Jim Hall from Troy, New York says he's the same man he was before he hit the New York Lottery for $65 million five years ago.
"I'm still the same miserable (SOB) I always was," he said as we kicked back on his porch on a wet Friday night.
Jim is a big man with a deep voice and lifetime memberships in the National Rifle Association and Safari International. He's got the firepower to prove it.
But there's a softness the laid-back 67-year-old can't hide. You can see it in the house Jim and Vivian, his wife of 37 years, remodeled on a pretty 84-acre hillside they bought outside Troy after they hit the lottery.
"She wanted someplace where she could look out the window and see her horses," Jim said. Vivian and her five horses enjoy state-of-the art stalls attached to an 80-foot by 120-foot indoor riding arena Jim had built above the house.
You can also judge a man by his dogs. Jim has two Australian shepherds, Hemi and Teddy, and they adore him.
Dogs don't like miserable people, much less SOBs.
Born on a farm near Canton, Jim earned a living in a foundry and as a mechanic, welder, truck driver and heavy equipment operator before he retired to his home in "downtown Springfield."
Springfield is about eight miles over the hill from his new house. Jim also gave Uncle Sam's Army three years, serving almost two-thirds of his hitch in Germany.
Fate was on his side when the New York Lottery ran its second Millennium Millions in October 2000. Jim bought some gas and a single lottery ticket at the Dandy Mini Mart in Wellsburg.
He found out he was a winner the next Sunday when he and Vivian drove to the Wellsburg Diner for breakfast. En route, they chatted about what they'd do if they hit the lottery, Vivian said.
She waited in the Jeep while Jim went into the Mini Mart to have the lottery machine check his ticket.
Ironically, the numbers were so faint, he couldn't read them.
"They said it was a winner. I said, 'OK.' "
"I don't get excited about a hell of a lot," Jim said. "Something like that takes a long while to settle in."
Others were not as calm.
"Some woman shook my hand and said she'd never met a winner and out the door she went," Jim said.
At first, he was told he'd won $15 million but he'd have to wait until Monday to call the lottery for confirmation. Vivian put the ticket in a zippered part of her purse.
She went to work at Citizens & Northern Bank in Athens that Monday morning.
Jim showed up at the bank about 10 a.m.
"You'd better sit down," he said, before he told her the pot was not $15 million but $130 million.
Jim and a Brooklyn schoolteacher each got half.
Lottery personnel got real excited, Jim said.
"They wanted to get us in a motel, so people didn't bother us. Didn't bother us anyway. Didn't know where we were."
Then it was on to Syracuse to certify the ticket. The Halls balked when asked to journey to New York City for publicity's sake.
"Ain't never lost anything in that place anyway," Jim said. He wanted to do the publicity bash in Wellsburg.
The lottery offered a limo for the trip to New York, but the Halls didn't want to ride. An airplane was out because they don't like to fly.
The Halls agreed to the trip after Jim ran out of excuses not to go, Vivian said, and the lottery produced a 28-foot motor home.
Jim opted to take his winnings in annual installments and hired an accountant, lawyer and financial adviser to handle his affairs.
As you might expect, the Halls got lots of calls looking for money. Telemarketers found out that the verbal abuse wasn't worth it if they called a second time, Jim said.
"You get a lot of wing-dings, people who try to buy you out (annuities) for 60 cents on the dollar."
One of the first things the Halls bought was the hillside property they now call Millennium Acres. It is the perfect base for their favorite things - horses for Vivian, hunting and golf for Jim.
The four-bedroom house is beautifully remodeled but not air- conditioned. Vivian does her own cleaning and cooking.
The grounds complement the house with rich lawns, flower beds and a putting green. Jim does the mowing and plowing.
The Halls really enjoy being at home where jeans and T-shirts are uniform of the day.
"I got just about everything I want," Jim said.
"I got my horses at home and can enjoy life without any worries," Vivian said. "Everyday is Saturday."
She uses her horses and arena to help four children with disabilities through therapeutic riding. Today, one of her kids can ride independently and another can handle a horse-drawn cart.
The Halls have indulged themselves in a few things that could be called luxuries. A cruise to Alaska was one of the first.
"It was semi-exciting," Jim said. "Didn't see any game."
A couple of hunting trips did produce game. One building at Millennium Acres houses a trophy room with two mounted bears - a black bear Jim bagged in British Colombia and a brown bear his 33-year-old son, Adam, shot in Alaska.
Jim has booked a Northwest Territories polar bear hunt in 2008.
The trophy building also houses the virtual golf course he uses when the weather keeps him from Tomasso's Chemung Golf Course in Waverly, his favorite local course.
The virtual course runs on a Windows 98 program. Jim can electronically play 48 golf courses ranging from Banff Springs to Pebble Beach to St. Andrews.
Believe me, it is real. When Jim drives a ball into the wall-sized screen, the electronics pick it up and moves it down the fairway just like it was on the course Jim selected. One drive went 238 yards.
Same goes for chips and putts. He can play 18 holes in about an hour.
Winning the lottery has resulted in some toys for the Halls.
Vivian has her PT Cruiser convertible. Among Jim's toys are a big four-door Dodge Ram pickup, a bulldozer and a showroom condition 1962 Jeep pickup.
"Looked nice, so I said I think I'll have one of those," Jim said. My favorite is his 2002 Chrysler Prowler, the last year they were made.
"They were supposed to make 300 of these," he said. "They only made 250."
Jim's got about 500 miles on it.
As you can see, the Halls didn't make the same mistakes other lottery winners have. They didn't take the much reduced "lump sum." They didn't spend themselves into bankruptcy.
They pretty much live the same life they did before, except, of course, the security and independence well-managed money can bring.
Jim pondered a while when I asked him if he's any happier than he was before the win.
"I don't know," he said. "I ain't any sadder. Let's put it that way."