Cranky Man’s Guide to Lawn Fertilization

All Cranky Man lawn tips are based on local experience in the southeast region of Pennsylvania in the good ol’ US of A.  Many of these tried and true tips are compatible with a Humid Subtropical Climate.  If you are reading this from the jungles of Central Africa, you probably have a lot of more important things to worry about … like day-to-day survival.  If you live in the southwest of the U.S. of A., just start a rock garden! 

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Memorial Day is fast approaching.  Spring is well on its way to morphing into Summer, although in our little slice of paradise, Spring has been but a rumor to wax nostalgic over between the cold and rain.

That being said, there are certain steps you should already have taken or will be taking shortly to ensure the health of your lawn over the impending hot days of Summer.  For instance, pre-emergent should have been applied several weeks ago to forestall the hot weather loving sprouting of crabgrass.  In addition, you should be prepared for or at least entertaining the idea of Weed ‘n Feed applications that will fertilize your lawn; rid it of weeds; and keep them away.

Past writings for this very blog have recommended the general idea of Five annual fertilizer treatments:

  1. Pre-emergent treatment to prevent crabgrass (early to mid-Spring)
  2. Spring Weed ‘n Feed (late Spring)
  3. Anti-grub application to obliterate beetle grubs that feed on lawn roots (early to mid-Summer)
  4.  Fall Weed ‘n Feed that maintains the clean & healthy momentum (late Summer-early Fall)
  5. Winter feeding (mid-late Fall)

In the years since those wise and eloquent words were first written, I have learned even more or have had to adjust my fertilizing treatments according to “facts on/in the ground” or events that shaped a different approach. Certainly the old tried and true outline above is timeless as a general guide.  But every lawn in different.  Every lawn aficionado with their own quirks and preferences.

It’s the stuff that makes the Lawn World go ’round!

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In the years through which I have been caring for my own 1/4 acre, I have learned a lot and have changed the way I approach lawn treatments.  For instance, I no longer do anti-grub treatments after dealing with an infestation and learning about the milky spore.

This also helps out quite a bit in the wallet, as anti-grub treatments are the most expensive ones, so long as torturing a few grubs doesn’t bother you. For this reason, I have suggested most recently that anti-grub treatments can be optional, if (Big IF) you pay attention to the potential presence of grub-producing beetles in the late June-early July time frame.

Another change is the use of Starter fertilizer as a way of helping the lawn recover from the hot Summer. This is an optional treatment, not used in years when Summer has been wetter and not so brutally hot. Those summers are few and far between however.

So my present-day fertilizer schedule is closer to this now:

  1. Pre-emergent
  2. Spring Weed ‘n Feed
  3. Starter fertilizer (Optional, based on Summer’s Heat and Rain and the condition of the lawn; applied in early to mid-September)
  4. Fall Weed ‘n Feed (Optional, based on your decision on “if and when” to apply 3. above; mid-September to mid-October)
  5. Winterfeed (no sooner than six weeks after 4. above, no later than first week of December, weather permitting)

Lawn fertilizing should be approached as a balancing act. Balancing the current condition of your lawn with its future health.

You never want to apply any fertilizer during hot, dry Summer conditions. Never apply a fertilizer within a month – as a minimum – after previous applications; six weeks is optimal.  Most important … Use simple common sense; pay attention to the weather and condition of your lawn; and remember, long-term health is more important that present-day appearance. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking short-term appearance over long-term lawn health.

Carry on …. And be Green out there!

 

A most unlikely Senator

The 2016 election cycle will bring enough fireworks at the National level for many people to forego down-ticket races that do not directly involve their vote. In a political season where being The Outsider threatening to turn over the Party Table and chase the money-changers from the Temple, it’s the long shot, disruptive dark horse that is drawing attention and excitement … with varying degrees of success.

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John Fetterman … an unmistakable physical presence

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders draw the bulk of attention at the Presidential level. For those not living in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it might also be interesting to watch the race for U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania … especially if John Fetterman wins the Pennsylvania Democrat primary for the Senate nomination!

