Wineka column: The things we do for luck

  • Posted: Sunday, March 17, 2013 1:01 a.m.
Franklin Mendoza poses in his kitchen with a $2 bill, which he carries as a good-luck charm.
Franklin Mendoza poses in his kitchen with a $2 bill, which he carries as a good-luck charm.

“Do ya feel lucky, punk?”

— Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry

SALISBURY — Every St. Patrick’s Day, Angela Miller makes a corned beef brisket and cabbage for good luck. Her sister usually comes over to the house and joins her.

The secret to a good, lucky brisket, Miller has found, is to make sure you spread mustard on top for the last 15 minutes.

“I can’t think of a time when I didn’t do it,” says Miller, who credits a Scotch-Irish ancestry — her maternal grandmother was a McClamrock — for giving her this family tradition.

“I like corned beef anyway,” she adds. “It’s a good excuse to eat all those fat grams.”

No other time of year seems as right as this one to talk about good luck and the things we do to secure it. First of all, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, and the Irish have all kinds of superstitions to recognize omens of good luck, or bad.

You know about wearing green, finding four-leaf clovers and shamrocks, tacking up horseshoes and catching leprechauns with their lucky charms.

But those things only scratch the surface in Irish folklore. Just take itching by itself.

If your left hand itches, you’ll be receiving money. If your right hand needs a scratching, you’ll meet a new friend. If your nose itches, someone is gossiping about you, or you’re going to be receiving some news.

The Irish believe it’s bad luck to ask a man who is going fishing where he is going. And they have a thing about magpies — those noisy, black-and-white birds that like to chatter a lot.

It’s generally better to see magpies in groups — not one by itself, which means sorrow might be headed your way. Two magpies translate to joy; three, a wedding; four, someone’s going to have a boy; five, silver; and six, gold.

Besides St. Patrick’s Day, people are pulling out all their lucky stops during the college basketball season. You’ve heard this talk about madness, brackets, seeding and being on the bubble.

Basketball fans have lucky underwear, sweatpants, socks, shoes, shirts, chairs, hats and jock straps. They might have to eat only certain foods for a pregame meal or sit a particular way to even watch the games.

Plenty of these shenanigans will be going on during today’s conference basketball championships, so beware.

I heard recently sailors believe a naked woman on board a boat calms the seas. But I would guess other parts of the boat and men are not calm when this happens.

You probably have heard other more traditional signs of good luck: finding and picking up a penny on the ground, a rabbit’s foot, throwing salt over your left shoulder to cancel out bad luck, carrying an acorn in your pocket, hearing a cricket, having a lady bug stick to you, crossing your fingers, knocking on wood and saying “Bless you” after someone sneezes.

But did you know it’s lucky if you sneeze three times before breakfast? This is a good thing to remember during the cold and flu season.

Like Dumbo the elephant and the lucky feather he held to fly, a lot of folks have more personal good-luck charms.

Miller, our corned-beef brisket lady, also carries a small, circular hambone in her change purse. It’s supposed to bring her more money. As a teenager, she noticed a hambone in her mother’s purse, so she took up the practice.

“She did it all those years — I guess it was good enough for me,” Miller says.

Other people might have lucky coins, polished stones and stuffed animals from childhood. Folks out there think particular pets or being around certain family members bring them luck, too.

A whole different fraternity prefers taking luck out of the equation. They believe more in prayer, faith, positive thinking and hard work.

John Milton said, “Luck is the residue of design.”

Thomas Jefferson offered: “I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

When he was about 7 years old, Franklin Mendoza’s grandfather gave him a $2 bill, the one with Jefferson’s picture on it.

“My grandpa told me that you didn’t see many of them around and that if I kept it, I would have good luck,” Mendoza recalls.

The young Mendoza boy took the words to heart. To make sure he would always have it with him, he placed the two-dollar bill inside a plastic bill protector and taped it to the inside tongue of one of his shoes.

Mendoza never considered himself superstitious, but he seemed to have good luck when he wore the money-lined shoe.

“I would always find cool things while going on walks,” he says, “or meet awesome people. But when I didn’t wear the shoes I would always misplace things or something bad would happen, or I would just have a completely boring day.”

Mendoza isn’t saying the $2 bill had anything to do with it, “but at the time and being young, I believed it brought me good luck.”

Mendoza doesn’t remember what happened to his original $2 bill.

But when he has come across others since then, he tries to hold onto the bill as long as possible, or pass it on to someone else.

Before giving it up, he tells his story first.

About a month ago, Mendoza gave a $2 bill to a guy he has known for a couple of years. The man had been going through some tough times, being unemployed for more than a year.

Since Mendoza gave him the $2 bill and told his friend what a similar bill had meant to him as a child, the man’s luck has been changing.

He received a call back about a job last week.

“Call it luck, or not,” Mendoza says. “It’s all in the eyes of the beholder. ... I’m always on the lookout for another $2 bill and someone in need.”

Don’t even think about it, Duke and Carolina basketball fans.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263,or

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