Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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Joe Ryan — obituary

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Reflections from the Swamp Dear Reader Most of us...
Reflections from the SwampCanada Goose and Dutch Stork Lottery

Canada Goose and Dutch Stork Lottery

Reflections from the Swamp
Richard van Duyvendyk

Dear Reader.

I’m not interested in lotteries that offer less than 70 million. What with inflation, how could I live on a measly 50 million? By the time I bought a tank of gas and bought my groceries, I’d be back to clipping out coupons and fixing the flat on my bicycle. I’ve never met anyone who won millions of dollars. Maybe these people are fictional characters. If you won the lottery, it would be like God coming down and showing you the chalice. It just doesn’t happen.

The recent prize for winning the Max Millions lottery is 70 million dollars. When it reaches these lofty heights, I succumb to the unscientific parts of my psyche and enter the dream world. For six dollars, I can dream about going on a world cruise, paying off all debts, and stopping buying my groceries on the 50 % off, slightly rotting but not dead yet rack. I’d have the potential of finding new friends and relatives I’ve never heard of! On second thought, how would you keep winning the lottery a secret?

The chance of winning Lotto Max is One in 33,294,806, slightly better than being randomly selected as Canadian of the year (one in 36 million). We have about a one in a million chance of being hit by lightning, so buy a lottery ticket; it’s safer than standing around during a storm.

To increase the chances of winning a lottery, my bride and I developed ‘The Goose Lottery’ to complement ‘The Stork Lottery’ created by our family in Holland. We combined the two lotteries to mimic paying an extra buck to get an encore ticket. About 40 people signed up for our lottery, so you would have a two in 40 chance of winning.

In Lekkerkerk, Holland, my cousin, Sander, kept us abreast of the arrival of the storks from Africa to the church tower in Lekkerkerk. Each year a committee of Lekkerkerkians raises a wagon wheel up the church tower to attract storks. Storks don’t always come.

Neighbouring towns also placed wagon wheels on their church towers to lure potential storks. Competition between rival towns was furious. Storks like wagon wheels because they can weave the sticks, they use through the spokes to prevent the nest from blowing off the platform. Friends and family would pick a date that they hoped would be the day when the storks arrived. The prize is a case of Heinekens ( Sander works there) or a bag of tulip bulbs( my uncle has a nursery).

I started a Canada Goose Lottery. Friends and family would pick the date they predicted that the first goose would land on our pond in the swamp. We made signup lists for both lotteries. After winning the first goose lottery, my bride banned me from entering the subsequent lotteries.

If people asked me for help with unpleasant tasks such as mucking out the barn, I could in good conscience decline their requests because I was busy sitting out on the pond in my lawn chair, waiting for the first goose to arrive. Somebody had to make the supreme sacrifice and freeze their buns off. My bride figured my sedentary skills qualified me for the job.

People wrote humorous stories, poems, inspirational thoughts and sent in pictures of the first sightings of many species of birds, which were enjoyed by all. Kids drew pictures of birds for a separate chance to win a silver goose dollar.

Some discussions developed between the Canadian and Dutch participants. My uncle Tun finally breached a subject that he felt was controversial. He wanted us to stop clubbing baby seals in Toronto’s ‘Big Lakes.’ His knowledge of Canadian geography was a little thin. We all agreed to put our clubs away while visiting the Big Lakes if he would tell the cows in Holland to stop farting, which causes methane build-up and leads to global warming. He said he was working on it.

The prizes for winning the lotteries were modest. The first prize was a 1967 Canadian silver dollar with an image of a Canada Goose or a bag of tulip bulbs in the case of the stork lottery. The second prize for the lotteries was a bag of green goose or stork droppings, making an excellent organic fertilizer. Second prize winners always declined in claiming their winnings which cut down on administration costs such as postage and customs. The real prize was the certificate (allegedly signed by Queen Elizabeth or King William) authenticating status as a winner.

This year, the geese landed on the still-frozen pond on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17.

We haven’t done the goose lottery for about three years, and I miss all the fun. My favourite part was writing obituaries for those who picked dates before the landing of the first goose. This obituary writing was influential in starting my creative writing career.

Next year, I hope to revive the Goose Lottery with the help of my readers in the Millstone. Maybe we could leave our predictions and children’s drawings at the library. We would all enjoy the thrill of predicting the first goose’s arrival to a remote pond in Corkery. It’s always the dream that keeps lotteries alive.

When we hear and see the geese come back home to Canada, we are all winners.

Unlike our chaotic human activities of late, Nature tries her best to keep the rhymes of life flowing. Thank her and the stars above for the joys of spring.





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