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Life lesson learned the hard way
September 2, 2017

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I was fifteen that summer and I was convinced I was rich. I had been saving my babysitting money all year.

In those long ago days, the pay for babysitting was fifty cents per child until midnight. It went to seventy-five cents after twelve.

Since I had carefully stashed away as much of my earnings as possible, by August I had amassed thirty-five dollars.

At the time, my brother, Alan, was serving his medical internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Ft. Worth. The hospital was preparing to hold its fall fundraiser, promising lots of excitement and games for everyone.

Alan invited me to go to the event with him. He convinced me I'd have a great time and might even win one of the prizes being offered.

Since Alan was my hero, I was thrilled to think of spending the day with him at the festival. As the highlight of my summer, I took my thirty-five dollar savings along.

When we got to the grounds and joined the crowds, Alan was called away. I was on my own.

For the first hour or so, I simply roamed through the displays and games. At first, I was very careful, spending only a small amount for a snow cone and a hot dog.

But, as I moseyed along, slurping and munching, my eye was caught by the activity in one corner of the festival grounds.

There were four machines lined up and at each, an eager man or woman was depositing quarters and pulling the big silver handle. I heard someone strolling by say, "So that's where they set up the one-armed bandits."

Just then, a man at one of the machines let out a yell and jumped back as, out of the slot on his machine, a mountain of quarters covered the ground.

It was my introduction to slot machines and I had $35 just itching to give them a try.

After changing my money into quarters, I took over the first machine that was empty.

Several times I fed quarters into the hungry slot with no luck.

But, when I put in the sixth quarter, I was rewarded with four in return. And so it went all afternoon. I'd give the machine two dollars; it would give me fifty cents. I'd give it three dollars; it would reward me with two.

As I kept up the routine of feeding the hungry machine, getting back a few coins now and then, I didn't notice that my money supply was slowly dwindling.

Just before suppertime, Alan rejoined me.

"So how are you doing?" he asked.

"I can't believe it," I said, "I spent all my money on that miserable machine!"

Alan shook his head and said knowingly, "Now you know what gambling is all about."

When he saw the dejection on my face, he put his arm around me and said with a brotherly smile, "I doubt you'll make the same mistake again."

And I never did.

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