Insurance stories

One of the pleasantest perks of being an author is occasionally being asked to speak at gatherings. The author and his wife are treated to a nice meal prior to the speaking engagement and, depending on the location of the venue, might even enjoy an overnight stay at a quality hotel.

The only downside of the whole thing is the terrifying and gut-churning act of getting up in front of a bunch of people and trying to say something that’s entertaining.

Our most recent speaking engagement was for the South Dakota Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, which was celebrating its 100th anniversary. It’s always nice to be associated with something that’s older than me, a feat that is becoming more and more difficult as time goes on.

The insurance shindig was held at the Arrowwood Cedar Shore Resort at Oacoma, South Dakota. As my wife and I motored over the bridge that took us across the Missouri River, I couldn’t help but think of a particular ballad.

“Oh Shenandoah, I long to see you,” I tried to croon as the mighty Missouri passed under our wheels.

“What’s up with your voice?” asked my wife. “It sounds like you swallowed a carsick toad. And who is this Shenandoah woman?”

We checked into the hotel and strolled over to the venue. We were way early as usual because, according to my wife, if you’re not early, you’re late. I explored the hallways and found a placard that highlighted the legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass.

In 1823, Glass was mauled by an enraged grizzly bear near the current site of the town of Lemmon, South Dakota. Glass was left for dead by his companions, which just goes to show what can happen if you have a high deductible medical insurance policy.

Glass somehow survived his wounds and managed to crawl and boat over 200 miles to Fort Kiowa. Fort Kiowa now lies beneath the murky waters of Lake Francis Case not far from its modern analogy, the Arrowwood Resort.

Glass’s ordeal was dramatized in the movie, “The Revenant.” Glass was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio while the part of the grizzly was played by the Incredible Hulk.

The SDAIC attendees began to arrive at the venue and we chatted with several of them. One couple, Melvin and Doreen, live about two hours south of us. After visiting with them for a few minutes we discovered that we know several people in common.

It could be pointed out that South Dakota is a low-population state and that of course everyone knows everyone and that we are all probably related. This might be true except that we later chatted with a man who hails from southeastern Wisconsin and learned that he and I also know several people in common. The parlor game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is child’s play for Midwesterners.

A guy might surmise that a group of people who are involved with the insurance industry are a stodgy bunch and that their conversations tend to focus on such things as actuarial tables and facultative reinsurance. That guy would be wrong.

The folks we met at the SDAIC were all jovial and outgoing. They shared several insurance-related war stories, but few could top the one that my wife has.

My wife worked at a farm insurance agency for several years. One day a woman came into the office and said that she had a question about a car accident wherein the driver was a dog.

It seems that the woman’s dog had gone missing. A neighbor lady happened to espy the peripatetic pooch and convinced the escapee to get into her pickup. Being a good neighbor, the driver took the dog back to its owner’s house.

The driver got out of her pickup and knocked on the owner’s door. When the owner appeared in the doorway, the dog, overjoyed about being reunited with its mom, jumped up and put its forepaws on the steering wheel. One paw slipped onto the shift lever, slamming the idling pickup into drive.

The pickup smashed through the garage door and damaged a car parked inside. So, the question was: would this be covered by the homeowner’s policy? Or would it fall under the dog’s insurance?

I don’t know who might be liable. I think it would depend on whether or not the dog had a license.

My talk went fine, by which I mean I got through it without major incident. The next morning, as we motored eastward, the lyrics “We’re bound away, ‘cross the wide Missouri,” sprang to mind.

My wife looked at me and asked, “Did you swallow an off-key bullfrog?”

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