I was sitting on a bar stool in a pizza place just above Broadway on Eighth Street in Columbia, Mo. I had a draft Coors in front of me and above, behind the bar, the TV was live as they drew birth dates to match draft lottery numbers.
Too young and still not too informed about Vietnam, I had no Plan B if I didn’t get a good number. No thoughts to flee to Canada or abroad, or to fake some illness or mental condition. Just a growing conviction that this was an unpopular war and potentially dangerous to my health and a vague notion about maybe signing up for the Air Force if my luck wasn’t good. I’d spent my first two years in college in Air Force ROTC at Oklahoma State and was about to graduate from University of Missouri’s Journalism School. Maybe the USAF would let me back in on the officer’s track I thought in the way back of my mind. But to tell the truth I was blithely unconcerned. It didn’t seem real to me.
When my birth date of May 29 got number 228 I knew I was golden, off the hook, free to go. I closed that potential chapter of my life story that might have been titled “Vietnam”, with the book maybe abruptly and violently ending there.
While I have played Mega Millions and Power Ball many times and never got within the merest whisker of any prize, I did however win the biggest one of all that day sitting there sipping my Coors in Columbia, Mo. Best beer I ever had.