I stopped to buy a lottery ticket at a joint on the Florida-Alabama line.
Yeah, I know the lottery is a fool’s game, but I have a longstanding tradition of doing foolish things.
The man at the counter was sipping from a red SOLO cup, chewing ice. On the radio, Loretta Lynn sang. I bought three Powerball tickets and a Coke.
The man said, “Powerball’s up to three forty-eight.”
That’s 348 million bucks. And even though I’m no mathematician, I’ve been thinking about what I’d do if the universe ever gave me that much money.
That’s what writers do, you see. We stare into space, thinking long and hard about things that will never happen just in case they do. If you do it right, people think you’re working.
First: I would buy a farm. A big one. Not for livestock. This would be sprawling countryside, live oaks, and ponds.
Then, I would build hundreds—no thousands of cabins. Little ones, with porch swings, and scenic views. I would call this operation, “Ellie Mae Farms,” since it will need a name, and my coonhound, Ellie Mae, is sleeping on my feet while I write this.
Yes, here at Ellie Mae Farms, we believe in three things. Foster kids, foster dogs, and saturated fat. Every summer, we’ll welcome kids without parents, who don’t think anyone gives a cuss about them.
We give lots of cusses at Ellie Mae Farms.
We’ll have colossal breakfasts. Any dish you can think of. Bacon, eggs, Conecuh sausage, omelettes, ten-foot-tall glasses of orange juice.
They will send out the local news choppers just to cover our breakfasts.
Our staff will be school teachers. We’ll pay them triple—no ten-times what teachers get paid today. Not only will they teach, they’ll receive five months paid vacations, benefits, complimentary massages, and monthly beer allowances.
And don’t forget our animal shelter. The entire South side of our property is all rescue dogs. They roam free here at Ellie Mae Farms. So make sure you watch where you step—we encourage our dogs to eat high-fiber diets.
Kids and dogs will be paired together, and stay in cabins. Our cabins are well-stocked with the essentials: clean towels, fishing rods, tackle boxes, Oreos, Pay Days, Chili Cheese Fritos, playing cards, SPAM.
Summers will belong to these children. They will run, play, laugh, and develop healthy sunburns.
We’ll have big Christmases, too. Outdoor games, sleigh rides, caroling, tree lightings.
But NOTHING will be as fun as springtime.
Spring is when the farm comes unglued. Our covered-dish suppers will be the Eighth Wonder of the Dadgum World.
I’m talking shindigs of Biblical proportions. Barns with long tables. Fried chicken, barbecued pork, potato salad, and biscuits rich enough to violate federal trade regulations.
Eating with your hands is mandatory. We’ll have dinner music played by bands with twin fiddles and Stetson hats. And nightly baseball games.
And because we believe in bettering ourselves, every cabin will feature a library of sacred books on the nightstands. Classics like: the Adventures of Superman, MAD Magazine, Saturday Evening Post, and the complete works of the late great Kathryn Tucker Windham.
Yes, here at Ellie Mae Farms, it’s my hope to give kids and dogs a fighting chance. The chance to feel like the world is with them instead of against them.
The chance to fall asleep with sunburns on their necks and grins on their faces.
But until my farm thing comes through, I simply hope that anyone reading this knows that someone loves you. I hope every puppy feels wanted. And every child, too.
They pick the Powerball numbers tonight.
Wish me luck.
Sandi in FL - March 8, 2018 7:02 am
Sean, I hope you bought the winning lotto ticket!
Lloyd Stamper - March 8, 2018 7:06 am
Sean, in “Winner”, you speak of Ellie Mae Farm. I’m confused. I thought that was Heaven.
3 John 2,
Karen Greatrix - March 8, 2018 7:11 am
What a wonderful plan. I hope you win.
CALISTA B DUBOSE - March 8, 2018 7:23 am
Please let Sean pick the winning numbers so he can buy a farm. I sure would feel better about this world knowing there was a place called Ellie Mae Farms and I think You would too, Lord.
Donia - March 8, 2018 7:52 am
I love your noble plans, Sean! I have plans too. (Not for the lottery but for when I win Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. Don’t laugh…someone is going to win and it could be me.) I’ve kept a list for years. First, I will pay off mortgages and get new cars for a few hard working relatives who could use some help. Next on the list are Single Mothers who have paint peeling off their houses, leaking roofs, broken plumbing, ancient appliances, cars that barely run, and a myriad of other needs. Their kids need braces for their teeth and new shoes, wish they had a bike, secretly dream about piano or guitar lessons, and have never had a real vacation trip. You see, I’ve been there so I know what goes on in the life of these moms and their children. Next on my list are widows whose houses are in bad need of repair, but they are now the forgotten people. There are so many who could use a helping hand. All we have to do to see them is look around our neighborhoods. Maybe I can lighten the load someday, and that’s what I daydream about.
Dennis Lowery - March 8, 2018 10:36 am
Yep, my wife and I have had the same thoughts. There was 500 acres for sale next to our property at one time and we talked about how many cabins and barns and trails we would have built. Have been foster parents in the past. Yes, there is a real need for someplace like you describe.
