July 2012
Through the Fence

Bad Bets

Some Risks Aren’t Worth It

It’s taken me over 20 years, but I’ve finally stopped betting with my husband. But not before I’d lost lots of money, at least on paper. Other than a dollar or a cup of coffee, I don’t know that he actually ever made me pay up. I should have realized he was too frugal, some might say tight, to gamble even a nickel if he wasn’t absolutely sure he was right.

There was only one memorable exception. Foolishly, he bet me on the spelling of a word — two actually. Now I can’t tell right from left, or which direction we’re driving, but I’m a spelling fanatic. He should have known better — I’m an English teacher! But he bet me the towns of Nacogdoches, Texas, and Natchitoches, Louisiana, were spelled the same. For all my gloating, I think I won a whopping ten bucks.

Our kids learned early in life to always tell their daddy an unequivocal NO when he proposed a bet. Our son, Landon, was about 6 and his older sister, Lucia, was 9. They were coming in from feeding their show goats when Landon got distracted by one of his favorite pastimes — rock chunking. He’d tossed a few on the way back to the house, when miraculously one hit a telephone post several yards away. It hit with a thud and bounced off.

The boy was astounded and proud of what he deemed a Herculean feat.

"Wow, Dad! Did you see that?" he called out to his father.

"Betcha can’t do it again," his daddy said skeptically.

"Sure I can," Landon boasted.

But his father knew it was a fluke that the rock had actually hit the pole. When he laid out the proposition, both kids’ eyes nearly popped out of their heads.

"I’ll pay you a hundred dollars if you can hit that pole with a rock again from the same distance. But………..for every rock you throw and miss, you owe me a dollar."

It seemed too good to be true. Knowing my son, he was already calculating in his mathematical brain how many Hot Wheels® cars and bouncy balls he could buy with that ridiculous sum of money.

Of course, Lucia wanted in on the deal as well, feeling smugly superior to her kid brother. Landon went first. He reared back and hurled a rock in the general vicinity of the pole. It missed it by two feet. He tried again, this time taking a little more careful aim. That one went wide to the left by several feet. But the little guy wasn’t deterred, never considering the tab he was racking up. Again and again he aimed, threw and missed before taking a break to re-evaluate. Then it was Lu’s turn. She picked up a large rock and lobbed it at the pole. It wasn’t even close. She sailed about a dozen more with the same result before letting Landon try again.

"You give?" their daddy asked with a smirk.

He reminded them of the cost of every toss which only steeled their resolve. Over and over each kid tried to repeat that miraculous hit without success. Landon gave up at 22 and Lucia didn’t quit until 38. They were both so disappointed they’d lost the bet, but even more so when it came time to settle their debt. Sullenly, they traipsed back into the house. They delved into their allowance envelopes and counted out the crinkled one dollar bills into their father’s hands.

"Guess you’ll think twice about betting with me next time, won’t you?" he said with a wink.

So now they’re older and wiser, and, even when they’re tempted to bet him on what seems to be a sure thing, they remember the rock chunking incident. Regardless of the circumstances, they always find the nerve to politely decline. It was a hard lesson, but at least I think they can safely go to Vegas now and not gamble away whatever life savings they’ve amassed. No matter the odds, no matter how sweet the deal or how high the payoff — they know that some risks just aren’t worth it.

Lisa Hamblen Hood lives near Priddy, Texas, where she teaches English, Art and Spanish. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..