Only In America . . . TM

Copyright © 2002 Frank G. Van Atta. All rights reserved.


Rupert Wheelspinner flew his kite into a thunderstorm yesterday and received quite a shock when lightning struck the kite and traveled down the metal wire he uses in place of a string. Fortunately for him, he was standing on a six-inch thick rubber mat and wearing a rubber wet suit at the time.

"This makes 63 times I have been hit by lightning in the past 17 weeks," Wheelspinner told the reporters who gathered around him after the incident. "At this rate I'll pass my goal of getting hit 70 times by the end of this month."

"Why would you want to get hit by lightning?" one reporter wanted to know.

"I'm trying to beat the odds to win the lottery," Wheelspinner told him.

He went on to explain that while the odds of winning the lottery were more than 49 million to one, the odds of a person getting hit by lightning are only 700,000 to one. "Put another way, that means that a person is more likely to get hit by lightning 70 times than to win the lottery," Wheelspinner said. "So, I figure once I get hit by lightning enough times, I'll be a shoo-in to win the lottery."

Wheelspinner, a part-time bingo caller from Dothan, Alabama, has been chasing thunderstorms around the country for more than four months. When he finds one, he dons his wet suit, gets up on the rubber platform, and tries to get lightning to strike his kite and travel down the string. So far, his quest has taken him through seven midwestern states and brought him face to face with countless storms.

"As soon as I get my 70th lightning hit, which I expect to happen in about two weeks - during my swing through Indiana - I plan to buy the winning ticket for the giant lottery there," Wheelspinner said.

This has Indiana lottery players and officials alike concerned - ticket sales are down more than 80% across the state, and lottery officials are considering offering Mr. Wheelspinner $1,000,000 cash to stay away from their state. Henry Peckensniff, State Lottery Commissioner, said that the offer was made because "we depend on lottery ticket sales for a large portion of our state revenue, and we will do anything we have to in order to keep that revenue flow intact."

Of course this is exactly what Rupert Wheelspinner wants. "If the other seven states on my itenarary agree to pay me $1,000,000 each, then I'll agree to stay away from their lottery games, also," he said.

So far, lottery officials in every state except Kansas have agreed to Rupert's demands. In that state, Lottery Commissioner Fred Firmlip said that, "the thunderstorms in our state are so powerful that I don't think Mr. Wheelspinner can survive one of our lightning strikes -- even with with his rubber suit and floor mat. But he's more than welcome to try."

Rupert is undeterred by such rhetoric. "I may change my itenerary to get my 70th lightning strike in Kansas instead of Indiana," he said. "Then I can walk away with a $30,000,000 lottery win in Kansas plus $7,000,000 cash from the other -- more reasonable -- states. That will make all of the work of the last several months worthwhile."

Meanwhile, lottery officials in twenty states are considering enacting laws banning anyone who has been hit by lightning from buying lottery tickets.

Copyright © 2002 Frank G. Van Atta. All rights reserved.