Marilyn Vance - March 8, 2018 10:36 am
Sounds like heaven to me, Ellie Mae Farms……
Susan - March 8, 2018 11:07 am
I hope YOU win.
Kathy G. - March 8, 2018 11:14 am
I want to wolunteer at your farm! Keep me posted, Sean. ❤️
Kathy G. - March 8, 2018 11:15 am
Oops — volunteer. ?
Sherry - March 8, 2018 11:29 am
Good luck….And if you win, I want to be one of your teachers!
Cathi - March 8, 2018 11:46 am
Sean, that sounds like my idea of heaven.
Mo Malphrus - March 8, 2018 11:57 am
Sean Dietrich you have a huge heart!! Love this!!
Trina V. - March 8, 2018 12:01 pm
I am officially applying for a teaching position at Ellie Mae Farms. I was on board even before you explained the salary and benefits package. ? In my 25+ years as a teacher, I have had many students who would have loved the chance to spend their summers at a place like Ellie Mae Farms.
Jean - March 8, 2018 12:04 pm
If God reads this and knows of your plans, you might just win.
Penn Wells - March 8, 2018 12:31 pm
And good tomatoes. Will there be good tomatoes? You know, the kind that aren’t perfectly red all the way to the stem, have a few wrinkles and more acidic than potash? And white bread? And my mom’s homemade mayo? Just sayin’…
Will McCarty - March 8, 2018 12:32 pm
God let Sean win the Florida Powerball lottery! Elle MAE Farms needs to be a reality for the sake of those kids and dogs! What a wonderful world it would be!
Lis - March 8, 2018 1:03 pm
I want to live there too!! I can even help pick up dog poo. My husband and I could stay in the dog side to take care of them.
Janet Williams - March 8, 2018 1:04 pm
Call me when you win! I have dreamed of starting just such a farm! I’ll work for free!
Jennifer Feist - March 8, 2018 1:08 pm
As Milan the Croatian said to us one time let me tell you something good luck with that
Rhea Wynn - March 8, 2018 1:11 pm
Sean, I have taught high school for 32 years. I would love to work at your farm. When it becomes a reality, I would be honored to apply. Several members of my family teach and coach – just let us know when we need to start. This sounds like doggie, kid, and teacher heaven. Good luck!!!!
Patricia Maness - March 8, 2018 1:36 pm
God Bless You, Sean Dietrich! Can’t wait to hear you at the Alabama Writers Symposium!
Connie Griggs - March 8, 2018 1:55 pm
What a wonderful heart you have! I don’t usually pray about winning a lottery, but today I am. ????
Sue Cronkite - March 8, 2018 2:00 pm
Sounds like a plan. Good luck.
Margo McGinness - March 8, 2018 2:12 pm
Can I come too? I am 71 so technically that leaves me without parents. I have had years of my own kids and nine grands so I have experience in hugging. Let me know when you win.
George Brannen - March 8, 2018 2:27 pm
absolutely nothing to do with your article but in another life, i had a salesman that worked for us name Sean Fowler. his customer base was extremely rural, we got so many calls for CN Flowers that we started caliing him that. this is in Middle Georgia, i can only imagine Sean Dietrich in Lower Alabama.
Amy - March 8, 2018 2:37 pm
I’d be your first donor in this venture!
Jack Darnell - March 8, 2018 3:10 pm
Well dad gummit!! As I always say, maybe next time! As always! And I like to read about another dreamer!
Michelle - March 8, 2018 3:17 pm
I love this 348 million times! <3
Margarita - March 8, 2018 3:21 pm
What a wonderful,world it’ll be when you win ! I’m not a teacher, but I will come cook!
Blessings to ya! Margarita
Kim - March 8, 2018 3:23 pm
I will come TEACH and COOK on Ellie Mae Farms! My day job is teaching and my night/weekend job revolves around feeding the masses (we cater too)! Would love to see you win!!!!
Patricia Schmaltz - March 8, 2018 3:38 pm
Even though we’re playing, I’m wishing on YOU to win the big one! Sending hugs.
Carol Houston Rothwell - March 8, 2018 3:54 pm
Sending prayer’s you win….!!
We ,the children the pets, need ELLIE MAE FARMS !!
God Bless You!!!
suziern - March 8, 2018 3:55 pm
Just love you and the Ellie Mae Farms!
Kelli Hodges - March 8, 2018 4:05 pm
This writing makes me realize just how lucky I was to grow up with every single thing you just mentioned. From hound dogs to fishing poles to SPAM. I am indeed blessed beyond what I deserve…..I’d love to work on Ellie Mae Farms with you.
Judy Ennis - March 8, 2018 4:06 pm
Sounds like a piece of heaven. Let me know when you’re ready to hire your staff.
Sara Moseley - March 8, 2018 4:06 pm
Im praying to Jesus that you win, just keep writing when you do!
