By Norris Chambers

             During the big oil boom of the late twenties the little town of Cross Cut quickly changed its population from a few old timers to many oil field workers. Ambitious entrepreneurs build dozens of small two room shacks. New business buildings appeared almost overnight on the lone business street of the little town. These buildings included a large two story hotel and several smaller shops for cafes, grocery stores, drug stores etc. A very large building appeared almost overnight featuring a sign across the front proclaiming it “CROSS CUT GARAGE”.

            Clifton and I were immediately attracted to the large junk yard behind the building. There were old cars (and just about everything else that could be called old) scattered over the half-acre bonanza! We had attempted to check out the interior of the business but were immediately informed that unless we had business there we were not welcome. We respected the advice and confined our patronage to the free junk yard behind the building.

            The junk yard was one of the best we had seen and it became more interesting when we opened a large cardboard box and discovered that it was half full of playing cards and other small trash. Why would anyone throw away that many cards? They appeared to be in new condition and the cartons that held them were in the box with the cards.

            “We could sort them and put them back in the boxes and have a lot of cards/” Clifton suggested. I asked him what we would do with them since we never played any card games. Checkers and dominoes were about the extent of our table game activities.

            “We might be able to sell them. They look new enough.” Clifton commented. After a little quick consideration I agreed with him and we carried the box to the milk shed to give the contents a more thorough examination. 

            Clifton emptied the big box on the crude table that occupied one side of the shed. We began stirring the large pile. There were hundreds of cards and many card boxes. Among the other items in the trash collection the presence of a five dollar bill dominated the view. Although we had not seen very many bills of such large denomination we recognized it as a valuable contribution to a puny money fund. We both reached for the prize about the same time. I was a little slow and Clifton stood by the table, holding the reward in his hand and exclaiming, “Gosh, a five dollar bill. I wonder how it got in the trash!”

            “That is a good question,” I assured him. “I also wonder why they are throwing all those new looking cards away.” Clifton became more practical and wondered if we should take the treasure back to the garage. After all, we considered ourselves to be honest, conscientious citizens! I suggested that we ask his dad, my brother, if it would be honest to keep the newfound riches. My brother’s garage and station was a short distance south of the big garage on the main street. The milk house where we had inspected our treasure was just around the corner.  We were soon telling our tale and asking for advice. We hoped his answer would be, “Keep the useable trash. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure!” Instead of a simple answer he gave us a lengthy explanation concerning the operation of a gambling business.

      “Men who gamble seriously,” he began, “often call for a new deck of cards to be sure the deck used in the game is not marked or otherwise corrupted. A new package is brought out and the seal is broken for all of the players to see. The replaced cards are thrown in the trash, usually without being returned to the carton. The money that you found with the trash got there accidently, probably in a hurried clearing of the table. Gambling is illegal and no gambler would want to get caught with the evidence. In most cases an effort should be made to find the owner of lost money or anything of value. In this case, however, I doubt if the rightful owner could ever be found and I’m sure the five dollars is looking for a new owner. I think you’ll be able to find a good place to invest it!”

            We did find a good place. We started by visiting the little town’s only drug store and ordering triple-dip ice cream cones for the two of us and one of Clifton’s younger brothers, Carl.

Carl thanked us and walked hurriedly down the street toward the friendly junk yard. It was obvious that he had been duly impressed with our good fortune.

            “Where’s he headed in such a hurry?” I casually asked Clifton. “I have no idea!” he replied. “Tomorrow he might be buying us ice cream cones!”