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If I were a betting man

Published: Monday, Dec. 10, 2012 11:38 a.m. CDT

About 10 years ago now, I signed up for the interoffice “Secret Santa” deal at the newspaper I worked for at the time.

It was a pretty simple deal. You write down inexpensive gift ideas — things you like that don’t cost more than $5 each — and then draw for the person you will purchase gifts for throughout the Christmas season.

The first two gifts were given in the three weeks preceeding Christmas. Each was limited to $5 in price. Then, at the interoffice Christmas party, the final gifts were exchanged and the identity of your Secret Santa was revealed.

The final gift could not exceed $20 in value.

I think that’s how most of them work. But, I do know from experience that the whole thing works best when you give your Secret Santa plenty of ideas to work with.

That year, the person I was buying gifts for made it really simple, at least I think he was trying to keep it simple. He wrote:

Lottery tickets and beef jerky.

Beef jerky was pretty simple. And there were a lot of different places I could go to get some really good beef jerky.

Lottery tickets — not so much.

Total honesty moment: I bought lottery tickets that year for the person I was buying gifts, but if you asked me today how to do it, I don’t think I could.

I went to the convenience store down the street from the newspaper office and looked at the different lottery tickets in the display. And I looked.

And I looked some more.

And since lottery tickets are kept at the front counter, it was pretty obvious to the store clerk I needed something. I don’t think he knew what it was until I told him, though.

With quizzical look on his face, the clerk took me through the process of buying lottery tickets. And, when I was done, I had $3 worth of beef jerky and $17 worth of lottery tickets, which I then boxed up as a gift.

I think he got a couple of dollars in winnings from the tickets. But, he was happy to have them, so I guess it was mission accomplished.

I’ve never been much for gambling, though.

When I was sports editor in Maquoketa, I once caught wind of an unusual promotion at the river boat casino in nearby Clinton. On your birthday, they let you step inside what looked like a phone booth for a “money grab.”

For 60 seconds, they turn on a blower that causes the wads of cash inside to blow around. You get to keep everything you grab during that minute of chaos.

So, I went to the river boat and tried it out. I got $30. And, so that I didn’t draw too much ire, I walked onto the casino floor — walked around it, actually — before I left.

I went back to Maquoketa and watched a movie at the local theater with my winnings.

Prior to that, my very first company Christmas party in the newspaper business was held at Prairie Meadows. At the end of the dinner, our publisher gave each of us $5 to spend in the casino.

Does that count as gambling? I’m not sure.

I took my $5 and got a roll of nickels. I sat down in front of a nickel slot machine and plunked down 5 cents at a time.

On the third nickel, I hit the jackpot — $100. So, I cashed out and went to the lounge to listen to a Christmas musical act.

I say all this to further illustrate I am not a betting man. Not even close. But, if I were, there is one stone-cold lock I would throw down on.

I firmly believe the year 2013 will be a better year for Newton. And, no, that’s not some sort of political statement.

There are people hard at work at this moment, fighting tooth and nail for our community. Some of those fights are going very well. Others might be considered long shots.

But just the fact there are people fighting at all is a reason to be optimistic.

If you’re reading this, thank a teacher. If you’re reading it in English, thank a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine.

Bob Eschliman is editor of the Daily News. He may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 423, or at beschliman@newtondailynews.com via email.

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