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How does a U.S. Senator live something like this down?

Fetterman is nothing, if not the most atypical candidate for Senate since Al Franken attempted – unsuccessfully IMHO – to shed his Saturday Night Live persona when he went on to win a Senate seat in Minnesota. The difference between the two is that John Fetterman has been a serious man … always serious. And he has a successful background as a man who has gotten things done politically and socially.

Fetterman was born to teenage parents who struggled financially until John’s father started his own insurance business.  He attended his father’s alma mater – Albright College – and successfully completed his Masters in Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  In between, he did volunteer stints with Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America and AmeriCorps.

His AmeriCorps gig landed him in Braddock, Pennsylvania, a bedroom community to the long-gone steel mills of Andrew Carnegie in and around Pittsburgh.  The town lost most of its jobs with the disappearance of the American steel industry.

In 2005 Fetterman challenged the incumbent mayor and won election by a single vote!  The job paid $110/month, barely adding much financially to his $30,ooo/year job directing the Out-of-School-Youth Program.  He won re-election in 2009 by an almost 3-1 margin.

He purchased the First Presbyterian Church, slated for demolition, a nearby abandoned warehouse, and numerous house, which he redeveloped and offered with cheap or free rent.  Fetterman used the promise of cheap rent and initiated a rebirth of Braddock as an artsy Renaissance town complete with a two-acre organic garden managed by the Braddock Youth Project.

091023-Fetterman-hmed-10a.grid-6x2Those accomplishments certainly qualify John Fetterman as a most interesting and active public servant.  But it’s his non-conforming physical and vocal presence that really sets him apart from the usual dry, buttoned-down Senate types.

Fetterman is physically imposing at 6’8″ tall, weighing 320 pounds.  He has numerous tattoos, an imposing bald head, huge unruly chin beard, and a manner of plain dress that will definitely shake up the sleepy U.S. Senate chamber, if he were to get that far.

So deep is his dedication to Braddock, he has its Zip Code tattooed inside one arm!

Unfortunately, Fetterman trails a lightweight front-runner in Katie McGinty, whose limited claims to fame were serving in various National and State environmental roles and as Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s campaign manager …

… And then there’s wacky Liberal re-tread Joe Sestak.

As a Republican sure to vote for incumbent Senator Pat Toomey, I tend to tune out the most liberal Democrats, as I was John Fetterman.  That was until I saw the following Fetterman ad.  Then I read his resumé …

If one concedes John Fetterman has a hopelessly uphill battle to bring his unorthodox – but productive – style of politics to the Senate, one cannot but hope he finds a way to continue his work in Pennsylvania. His sense of empathy and get-it-done attitude is something from which we all might benefit!

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The Inconspicuous News

American Board of Thoracic SurgeryDr. Achintya MoulickDylan PurcellTom Avril Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Children’s Hospital of PhiladelphiaDiscussion and comment on selected articles from The Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, March 20, 2016.

(Jeff Gamage) printed an article, Those Kids Never Got to Go Home about a small, sad cemetery located within the confines of the U.S. Army base in Carlisle, PA. … about 125 miles west of Philadelphia.

The U.S. Army base in Carlisle, PA is the object of an unusual request from the Rosebud Sioux Indian tribe of South Dakota.  Long before the army base existed, the site was home to the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, the flagship of federally-funded, off-reservation boarding schools where the motto was “Kill the Indian, save the Man.”

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A photo of the student body of the Carlilsle Indian School from March, 1892, is photographed on the school grounds where it was taken. The Rosebud Sioux in South Dakota have begun efforts to repatriate the remains of the 10 Rosebud students buried on the Carlisle school grounds. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer

Within the Army’s current home 186 graves of Indian children from numerous Native American tribes.  The children victim of disease, abuse, and inadequate care at the industrial school intended to assimilate Indian populations with white culture and society.  The children were largely the offspring of Indian chiefs, who were convinced by the program’s agents that the children would be properly educated and better prepared to lead their scattered tribes to relationships on more equal footing with their white counterparts.

