I listened to a voice mail message earlier this week. A man gave his name, then said, “Please call me at your earliest convenience at the main office of the electric coop.” He ended with his phone number.
As a trustee and the secretary/treasurer of a trust my parents established to keep the small family farm intact after their deaths, I pay all the bills. Had I forgotten to pay the rural electrical cooperative that supplied electricity to the farm? That had never happened before, but one time I made a mistake in recording the meter reading. Now the coop reads the meter, so it couldn’t be that.
This certainly wasn’t the time to have the power turned off. We’re in the midst of a severe drought, and just a few weeks ago, the water level had dropped so low that the pump couldn’t reach it. Our tenant farmer had to haul water for the cattle for a couple of days until the well was repaired. It took another forty feet of pipe and several hundred dollars to get the well pumping again.
I’m conscientious about paying bills, so it’s unlikely I missed a payment, but what else could he be calling about? I told myself to quit trying to guess what the man wanted and just return the call and find out.
As soon as I identified myself, he said, “Congratulations! You’re the winner of the $250 electrical credit from the proxy drawing at the annual meeting.” The coop must have a certain percentage of its members vote at the annual meeting so the office mails out proxy ballots for members who can’t attend in person to mail in.
“Wow!” I responded. “I didn’t even pay close enough attention to realize there was going to be a drawing, so this is really a surprise.”
The coop representative said, “We didn’t announce it. The drawing was a surprise to everyone.” He explained that the credit had already been applied to our account, and we won’t need to make another payment until the credit is used up.
This surprise win reminded me of something that happened when I was in elementary school. The hardware store in the little town nearest to our family’s farm held a drawing. To enter, customers had to fill out a form with their contact information and their choice of prize. The store would give either a freezer or an evaporative cooler to the winner of the drawing. No one we knew had air conditioning in our rural area in the 1950s. We thought a window unit that cooled by evaporation of water, commonly called a swamp cooler, was air conditioning. All of us kids were excited about the possibility of winning an air conditioner.
But when Daddy filled out the form, he put the checkmark in the top box, which was a freezer. “Daddy,” we protested. “We already have a deep freeze! We want an air conditioner.”
“It doesn’t make any difference what I put,” he answered. “We’re not going to win anyway.”
He was wrong. He won—a freezer. I’m sure he didn’t even consider asking to change the prize. Daddy never wanted to rock the boat. I suspect he thought a freezer was a better prize anyway. A large family with cattle to butcher and garden crops to harvest could easily use two freezers. A swamp cooler in one window in one room wouldn’t make much difference in the big, old rambling farmhouse.
For a long time, we kids whined, “But we wanted an air conditioner.”