DALLAS -- Like many West Texas cotton farmers, Gene Terry used to wake up every morning wondering how he was going to pay his bills. But as Thanksgiving dawned yesterday, the Roby, Texas, resident wondered how he was going to spend a million dollars.
Terry was one of 43 Roby residents who will share $50 million in Texas Lotto winnings. The group pooled its money to buy 430 tickets, one of which contained the winning numbers for Wednesday night's drawing.
The spoils come to a farming town of 600 that has been ravaged by dry summers and soaking autumns. Roby relies on cotton, said Terry, 61. Many of the people who were part of the lottery pool were on the verge of quitting farming.
"These are people who really deserved this," said Terry, who is also part owner of Terry's Gin, a cotton gin. "Almost everybody in this was either a farmer or a rancher. And most of the employees of the cotton gin were in on it, too."
For three consecutive years, the cotton yield in Fisher County has been strangled by the elements. Many people have been forced to resort to commutes of up to two hours for low-paying jobs in larger towns such as Abilene and Lubbock.
Peggy Dickson, a bookkeeper at the cotton gin and a member of the Terry family, pulled the lottery pool together Tuesday morning. She had no problem selling the idea, in which participants kicked in $10 a person. The winnings will be split equally.
"Talk about Thanksgiving," Mayor Cecil King said yesterday. "We've really had it here today."
The mayor estimated the winnings will increase the annual income for the lucky Roby participants from around $20,000 a year to $41,000.
Pub Date: 11/29/96