A $50,000 Christmas


It was two in the afternoon on Christmas Eve and snow was dumping west of Idaho’s Fourth of July pass. Knowing this, I had pretty much given up any hope of reaching my mom’s house near Seattle so I figured Lincoln’s 50,000 Silver Dollar Bar in Haugan was as good a place as any to fall off the wagon—or sleigh, as it is this time of year.

The main attraction was dark, but the Silver Express Bar next door was open. The barkeep, Cindy, said she didn’t mind working on Christmas but her Santa hat was black where it’s supposed to be white, and the rest of the patrons didn’t really talk. Behind me, a guy played video poker and another decked out in coveralls tugged at a slot machine while Cindy fed his dog, a lab-mix named Ginger.

Halfway through my stop, Cindy’s parents showed up. They felt sorry for me. They’d assumed that I, like the rest of the small crowd, drove an 18-wheeler and had to be away from my family on Christmas. I started to correct them when Cindy’s mother realized she’d left her insulin on the kitchen table. This meant trouble. Without the insulin, they would have to cancel their weekend trip and drive back to Plains that evening.

Instantly, the bar came to the rescue. Phyllis, a regular, had just left and Cindy was sure she took insulin. A discussion ensued. Who else took insulin? Nobody seemed to have cell phones but everyone knew a different number for Cindy to call. As the phone chain spread, I told Cindy’s father I hoped he wouldn’t have to drive home.

“I’m not worried,” he said. “It’s Christmas. They’ll come through.”

Behind me, the guy on the poker machine hooted.

“Hey,” he said. “A straight flush!”

A few minutes later Cindy hit the jackpot.

“Phyllis?” she said. “Hi, this is Cindy.”

Her father smiled. “Merry Christmas,” he said.


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