Ikaria has always been considered by other Greeks as an island outpost, somewhat backwards and full of loveable but eccentric locals. Ikarians certainly do not see themselves described in such unflattering and uncouth terms. They see themselves rather as proud, independent and creative individuals. The creative theme struck a cord with me one day in Agios. While returning to my car I was hastily approached by one of our amiable local farmers. This particular farmer decided a few years ago to relocate to a miniscule trailer that he set up in a middle of a deep ravine, a ravine that during the rainy winter months would cascade tons of rainwater down to the Aegean. Nevertheless, he settled into this risky nook amidst the boulders, cacti and the torrential rains. He was even able to somehow gather and herd several farm animals around his little trailer.
As this whimsical and robust stranger approached me I spotted him holding in one hand a gigantic
roll of paper. At first I thought it was a roll of industrial size toilet paper, and this was one of those bodily function emergencies, but as I looked closer I realized it was a large roll of register tape. He quickly cornered me and dove into his animated scheme describing how I could win his highly prized mule in a lottery he was conducting. The cost of a lottery ticket was a mere Euro. It turned out he had written double numbers on the roll of register tape, and as a contestant purchased a number he would tear off the duplicate number and deposit it in his goat skin sack along with the other purchased numbers. Eventually when he figured he had sold a sufficient number of tickets to make a handsome profit on his prized mule, he would draw the winning number from his sack.
Realizing that this was the only way I would ever be a mule owner, and not thinking of the
consequences and responsibilities of owning the animal, I immediately bought five tickets. Driving home that afternoon in a justifiable daze with the five tickets tucked in my pocket, I was seeing myself naming my mule some kind of studly name, and picturing myself triumphantly galloping into Agios on the back of my speedy hybrid. A couple of weeks later I found myself one evening at our local kafenion, when suddenly I thought of the lottery. Curiously I asked around if anyone heard who won the mule sweepstakes. “The old farmer drew a number just a few days ago,” said one of the regulars, “a cousin of his won.” In one quick blow, my dreams of being a mule driver crashed but I smiled thinking about how many others had also invested their Euros in this lucrative mule lottery.