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Sat, July 20

Teacher's jackpot makes memory for children

Recently we drove north as we always do in August. The occasion was to bring Doug's parents back from Salem, Ore., to Paulden for a visit in the Arizona sun.

We departed mid-morning enroute to our overnight stop in the very small community of Beatty, Nev., two hours north of Las Vegas and offering a small hotel with good food.

We arrived in the late afternoon and checked in. The hotel has a little casino, nearly empty at that time of day. We completed check in and were about to go to our room when bells rang and we heard an excited shout. A middle-aged women sitting at a slot machine hit the jackpot.

She sat with a quiet smile on her face and watched as a stream of quarters built a pyramid of wealth in the machine's stainless steel tray.

Doug, never successful with one-armed bandits, stepped over to her and asked, "How much did you win?"

"I'm not sure," she said grinning and glancing over her shoulder. "But the counter says over a thousand quarters so far."

We watched a moment longer and then went to our room.

Later we were in the dining room seated for dinner.

While we reviewed and discussed the menu, Jackpot Woman came into the dining room with a troop of 10 children following behind her. It seemed they ranged from about 5 to 12 years of age. Two were of Spanish descent, three others were Native American and there were about an equal number of boys and girls.

The troop sat at a table near ours that had been constructed a few minutes earlier from three smaller tables.

A waitress appeared and passed out menus. Jackpot Woman smiled up at her asking if she would return shortly, then she turned to her troop and spoke softly, but in a voice we could easily hear.

"Order whatever you'd like," she said. "You might like to try the lobster or the steak."

"What's lobster?" a young boy asked.

"Lobster," she replied, "is kind of like fish. It comes from the sea and is very good."

"Can we really get anything we want?" asked a wondering girl of perhaps 12.

"Absolutely, dear," said Jackpot Woman.

"Can we get dessert, too?" asked another youngster, seemingly in awe over his good fortune.

"You can have all the dessert you want," smiled Jackpot Woman.

The waitress arrived at our table and we gave her our order.

She then turned to the troop table.

"What are we all having?" she asked cheerfully.

"A toasted cheese sandwich," said one of the children promptly.

"Is that all? How about a steak or lobster? You can have anything you want," reminded Jackpot Woman.

"OK," said the boy, "I'll have two toasted cheese sandwiches and chocolate cake for dessert!"

"That's fine," said Jackpot Woman, a wide smile on her face.

Soon they had all ordered. Lots of questions about lobster and how well done the steaks should be and could they have more rolls and butter and could they have a soda pop with dinner and what is ranch dressing and blue cheese dressing and did they have to have vegetables with their dinner.

While enjoying our meal, we spoke quietly of the joy these children were having and how pleased and happy Jackpot Woman seemed.

As we left the dining room a large tray of desserts had appeared at the troop table and there were grins all around.

The next morning we checked out early and Doug, seeking to satiate his curiosity, asked the desk person, "Did you know there was a big winner last night on that machine over there?"

"Oh, yes," she said, "and I heard she bought a wonderful dinner for her children."

"Those were all her children?" I exclaimed.

"Well, not really. But she treats them as if they are."

"You know her then?" Doug asked.

"Oh, yes. She comes in every Friday after school is out. She buys a roll of quarters, plays them until they are gone, and then has dinner."

"Does she win often?" I asked.

"A little here and there, but nothing like last night. She won 4,000 quarters. A thousand dollars," the desk clerk said proudly.

"She lives in Beatty then?" I asked.

"Oh, yes. She teaches the disadvantaged, mentally challenged children at the school. When she won yesterday afternoon, she got on the phone and called as many of the children's parents as she could reach and asked them to bring the children to the restaurant. She bought dinner for all of them. They got to order whatever they wanted. Most of them had never had a meal in a nice restaurant before."

"Thank you for telling us that," said Doug as we left the desk for the parking lot.

"Isn't it great," said Doug, "that in a little place like this, off the beaten path, you hardly notice it as you pass by, that a generous and loving person is quietly making a difference."

We both felt so very good as we turned out of the parking lot and continued north toward Oregon.

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