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Down on the Farm: Lottery winnings

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What would you do if you won a billion dollars in the lottery?

Although I don't play the lottery, the dream of unlimited wealth sometimes bounces around in my head as I drive across the prairie or try to fall asleep after too much coffee.

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First priority: Buy the Twins. Fire the competent but uninspired Gardenhire. Hire Ozzie Guillen. Bring up the spectacular young talent from the minors and let them learn on the job.

Turn off the loud music at the games. Get rid of the contrived cheers led by the massive screens. Let the game proceed in an old, lazy, summer rhythm.

No racing mascots between innings. No kiss cam. No AC/DC interludes to introduce Justin Morneau, especially when he's hitting like Emmy Lou Harris.

Oh, and I will be the public address announcer. Just because I can. You want to argue with me? I have a billion dollars, I can do whatever I want. And I have wanted that job since I realized I would never play third base.

Another dream: Drive around the countryside and buy every old tractor with a for sale sign on it. Every one. Build a massive building on the order of a hangar for the space shuttle to hold them all.

Have company over for BBQ and take them out to the hangar to look over the tractors.

A little more offbeat: Buy up farm land and plant trees in rows that spell out messages which can only be seen from space, or from jets passing overhead.

Test the limits of freedom of speech. Spell out a controversial message with rows of poplar and see just who would try to shut you up with a lawsuit. NASA? The airlines?

Why not have a semi-trailer open its endgate and dump 5,000 basketballs on the top of a long hill in a rocky gulch during rush hour somewhere in California? Video the results.

A more serious dream, but probably not: I love pipe organs. Always have. In Minneapolis, one of the world's great pipe organs, a Kimball built for the old Minneapolis Auditorium in 1928, sits in storage.

When the auditorium was destroyed in 1987, an organization tried to save the organ and install it in the new convention center.

Experts figured the cost of moving the organ would run into the millions, but one bidder came in very low and he was given the job.

The company took the down payment, spent it in a dubious manner, and disappeared from the scene.

The organ was disassembled and moved to the chambers built for it in the Minneapolis Convention Center, several train cars worth of pipes and blowers sitting in silence.

Somebody with lottery money is needed to provide the millions necessary to make the monster roar again as it did in the 1920s, before the invention of big speakers made loud music cheap.

With a billion in the bank, I would come to the rescue of the old Kimball. However, I would move it north and set it up in the same hangar I build for the tractors.

Pipe organ concerts amongst old tractors?

When you have a billion dollars, you can do whatever you want.

Of course, none of these whimsical dreams do anything to improve the lot of humanity, which is what the better billionaires try to do with their money.

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, billionaires dozens of times over, devote more and more of their time and cash every year to help those less fortunate.

So, what charity would I support with my billion dollars?

Andrew Carnegie built hundreds of libraries, but I wouldn't build a thing, I would just save what we have.

My dream would be to save and restore every old country church that's still standing.

That might sound like a waste of money, but these old country churches were put up with the sweat and tears of our immigrant ancestors. They have soul.

The primary structures popping up in the countryside right now are steel farm buildings which store new tractors. Oddly, the steel buildings are starting to sprout a few architectural niceties, like cupolas, but that is like putting lipstick on a pig.

By preserving the old churches — and the old town halls, too, while we're at it — we would pay tribute to the hardworking immigrants who filled the prairie 100 years ago, determined to build a new society.

The beauty of their public buildings showed that even during their back-breaking labors, the impoverished newcomers maintained a taste for the finer things in life.

They didn't wait to win the lottery before they did something good.

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Eric Bergeson

Eric Bergeson is the third generation owner of Bergeson Nursery in Fertile, Minn., a business started by his grandfather in 1937. He also writes a weekly column for several newspapers in northwestern Minnesota. He has published four books, including most recently Pirates on the Prairie, which the Minneapolis Tribune called "a Minnesota cultural and historical treasure." You can read more from Eric at his website, The Country Scribe

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