The intent of the program might be looked upon today as simply one of those backward thinking, even “progressive” attempts to help a defeated and exiled people to adapt and even prosper within the dominant society.  Maybe even a noble cause to promote better relations with the Europeans, who were spreading westward like ants.

However the abuses, including forced labor, beatings for refusal to speak English, physical and sexual abuse, and inadequate care, exposed the program as an attempt to expunge Indian cultures.  These 186 children never made it Home.

The Rosebud children were sent 1400 miles away from home. Some were pried away from parents forced with the choice of giving up their children or their food rations.  Many of the children died from diseases and malnutrition, some due to abuse.

675abb611e806736640cba306701eeb7Leaders of the Rosebud Sioux tribe had forgotten about the spirits of their dead children buried (some without parents even knowing they were dead) so far from home.  The issue was raised after a group of young Rosebud students visited the cemetery after a trip to Washington, D.C. last Summer for the Tribal Youth Gathering.

Now I never understood the motivations and mindset of our earlier American ancestors as they set upon a vanquished Nation, taking advantage of Position and Power to denude Indian cultures and then to exploit them in their imposed poverty.  This example seems to be one of the more egregious ones, although the effort does reflect much of the social and cultural thinking of the time.

I hope we have evolved beyond that kind of social engineering think.

As for the Spirits the Rosebud Sioux insist are restless to return home, demonstrated – they say – by the swarm of fireflies that visited the cemetery after a traditional Sioux ceremony, the Army should simply allow the Rosebud Sioux to take their children home.

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Next up is a rather disturbing article about the length of post-operative stays at Philadelphia’s St. Christopher’s Hospital for complicated newborn cardiac surgery vs. stays for similar procedures at regional counterpart, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).  The article, Recovery Times for Newborns Lengthy, written by Tom Avril and Dylan Purcell, suggests the extended stays at St. Chris’ have much to do with the quality of post-operative care.

6e1c643a636c67f002280f826731ae3e.jpgThe Inquirer’s study, based on a review of insurance claim forms, follows another study that found St. Christopher newborn cardiac patients were also much more likely to die than similar patients at CHOP.  St. Christopher’s recently stopped all non-emergency heart procedures as it conducts an internal review of its heart surgery program.

As bad as all that is, one also learns that Dr. Achintya Moulick, head of the heart surgery at St. Chris’ is not certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery!  This in contrast to the other five heads of pediatric heart-surgery program in Pennsylvania and Delaware.  Dr. Moulick does possess certification in thoracic surgery from the University of Bombay (Mumbai) in India … from 1995!

Now, I’m no medical professional, but I would presume that in the 21 years since Dr. Moulick attended the University of Bombay, there have been a few changes in the ways thoracic surgery is performed, particularly for infants.  When you consider that the Head of Thoracic Surgery also sets the tone for those performing under him, you get the idea that maybe it’s time for Dr. Moulick to break out his “How to …” books and seek an American-style recertification from this particular century!

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Finally a story, Bringing Down Blumberg, by Aubrey Whelan on the history and destructive end on the Norman Blumberg Apartments at 22nd and Sharswood Streets in North Philadelphia.  Blumberg was built in the late 1960s as a high-rise apartment complex dedicated to low-income residents.

l_phabuildings-3“But within a few short years, the towers came to typify all that had gone wrong with the public-housing policies of the 1960s – a symbol of misguided urban planning, concentrated poverty, and official neglect writ large.”

Two intricately related resident reactions – just seven years apart underscores the kind of hopelessness that permeated mass low-income urban housing in many parts of the country.  In 1967, the day Blumberg opened to its brand new residents, one gushes how “Each resident helps out the other.”.  Just seven years later after a gang-rape at Blumberg, a resident told The Inquirer, “The amazing thing is that no one helps anybody out.”

 

Cranky Man’s March: In like the Tundra, out like a Lawn

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Gentlemen, start your engines!

