“What are you going to do today?” Linda yells from downstairs..barely audible over the din of the treadmill she fires up 4 mornings a week.
“Research for the blog.” I yell back from my leather recliner in front of the Vizio HD with a HP notebook in my lap and a distilled beverage close at hand.
It’s true, I do get a lot of blog ideas surfing the web but more often than not, I get distracted chasing link after link and end up miles away from the original starting line.
This past week, though, I did come up with what journalists might call an honest to goodness “Scoop.” At least I don’t think anybody else has this one. Maybe nobody cares..but here goes.
How many remember Neal Wanless?
Think back six years to June when a rail-thin down on his luck 23 year old cowboy from Todd County, South Dakota stepped forward to claim the Powerball Jackpot worth 232 million dollars and rode off into the sunset never to be heard from again. Well, that’s not entirely true. First, he took the one-time payment which, after taxes, came all the way down to 88 and a half million dollars. He and his family then used a big chunk of that to buy land out West near Vale. He became South Dakota’s version of the recluse billionaire, Howard Hughes. (If that name doesn’t ring a bell.. I’m sorry..try Google)
Well, I’ve not only seen Mr. Wanless, I’ve talked to him.
Here’s the “Scoop”..the “Exclusive”..the..aw, shut up, Doug.
Even though I was able to go to the Barrett/Jackson Classic Car auction in person when we were in Phoenix last January, I wasn’t there for the biggest day of the sale; So I was anxious to watch a replay on television last week when most of the expensive cars cross the block; some bringing millions of dollars. The bidders themselves are fun to watch as they agonize under the constant pressure to keep going higher and higher in an expensive game of chicken over a vehicle two or more people want.
This was one of those cars.
A 1967 Shelby Mustang race ready GT 500 big block in Midnight Blue. It was a gift from the late Carroll Shelby himself to his son Michael and considered one of the most collectible cars in Shelby history.
Suddenly on TV up popped the bidder in the balcony who seemed determined not to lose out. Immediately, I thought to myself..I’ve seen that skinny guy in the black hat before. You don’t suppose it’s Powerball winner Neal Wanless do you? The bidding went on for some time and the cameras kept going back and forth from car to bidder and then I realized…crap..I’m not recording this. Just then, the gavel came down, “Sold, Sold, Sold..400 thousand dollars.” There’s my guy with a smile as big as his hat getting congratulated by the Barrett/Jackson assistant and I didn’t record it.
Wait a sec. I have DVR..I’m always recording live television. Just hit the reverse button, get your camera out and….voila.
Barrett/Jackson doesn’t disclose buyer’s names but I was convinced in my mind that the young fella who was last seen by most of us picking up that big check in 2009 was, indeed, the same guy picking up a Shelby in Scottsdale.
I was just going to post the pictures and let you decide but then figured..what the heck..maybe I can find out myself so I called some folks I know in Winner where the winning Powerball Ticket was purchased by Wanless. I don’t know if my intention was to dig up some dirt on the young man who left Todd County shortly after he won the money…but I didn’t find any.
So I called a pal in Belle Fourche which is near the ranch Wanless bought with 10 million of his winnings. “He keeps a real low profile.” My friend told me. “He loves horses and rodeo and is very active in both. Around here, most people treat him just like another rancher and I’m pretty sure that how he prefers it. I’m also pretty sure you can’t just drive right out to his place..but he’s certainly not in hiding.”
My friend did give me a number he thought I might try.
I was kind of shocked when a man’s voice answered on the second ring. So surprised that I asked who it was. “This is Neal,” the voice came back. I nervously rattled off that I was Doug Lund with Keloland TV..which was appropriate, of course, to identify myself as a reporter, but I’d hoped to put him at ease first with a little relaxing small talk. So I quickly tried to recover, “Neal that was you I saw on TV getting the Shelby at Barrett/Jackson wasn’t it?” “Yeah. It was” “That’s quite a car.” “Yeah.”
Short one word answers..he hates this. Come, on..think, man, think.
“Neal, it’s been quite a while since the lottery, just wondering what’s been going on in your life. Have you gotten married or any plans to?” “No” “ Would you be open to Kevin Woster coming out to…..CLICK.’
Well, that’s what I get for acting like some TMZ or ET reporter.
I’ve never been cut out for ambush interviews or trying to squeeze answers out of people who just want to be left alone.
So that’s it; my big scoop; three short answers in a phone call Neal Wanless wanted no part of and a screen grab from a TV car auction..all from the comfort of my man cave.
Linda’s right I do need to get out more.
As for Neal Wanless. I’m sorry I bothered you, Bud. I won’t be calling again and I hope others respect your privacy too. I also hope you can understand that not everyone wants something from you..it’s just that you’re living the dream so many have envisioned for themselves and are simply curious.
But enjoy your fortune your way. Keep respecting God, your parents and hard work.
Oh, and have fun with that special new Mustang named “Shelby” now in your stable with those other prized Ponies.