Judith - March 8, 2018 4:11 pm
Agh. Conecuh sausage the best. Kathryn Tucker Windham, awesome reads. Her son, Ben, passed away last week or the week before. Loved his columns in the Tuscaloosa News. Love your stories.
Debbie W Hall - March 8, 2018 4:15 pm
As with everything you write, I love this…and I love the idea! Thank you for remembering my friend, Kathryn Tucker Windham…it brought back such happy memories for me!
Janet Mary Lee - March 8, 2018 4:25 pm
From your mouth (or pen) to God’s ear! I would come help, too!!
Ted Hinson - March 8, 2018 4:36 pm
If you need an old, crusty rascal to help the kids bait their hooks with worms and crickets, I’m your Huckleberry! Can help the dogs with the necessary belly rubs, too!
Lesa - March 8, 2018 4:42 pm
I will update my resume, just in case.
Diana - March 8, 2018 4:52 pm
Sincerely hope you win!
Jack Quanstrum - March 8, 2018 5:15 pm
Gordon - March 8, 2018 7:21 pm
Wishing you much luck, Sean with the power ball. This could be your time and your plan for the money is awesome! Another awesomeness is that you mentioned the late and dear Kathryn Windham. It was my joy to be associated with this wonderful story teller; to be a part of her 90th birthday celebration (am now looking at a photograph of the two of us on that grand celebration day); attend the same church with her; eat blackeyed peas at her house many New Years Day; play combs with her at several of our “comb concerts” at the library in Selma; attend many times the storytelling festival she established in central Alabama (it is still taking place); help lead her memorial church service and graveside service at her passing. What wonderful, wonderful memories of a great storyteller. She would be very proud of the way your words speak to so many individuals in our crazy culture. Keep them coming, Sean!
Rose Ann Butero - March 8, 2018 7:22 pm
Good luck Sean! With a farm like that what else could you want
Charlotte Scholl - March 8, 2018 7:23 pm
Good luck, I want to come work at Ellie Mae farms. I’m a school counselor at an elementary school. This sounds like paradise.
Patsy - March 8, 2018 8:40 pm
Aww this sounds heavenly!! I feel like I have a small start on your dream. I am a 76 year great grandmom, taking care of 3 of my great grandchildren. We have 4 dogs and 2 cats and have a front porch swing. We love collosial breakfast and may soon have 2 more cousins join us! I read your column to them and they love your farm!! Keep dreaming and I wish you luck!
Linda Hodges - March 8, 2018 10:56 pm
I enjoy your writings so much! You are a special person – wish our world was filled with more “yous”!
stacysstories540797626 - March 9, 2018 1:04 am
As a school teacher I would be first in line to work at Ellie Mae Farms! Dream big and dream often.
Gail Stewart - March 9, 2018 6:15 am
Oh I hope you win to! What a wonderful wish! What a heart of gold you have! Every dog should have a kid and vise versa! I love you!
Stuart - March 9, 2018 9:02 pm
Love your stories, and especially love this dream!
Susan Hammett Poole - March 10, 2018 10:50 pm
And even if you never win the Power Ball millions, you, Mr. Sean Dietrich, hands down, are the Top Winner in the category I’m titling “Wonderful Man & Writer of Human Nature Stories in the USA.” Amen and so be it.
Pat Yard - May 16, 2018 11:34 am
I truly hope you win! I’m reading this at 6:15 in the morning, and I hope your numbers were the winners! It would be an awesome celebration of love and selfless giving! So make your plans cause one day you will better a winner and you will get to do wonderful things!
kelliec - May 16, 2018 12:52 pm
If, by some unlucky chance, you’re not the winner, I’d like to make a donation to get Ellie Mae Farms up and running. And, I’d like do a stint teaching, fishing, having nightly talks on those porch swings and loving on those dogs.
Annette H. Bailey - May 16, 2018 2:04 pm
Sean…I sincerely hope you win a big chunk of money one day and invite me to your sprawling acres of fun and wonderment….I may be sixty, but my mind stays in a world like you painted. We couldn’t have children and Casey, our Golden Retreiver, was our ball of fur. He loved nothing better than to knock over things, jump into a small lap, being rubbed on his belly and jumping into water! We miss him greatly. I always said if I won millions of dollars, I’d rebuild my small town of Georgiana where Hank WIlliams, Sr. was born. It use to be a bustling town and pretty too. Now, it’s practically a ghost town. I married someone 40 miles south of there and it’s a great small town called Andalusia. We’ve got some nice folks here who work hard and love life. But with your small cabins and acres to run, it sounds like the place everyone dreams of going. So, I hope you win one day. I’d love to visit and watch all the merriment you’ve described! Good luck, son! And God bless!
Diane Rinaldi - May 16, 2018 2:14 pm
Here’s me, praying you won the Lotto! Dan and me and our 3 kids we adopted from foster care will move to a farm near you and help love on kids and cook food!
Linda Ramsey - May 16, 2018 5:48 pm
Sean, I would expect nothing less of you WHEN you win the lottery! I love you and your compassionate heart ?????