March 2016 has been a wacky ride so far in the SouthEast Region of Pennsylvania.  Started off nice enough; then turned windy and stormy; followed by two days in the 80s; then back to raw, windy Ides of March weather.  Now, there’s a whispered rumor of snow for this Sunday.

In other words, perfect late Winter lawn weather!

To complete the picture the early blooming trees are already out in pink, white, and lavender.  Soon Spring will have officially sprung!

As any dedicated lawn nerd knows, now is the time to get to work.  You had your post-holiday Winter weekends all to yourself, where your biggest worry was over-napping. (At least mine was …)

So let’s get crackin’ …

1. Love your Equipment, and it will Love you back!

Get your lawn mower into the shop for a seasonal tune-up that includes blade replacement.

I’m pretty good in Equipment Condition, having just bought a new grass-eater last June.  I will get a full season out my mower before worrying about a pre-season tune-up next year.  As for other equipment … like trimmers, edgers, and leaf blowers … I tend to simply use them until they die. To me sending them into the repair cycle is hardly cost-effective, given the relative affordability of smaller equipment and the Cheapness of their Owner. 

This year I plan to add a new blower/sweeper.  I just need to figure out if another gas model is needed, or if an electric version will do the job without too much aggravation.

2. Cut the lawn short to clean it up!

First thing I do every Spring is low-cut the lawn (i.e. lower than I would normally dare during the rest of the year).  This makes it easier to clean up the entire lawn of Winter debris, including loose twigs and soggy leaves.

After cutting one section (maybe 3-4 passes) I will use a rake to make sure I get up all the sodden leaves and debris buried deeper in the grass.  Particularly when it comes to those nasty, rotting leaves, it’s best to get them up.  Otherwise they tend to become a block to new spring growth, and if allowed to collect can kill underlying grass plants.

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obligatory Forsythia shot

3. Look to the Forsythia to Vanquish the Crab!

Crabgrass … That bane of Summer lawns, proliferates in the heat of the Summer.  The hotter, the better for the little bastards!

But crabgrass seedlings, left dormant over the long Winter, germinate in the early Spring, roughly around the time when average soil temperatures exceed 55° for three or more days.  Of course figuring out when that magical moment occurs is a bit more complicated than simply checking out ambient air temperatures since the ground always takes longer to warm than the air above it.

Fortunately, Mother Nature provides its own ground temp indication in the form of the Forsythia.  When the forsythia blooms, the ground temperatures will be just about right for your first lawn application of the season (Preemergent).  But if you cannot wait for Miss Forsythia to show her yellow blossoms, ’tis better to apply a preemergent early than late.

Frankly, I only concern myself with the front lawn at our house, since it’s the portion that gets exposed to the hottest periods of sun.  Our backyard is significantly more shaded, so crabgrass from experience has never been a serious issue …

Well, except for my one neighbor, who several seasons ago was raising more weeds than grass, including a copious assortment of bastard crabgrass plants.  They are much better lately.  We even cooperate on chickweed eradication.  But I still apply several passes of preemergent (and weed ‘n feed) along our common border.  I view it as similar to prophylactic doses of antibiotics! 

4.  Is Aerating over-rated?

Absolutely not!

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How core aerator works

I have written much on the whys, hows, and wherefores of aerating your lawn.  Aerating has numerous benefits to your lawn, especially if your lawn suffers a lot of foot traffic during the Summer.  Click HERE to link into a short discussion of aeration benefits and the proper equipment to use.

Aerating is a preferred time to add a layer of grass seed, known as over-seeding, to thicken your lawn.  It’s not necessary for lawns already sufficiently thick, and most lawns will thicken – if well fed – during the Spring growing season.  Skip over-seeding if you don’t need it!

BIG HINT TIME:  I know some people who will aerate twice every year.  Personally, I do it once a year, and even skip it if my timing doesn’t allow for it.  But trust me … If you aerate your lawn at all, don’t do it in September when Summer-baked soil will make ground penetration almost impossible.  Aerate in the early Spring when Winter snows and Spring rain renders the soil softer and easier for the aerator to do its job properly! 

