I don’t know why, but gambling has never appealed to me.      
Oh sure, I enjoyed a few games of penny-ante euchre during my daily commute on the school bus. But growing up out here on our prairie dairy farm, we remained insulated from large-scale, industrial gambling, the kind of wagering one would associate with a casino.       
As a kid, I learned from television that casinos were palaces of glitz and glamor that only existed in Las Vegas. Casinos were dazzling and posh and had cabarets where guys like Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra hung out, sipping brandy from glass snifters as an endless parade of comely showgirls strutted across the stage.      
Things have changed over the decades. Vegas is there, its casinos are bigger and gaudier than ever, and the showgirls strut their stuff in their feathery getups. But Vegas has mounted an effort to attract a more diverse clientele by providing family-friendly attractions: You kids enjoy the waterslides while Mommy and Daddy shoot craps with your college fund.    
When I was a youngster, no one would have dreamed of building a casino here. How could you compete with Vegas? After all, there’s only one Wayne Newton.      
This explains why, some years ago, I found myself meeting my in-laws at a new local casino. It was my first foray into the world of commercial gambling.     
The casino had been constructed on a patch of former prairie on the outskirts of a nearby small town. While it wasn’t nearly as opulent as Caesars Palace or the Venetian, it was nonetheless an impressively large shed.
I’m a farmer at heart. As I walked into the casino, I tried to calculate how many head of cattle one could house in the structure. There was certainly more than enough space to park a combine and couple of tractors in their entertainment venue.
After stretching our bellies at the buffet (It was all you can eat, so I did.), my father-in-law asked if I would like to stroll with him over to the gaming area.       
As we approached the gaming floor, I picked up on a strange noise that slowly began to grow. It gradually became clear that the racket was the combined mechanical keening from scores of hardworking slot machines.       
My father-in-law found an open machine and commenced feeding it quarters. I decided to wander around, get a feel for the place and do some people watching.       
I spent several minutes observing the action at a blackjack table. I work hard for my money, so it made me squeamish to see people plunk down a week’s wages on a single hand. My banker probably wouldn’t have viewed playing blackjack as being part of a sound financial strategy. 
The casino had no windows or clocks to remind gamblers of the passage of time. A set of neon tubes snaked across the ceiling, an artificial galaxy cutting a path through a manmade sky.       
There weren’t any showgirls, but I saw a poster proclaiming that a rock band who had reached peak popularity in the early 1970s would be performing at the casino’s entertainment venue. A lone barmaid served drinks in disposable plastic cups; I didn’t see anyone sipping brandy from a glass snifter. 
Very little glitz, no glamor, nothing to make me feel like a gambler. I wondered if I’d missed something, so I made further observations.       
One woman was playing three slot machines at a time. She had a slavish routine: drop quarter, push button, drop quarter, push button, ad infinitum. She appeared as bored and apathetic as an assembly line worker.       
I saw a frail old dude who was feeding a slot machine as he drew air from a tube connected to an oxygen tank. I wanted to shake the old guy and yell, “What are you doing? Don’t fritter away your precious time. Quit this place and embrace life. Kiss a pretty girl. Go bungee jumping. Watch a sunrise. Skydive. Get out and do something, anything!”      
But then I thought, “Who knows? Maybe he’s already seen enough sunrises. Perhaps bungee jumping and skydiving are old hat to this guy. Maybe kissing a pretty girl would mess up his pacemaker. It could be that the only enjoyment the old geezer gets is coming here so he can make believe – however briefly – that he’s Dean Martin.”       
My father-in-law found me just then. 
“You going to try your luck before you head back to the cows?” he asked.       
It finally dawned on me why I have no desire to gamble.  
“No, thanks.” I replied proudly. “I’m a farmer. I gave at the office.”
Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.