GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Myrneth Halverson didn't give much thought to winning anything when she signed up for a national camping and outdoor gear sweepstakes back in February in the East Grand Forks Cabela's store.
After all, 28 Cabela's retail outlets across the country were collecting entries for the drawing, so the odds weren't exactly in her favor.
Halverson, 66, who lives in Guthrie, south of Bemidji, had all but forgotten about the contest when she got a call in mid-May from a Cabela's representative saying she'd won the "Cabela's Ultimate Family Sweepstakes."
She thought it was a scam, at first, and it took some persuading by Cabela's officials to convince her otherwise.
And yes, the call was legit. Halverson's spur-of-the-moment decision to sign up for the contest that February day in East Grand Forks landed her more than $5,000 in outdoors gear and a $5,000 Cabela's gift card.
Not bad for an entry from one of the smaller Cabela's retail outlets.
"This was in every Cabela's nationwide, and our little store here is the winner," said Carson Robinson, events coordinator for the East Grand Forks Cabela's. "There were thousands and thousands of people that registered."
As part of the contest, Cabela's retail outlets collected entries from store customers across the U.S. Each store then sent the entries to Cabela's corporate headquarters in Sidney, Neb., where a random drawing picked Halverson as the winner.
"It's exciting, that's for sure," Halverson said this week in a telephone interview. "For me to get picked is amazing."
For Halverson, winning the Cabela's sweepstakes marks a welcome turn of events after an incident that occurred in March 2001, when burglars stole more than $15,000 worth of items from the rural home where she lives with her husband, Hartzel.
The extensive list of losses included outdoor gear such as hunting rifles and binoculars, items that never were recovered.
"They stole a lot of things," Halverson said. "You lose that feeling of security in your own home and it just kind of hangs with you."
Winning the Cabela's sweepstakes should replace the outdoors gear and then some. The total prize package was worth $10,154.64.
"It was a surprise," she said. "I had forgotten about the fact we signed up and didn't remember when it was supposed to be drawn."
Halverson said the first 10 boxes of gear arrived by UPS on May 22, and 18 more boxes showed up May 26. Another box was set to arrive in a few days, she said earlier this week.
From a tent that sleeps six to a Garmin GPS and backpacks, sleeping bags and fishing gear, Halverson and her husband are well stocked for their next outdoors excursion.
"There's a lot of very fine stuff," she said.
Tuesday, Halverson and her husband will be returning to the East Grand Forks Cabela's for a 1 p.m. "meet-and-greet" session with store staff in front of the "conservation mountain." That's part of the requirement for winning the contest.
It's also a good excuse to give that $5,000 gift card a workout.
"I sign up for a lot of things, and I've won some smaller items in the past, but nothing like this," Halverson said.
Halverson said she and her husband spend a lot of time outdoors. They hunt deer every fall, she says, and a trout stream flows through their backyard.
"I've been hunting since we got married in 1960," Halverson said. "Just about every year, we're out there hunting deer, and we're pretty successful with it."
The gear won't just be collecting dust, in other words.
The Halversons raised cattle until about three years ago. These days, she says, they keep busy breeding Norwegian elkhound puppies and producing maple syrup and jellies they sell at craft sales around the region.
Finding time to put all of their outdoors gear to use will be a challenge, Halverson admits, but trying will be part of the fun. And with eight children and 19 grandchildren, chances are she'll have plenty of help.
"If I can't use everything, we've got lots of family that can. It will make some very nice gifts for them or whatever," Halverson said. "It's a pretty special deal."
Brad Dokken is an outdoors writer for the Grand Forks Herald. The Herald and the Bemidji Pioneer are both owned by Forum Communications Co.