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By Staff | Aug 13, 2010

This summer’s plentiful mud and swarms of bugs has been a fortuitous combination for barn swallows. A vexation for one species is often a lucky break for another.

I recently espied a swarm of swallows perched on a power line. Their numbers were such that the wire sagged nearly to the ground. The nearby utility poles were pointing at each other instead of the sky.

It has also been a tremendous summer for cicadas. Our grove is home to approximately one billion of the boisterous bugs. Their chorus rattles the dishes and makes it difficult to hear the TV. Conversations must be shouted, giving the impression that my wife and I are arguing.

The cicadas that serenaded us were nearly old enough to vote. They spent most of their existence underground as ugly, slimy, icky-white slugs. After 17 years the nymphs emerged and molted and began to noisily announce that they were looking for love. Which is pretty much the story of my life.

This also is the time of the year when I suffered my first serious financial setback.

My uncle Ray gave me a silver dollar when I was about 8 years old. This was a time when a silver dollar was made of actual silver instead of some weird base metal.

I was extremely proud of my 1921 Morgan dollar. Owning real money meant that I suddenly needed a real wallet.

At Woolworth’s I purchased a wallet that was made of red plastic and featured a cartoon of a car. It also contained a card for Important Information, which I dutifully filled out: name, address (Route 1. Jens and Ole’s old place) and all four digits of our phone number.

I stashed my silver dollar in the coin compartment and carried the wallet in my back pocket whenever I went to town. I had no intention of spending that dollar as I considered it my good luck charm. Plus, it was there for emergencies such as if I were captured by buccaneers. The pirates would appreciate my appreciation of real silver and thus let me go.

One blazing summer afternoon I went to town with Dad. A street carnival grabbed 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 stomach. Taking a break from the rides, my eye fell upon a crane claw prize machine.

I duly deposited my nickel — and was deeply disappointed when I failed to win a toy! It had looked like such a sure thing!

A small knot of boys had formed around me to watch as I wasted my nickel. When it was over, one of the older boys clapped me on the shoulder and said, “Congratulations, kid! You’ve just been had!”

After the carnival our next destination was Jacobson Brothers Welding, where Dad stopped to see about some repair work. Dad commenced to jawing with some other farmers, so I entertained myself by visiting the scrapheap behind the shop.

Wandering aimlessly through the scrap iron, I wondered if a carnival ride could be scraped up from the heap of rusty steel. It certainly seemed possible, although safety might be an issue. But then again, so was it at the street carnival.

Finally arriving at home, I went to put my wallet away — only to discover it gone! I searched the car. Nothing! We returned to the welding shop and I scoured the scrapheap but couldn’t find anything even vaguely resembling a boy’s red plastic wallet.

A metal detector is usually deployed to find lost coinage, but I think in this case it wouldn’t have been of much use. Imagine all the false alarms!

It was eventually concluded that my wallet and my lucky dollar were irrevocably lost. Maybe it whirled out in the Tilt-A-Whirl or scrambled away in the Scrambler. It’s also possible that my pocket was picked by that boy at the claw machine. It began to seem more and more likely that he was a “carny” kid.

I recently related this sad story to my wife. She wordlessly went to the cupboard and from its depths retrieved a girl’s coin purse. Said purse was opened and summarily produced a Morgan silver dollar!

MY silver dollar! There can be no doubt; it has the same date, the Lady Liberty with her frumpy cap, the spread-eagle eagle on the reverse side!

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 felt so fortunate ever since I met my wife.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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