-up of “glamorous” and “camping.” She spent her first night in her new house, in a sleeping bag on a feather bed on the carpeted floor.

Oz and I brought dinner out and stayed until I was quite convinced — as I was before we even started the exercise — that I don’t need to be sleeping on floors. Plus, someone set off fireworks, and Oz was a huge pile of neurotic, so we came home to beds for both of us. In the morning Lynn allowed as how she’s not really set up any longer for floor sleeping either. She slept fine, she said, except for waking up every time she turned on the hard surface.

So now that we’ve established that we’re never going to be held up as an example of American Gothic, I have to tell you about a thing that probably never happens in real cities.

Two Saturdays ago I went in to work and Kara told me she had made a great investment by buying bingo tickets from the Gunnison River Festival. But we don’t do regular bingo in these here parts — okay, they do regular bingo at the Elks Lodge all the time — we do “Cow Patty Bingo.”

Now, I have to confess that in my urban state of existence, I have never gone to watch Cow Patty Bingo. Fortunately, you rarely if ever have to be present to win at one of these functions, and after this one we had someone who does attend tell us that sometimes the process takes upward of an hour.

But as I understand it, you spray paint a grid on a patch of grass somewhere, with numbers in each square, fence the whole thing off, and at the appointed time, bring in a cow. Or perhaps a steer. Some methane-producing creature. And then you wait for methane production to commence. Whatever numbers the droppings land on are the winners.

Well, guess who netted $480 after Kara’s initial $20 investment? That’s right: big party at Pat’s, as soon as we can spare the time.

And if one tale of riches in a week wasn’t enough, consider this: I did not do much packing this weekend, once again (surprise!), but once I started, it got rich quickly.

Back when all my friends lived in Gunnison, rather than being flung clear across the country as they are now, we had a space-oriented social group called the Holy Order of Qapla. Qapla, it turns out, is a Klingon word meaning success, but we had no knowledge of that when we coined our name. It was a fortuitous accident of the universe.

The HOQ, as we called ourselves, gathered on a regular basis for “fests.” And somewhere along the way we had hefty, weighty discussions about what exactly constituted a “fest,” and we collectively determined that collecting dues made it a fest. One member even donated a gilded satin bag from her wedding day to use as our official collection “plate.”

Well, yesterday, after months of looking at it, I scooped up the bag to put in an oddly shaped vacuum box full of oddly-shaped items. As I picked it up, I realized it held a few dollars.

I was the Keeper of the Treasury for the HOQ, although that wasn’t an official title like “Seaman 7th Class” or “Cabana Boy to Amanda Tapping, the New One True Space Babe” (we were a very serious social sect), and apparently I didn’t do as good a job as I thought.

Several years ago, the remnants of us all put on our official shirts (wonder where we got those?) and went to a fund-raiser for the Gunnison Valley Observatory. The observatory volunteers had pulled out all the stops and we all had a marvelous time (sadly, we were among few other attendees and it was clearly a lot of work, so the event has never been repeated), so we voted to turn over everything left in our treasury to the observatory.

I took what I believed to be all our funds and sent them, along with a letter detailing how very much we enjoyed their fund-raiser. (I don’t know if he’s still in town, but the pastor of the Church of Christ had taken up an entire room with his Star Trek collectibles, including actual costumes from the series.) I never heard back from anyone, verbally or in a thank-you note, so I’ve always kind of wondered if they ever checked their mailbox to get our donation. (Which is why you should always “thank before you bank,” as I learned from a non-profit director.)

Now, on the heels of finding a handful of dollars that weren’t enclosed in our donation left over in our collection bag, I picked up what I have believed for many years to be an empty bank bag, only it felt heavy and clinked. I opened it to find a large stack of ones, a $2 bill, and a copious amount of change. The only other items in the bag were a blank envelope and — the one good clue — a packing list from the Rhode Island Novelty Company.

The HOQ used to participate in Crested Butte’s Fourth of July parade, which now is probably so overcrowded (5,000 people or more line the streets of tiny Crested Butte, stacked about five deep) and civilized (it used to be a water-fight free-for-all along the route) that it isn’t much fun anymore. But it was a lot of fun back then. I would order alien-themed toys from the novelty company for us to throw from the back of my truck as we paraded along. Our favorites were the glow-in-the-dark (because it has to glow) bouncy balls with alien heads. People chased those all over the street.

Now, what I don’t know at this later date is if this bag was a reimbursement collection, or general catch-all for HOQ funds. In other words, is this money for me, or was it for the Greater Good of the HOQ? Either way, I should probably just pass it along to the observatory, although maybe this time make the donation in person to be sure they get it.

But don’t we think I maybe ought to be out buying lottery tickets instead of working? That’s the message I’m getting, anyway.

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