5.  Weed ‘n Feed done right at the right time.

Timing is important – for several reasons – when applying weed ‘n feed.  The first crucial factor is to make sure, if you applied a preemergent earlier, to wait 4-6 weeks before applying any other fertilizer.

Second, decide whether you need a “direct application” to eradicate weeds that are present, or whether your lawn is sufficiently weed-free to use a simpler momentum-type product to maintain your lawn’s present balance.  Direct application products require wet conditions, either by using a liquid spray or by applying a sandy-type dry product early on dew-soaked mornings or right after a rain.

Your last “timing consideration” when fighting weeds is to watch the weather.  Weed control products require 48 hours of rain-free weather.  Otherwise the rain washes the direct-application product off the weeds, defeating the primary purpose of using them.

I like the sandy, dry weed ‘n feed products.  They have become harder to find, but Scott’s has a good dry product, Scott’s Turf Builder Weed ‘n Feed 3.  Fortunately, my lawn is tight on the weed control front, so I use a momentum-type, sustained release in pellet form.  Using a momentum-type product takes a lot of the guess-work out.

So now you are primed and ready to get your lawn off to a Spring-loaded start.  Remember … What you do in March and April has much to do with how your lawn will look in July and August!

And while I can’t guarantee you that all that work and exercise will make you look like this rather self-absorbed lawn fan, …

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…  I can assure you your lawn won’t look like his either!

 

Have a Merry Global Warming Christmas!

Yeah, yeah … I know.

“That’s not “climate”, it’s just weather!”

Still …

I’m really getting into this Winter Global Warming/Cooling/Wetting/Drying/Changing thing.

I also picked up the parts I needed to get my snowblower into top working condition, thereby ensuring we will not get any snow this Winter. Maybe in July …

So here’s an apropos Christmas song for the new tropical Eastern United States!

Merry Christmas from the Cranky Man!

Montgomery County Republican Party … “Lost in Space”!

Montco-GOP-300x297Maybe when past and present leaders of the Montgomery County Republican Party (MCRC: Montgomery County, PA) look back over the past few years, they can pinpoint the moment when – and reasons why – things went bad.  Maybe they can dissect the personalities, grudges, and internal issues that caused the slide down the slippery slope.  Maybe they will have an understanding of what went wrong and why.  And maybe they have an idea of how to get it all back on track.

Maybe …

I’m not all that confident.  The County Party looks like the hapless Family Robinson from “Lost in Space” (the original TV series 1965-1968, not the movie).  Not sure exactly who is playing of Doctor Smith, but there are several candidates.  Like castaways in an immense expanse of universe, there’s a feeling of hopelessness.

Admitting you have a problem – a REAL problem – is always the first step in Recovery.  And Recovery is certainly what we need!

I do not consider myself a Committee insider.  I do not pretend to know the reasons or – more importantly – The Answers.  Maybe I should know.  Maybe if more of us in grassroots positions were more deeply involved, we might know.

Maybe that would have made a difference.  Maybe …

But I doubt it.

As a Committee Representative since 2006, I have attended some MCRC functions, though admittedly not enough of them.  Fact is, as your typical run-of-the-mill foot soldier, you are like a pawn on the chessboard … eyes forward and taking the heat.  You do the grunt work because it’s important to you and to your Community.

The politics of the politics?  We let the politicians weed that garden.  We allow them to make the sensitive political decisions in the belief they have The Big Picture.

Maybe there’s a good reason for that … party unity,  less distraction from the goals of developing the best candidates and winning elections, the appearance of stability and reliability to present to fund-raisers and contributors …

But how’s that been working out for you on Election Day?

The problem with that mindset is that we – the Party’s ground game – lose sight of where the boat is being driven or worse the direction the boat is drifting.  Somehow that has to stop.

