The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.


12-4-2012 Column

We have hit the jackpot in weather for December. This is only the third time in the last 25 years that Mark and I could go golfing for his birthday at the beginning of the month. I surprised him on his 39th birthday with his first and last day on the links. After swinging clubs for 9 holes, his shoulders hurt for the next two weeks. He hasn’t golfed since, but at least he can say he golfed in December in Minnesota without a blaze orange golf ball and snow drifts substituting for sand traps. This year on his birthday he winterized the tractors by changed filters and putting in winter weight oil, At least he didn’t freeze his fingertips! Our machine shed/shop is not heated or insulated, so warm winter days are appreciated and utilized.

The weather jackpot makes outside chores enjoyable, but it also brings a downside. As we shed our farm coats and stocking hats for sweatshirts and ball caps, the animals are having a hard time regulating their own body temperatures. Their fuzzy winter coats curl with sweat as they are dressed for much colder conditions. I have been keeping a close eye on the young stock as I feed in the morning listening for that short, wheezing cough and labored breathing marking the start of pneumonia. Nothing yet, but the foggy mornings are not helping.

We seem to be caught in the middle of a sibling fight as cold and warm temperatures struggle for control. It takes the sun almost until noon before the fog can burn off to see clearly down the road. The cold northwest winds blowing in will bring an end to this battle and winter will arrive with a blast as warm temperatures retreat southward.

Weather is not the only lottery in town. I’ll admit it. We helped contribute to the largest Power Ball jackpot last week. It was such a rush to know I held the winning ticket in my hand. I went to bed before the drawing so I could at least go to sleep a “winner” dreaming of what I would do with the winnings. The next morning I awoke to hear the radio announcer report two winning tickets were sold….in Missouri and Arizona. As I pulled my ticket off the refrigerator, I saw I had no return on my $10 investment. Even with odds of 1 in 55 of selecting at least the winning Power Ball number, I still had no winning combination. I guess I can’t be surprised I didn’t win the big jackpot with odds of 1 in 175-million.

It is fun to dream and imagine what you would do with your winnings. Even with the government taking their 50% cut for taxes, you’re still left with a hefty sum of money. It is hard to wrap my mind around how much money $275-million is. It makes the $1-million winning ticket in Minnesota sound like chunk change, but just think, both numbers have six zeros behind them and that means lots of Oooooohhhs and Aaaahhhs.

I would donate a large portion of the money to our churches, schools and youth organizations. I would adopt some charities and establish scholarships. I would invest in people to make a difference. Or course there are the fun things too. A lazy vacation traveling around to see the world. Maybe a newer vehicle to drive. I think we would have to keep the cows to help keep us grounded, but maybe invest in some new buildings or set-ups. A heated and insulated shop/machine shed come to mind. I know the kids could come up with several more ideas of how to spend the money too.

I think I would also take a plan from Warren Buffet’s playbook on life. The 80 year old billionaire investor has pledge to give his fortune to charity and not to his three children. Buffet is adamant in denying an inheritance as the only way to build character and “durable confidence” in heirs. Buffett is quotes as saying “a very rich person should leave his kids enough to do anything, but not enough to do nothing.” Buffet did gift $1 million to each of his children when they turned 40 as seed money for philanthropy work. His son who is a crop farm in central Illinois established a foundation geared toward hunger prevention overseas and in the U.S.

The closest we have gotten to hitting it big on the Power Ball is knowing a couple of the Holdingford Lunch Ladies who each had a nice deposit in their savings accounts a couple of years back. The winnings didn’t change these well-grounded and sensible people. It did probably remove some of the daily stress of dairy farming as they continue to milk cows but let’s face it. Farming is a big gamble every day. We try to make smart, safe bets with reliable returns, but there are too many variable out of our control.

Even when the odds are suppose to be 50/50 it still doesn’t work out that way. In the last two months out of 20 embryo transfers we have delivered 4 heifer calves! I guess we will be using genomics to help us weed down our bull pen very quickly.

What would you do with all of the money from this last jackpot? You can’t buy health, but you can buy top notch health care. Friends that money can buy will disappear when the cash is gone. Money can buy stuff but sometimes it is the simplest things that will make you the most happy. Who really needs the mega-large jackpots to mess up your life when small ones are big enough to have some fun with?


As their four children pursue dairy careers off the farm, Natalie and Mark are starting a new adventure of milking registered Holsteins just because they like good cows on their farm north of Rice, Minnesota. (Natalie grew up in Stronghurst, the daughter of Becky and the late Larry Dowell.)