Maybe it was the vastness of the endless, level Llano Estacado, the "staked plains." Maybe it was the whiff of gushing prosperity coming from all of the pump jacks along the road, bringing oil to the surface with every solemn nod of their mechanical heads. Or maybe it was driving past the very fields where my partner's great-grandfather planted the first cotton crop in this arid land.
Taken altogether, west Texas is a landscape that fosters risk. At least that's the best explanation I could find for our unusual behavior.
At a convenience store on the edge of Lamesa, Texas, we bought a lottery ticket. The maximum payoff that week was somewhere in the neighborhood of 137 million dollars, give or take ten million or so.
As we drove west, past mile after mile of oil wells, we speculated a bit on what we might do with that much money. How much would we reasonably need to put away to take care of ourselves for the rest of our lives? How much would or should we give to our family members without ruining their lives? How could we make wise choices about the charities we would support?
It was an enjoyable conversation, mostly because we weren't taking it very seriously. We did, however, agree that all those millions would give us tremendous opportunities for doing good. It's amazing all the things one can easily accomplish with a pile of imaginary wealth.
It didn't occur to us that one good immediate use for some of the money would be to replace our aging furnace. Which may be just as well. When we finally remembered to check our numbers online a few days later, we hadn't come close to winning even a consolation prize of a mere few hundred thousand.
For now, all our deserving family members and all those worthwhile charities will just have to get by without the benefit of our imaginary winnings. Maybe someday they'll get another chance, if we get wild and reckless enough to buy another lottery ticket. Or we could decide instead to make our fortunes with one of those Texas oil wells.
In the meantime, the furnace still needs replaced. I guess we'll just have to come down to earth and take care of it with real money.