My personal MCRC experience can be summed up in the following vignettes:

  • Pride and excitement in the election of Bruce Castor and Jim Matthews to the County Board of Commissioners in 2007 even though Democrats grabbed five row-office positions.
  • Hair-pulling aggravation as the Castor-Matthews relationship imploded into a farcical mess that – hindsight will show – sent the Party spinning out of control.
  • PA State Rep Mike Vereb

    PA State Rep Mike Vereb

    Pride and excitement at the election of State Representative Mike Vereb as MCRC chairman after the unconscionable behavior of a person who shall remain nameless.  I even wrote a glowing review of Mike’s fantastic acceptance speech a scant two years ago.

  • Confusion and frustration in witnessing – from afar – the infighting between The Committee and Joe Gale, the un-endorsed winner of a spot on the 2015 GOP ticket and the ONLY Republican – aside from Risa Vetri Fermin – to win their general election vote.
  • Disbelief that Republicans did not win a single row office in November 2015.

My own personal, foot-soldier/committee representative/Republican voter view is that the GOP in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania can’t seem get out of its own way.  What was a troubling anomaly in the Castor-Matthews imbroglio became a trend in the MCRC-Gale falling out.

I do not pretend to know all the reasons, the personal issues, ill-will, prideful stances, or nasty accusations that led to a voter-endorsed candidate being ostracized from our own Election Day GOP Party recommendations.  I just have the impressions that the episode was a case of cutting one’s nose off to spite their face; indicative that the MCRC had gotten even worse – not better – since Castor and Matthews had their schoolyard tiff; and instead of working towards Party unity, was trapped in a distrustful downward spiral.

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Commissioner-elect Joe Gale

Not that we could possibly get much lower than the dazed, bloodied, and laying flat-out on the floor position we find ourselves in today.

So this Tuesday, we will vote for the next chapter in MCRC history.  This time around we have a wealth of candidates looking to become County Party Leader.  Some I know, some I don’t.

I’ll be looking for someone who gets what’s important.  Not The How we got to the lowly place we find ourselves, what’s most important is how do we get back where we were … back where we deserve to be!

With that in mind, I will be sending a link to this blog post to all of the candidates with the opportunity to respond here with their views on getting the CLIMATE of the MontCo GOP right for a Future unclouded by internecine feuds.  I do not want to hear about training committee representatives, improved communications, or changing the Party structure.  In my humble opinion, our problems are BIGGER than that!

Keep an eye here, if you wish.  Maybe we’ll get some answers …

Maybe …

I intend to go to Tuesday’s election meeting out of an obligation to contribute what little I can to making sure the Party is in the best position to recover from this not-so-special episode of “Lost in Space”.

Montgomery County and the Republican ideals we value deserve a much better effort!

 

Rocky Balboa, the common cold, and “Family Feud”

latestThose three things are an unusual combination.  And although there’s nothing Rocky Balboa, the common cold, and “Family Feud” have in common with each other, they converged to create a social phenomena in Pennsylvania in the Spring and Summer of 1977.

The Pennsylvania Lottery was only five years old at the time; offering only a Daily Number (3-digit) until recently adding scratch-off instant lottery tickets.

It was May 1976.  Tom and Philomena Drake had been married for two years and living in McMurray, PA when Tom happened to plop into a seat in a Pittsburgh movie theatre to see the critically acclaimed movie, “Rocky“, about a down-trodden Philadelphia club fighter thrown by happenstance into a title fight against Apollo Creed, the Muhammad Ali-like Heavyweight Champion of the World.

It was the planting of a seed that would soon sprout for Tom Drake a tree of dubious inspiration.

One year later, Philomena came down with a cold.  Their doctor told them that stress was contributing significantly to her health issues.  The Drakes were pulling in roughly $20,000 a-year in wages, and they were never seeing each other. She working during the day as a secretary at U.S. Steel; he as a neophyte real estate salesman working many nights and weekends.

Tom was looking for a way to relieve their financial pressure and maybe – just maybe – allow Phil to give up her job.  Or as Tom put it, “What can I do so she can quit her job and we can get closer together?”

richard-dawson-440_featured_photo_galleryThat Monday Tom was watching “Family Feud” (the original version with the since deceased Richard Dawson) and that – amazingly enough – was the clincher!  Somehow Tom put together his wife’s physical malady, a movie about a brawler’s a never-ever Big Stage opportunity, and a game show highlighting overly energetic family members being alternately wooed and ridiculed by a smarmy Brit in a nice suit to come up with a – not surprisingly – wacky idea.

Tom called his wife at work; told her to come home right away; to not even wait for the bus.  Take a cab ($20 fare)!  When Philomena arrived at home, she found that her husband had cleaned out their savings account ($1100.) and then announced the fruit that had flowered from that Tree of Dubious Inspiration.

His idea:  Liquidate all their assets and buy $20,000 worth of $1 Pennsylvania “Instant Bingo” scratch-off lottery tickets!

The goal:  Win the grand prize of $1,000-a-week for Life!

State lotteries were new back then.  So when someone saw what looked like a get-rich-quick scheme, they perhaps did not take as close a look at the odds of winning.  The odds, under the method Pennsylvania was using for “Instant Bingo” and awarding the grand prize, came out to 35,000,000-to-1.  But since the Drakes were intending to buy 20,000 tickets, a local university professor calculated the odds at 1700-to-1.

Not exactly a sure thing …

Once State lottery officials heard of the scheme, they tried – unsuccessfully – to talk the Drakes off their 20,000 ticket ledge.  To no avail, largely because of “Rocky” and “Family Feud”.

“The people want me to win.  They really believe I’m going to win.  I’m going to win.”, Tom said, climbing higher into that Tree of Dubious Inspiration.  He was certain “Rocky” had sent him a message.  No one gives up.  Family Feud proved ” … all over the country people were rooting for these people to win.”

In Tom Drake’s head they would root for Tom and Philomena Drake too.

Maybe they did.  Maybe they didn’t.  But certainly I can remember the story, and thinking to myself, “This guy is nuts.”  But what did I know.  Over the course of that Summer I lost track of the story.  The Drakes were scratching off tickets into November of that year.  I wondered from time to time how that all turned out.

1972_Chevrolet_Vega_HatcbackAmong the assets the Drakes sold were their furniture, two trotting horses, and three acres of farm land.  Despite the farm, they were living in a one-bedroom apartment.  They also sold their 1974 Chevrolet Vega.  (Remember those butt-ugly cars?)

There were two ways you could claim the top prize of $1000-a-week for Life.  One was to collect enough games pieces to spell out (There were letters on each “Instant Bingo” card.) “Pennsylvania”, “Lottery”, or “Bingo”.  The second method was to win a random drawing, where entry was controlled through qualifying numbers on the “Instant Bingo” cards, resulting in 42,000 potential entrants.  Ten (10) qualifiers would be picked from those 42,000, then one Grand Prize winner would be selected from those 10.

The Drakes’ dream amounted to allowing Philomena to quit her job; buying a nice house; raising a family; and allowing Tom to “… get into harness racing the right way.”  Hmmmm …. to that last one, but dreams are dreams.

Personally, I might have been satisfied with the horses and the farm land, though maybe not the Chevy Vega.

So how did it all turn out?

Through their first 1500 scratch off tickets, they won $500 (down $1000.).  After 3000 scratches, they had accumulated $700 (down $2300.).  $14,100. in scratch-offs later (roughly 200 scratches a day), they finished up by a thousand, having hit one $10,000. prize and several smaller hits.

Was it worth it? Going through all that work, the scorn, the shaking heads and perplexed looks, not to mention the obvious anxiety of “chuck(ing) it all” – as Tom characterized it – at a lottery long-shot dream?

Most of us would say, “No.”

But Philomena would disagree, echoing a statement by Tom quoted earlier in this post.  As they sat a card table in front of a drug store perfume counter, speaking to a reporter and frantically scratching instant tickets, Phil said, “We get to spend so much time together now.  We’re so much closer.”

Sometimes the Dream that gets answered is The One you really needed, not the Dream you thought you wanted.