BOTTOM DOLLAR

BOTTOM DOLLAR

From Chicken Soup for the Country Soul

Bottom Dollar

Cameron Mounger and I have been friends since we were teenagers. Both of us liked music, and several years after we left high school, Cam became a disc jockey.

Recently he told me the story about the day he was down to his last dollar. It was the day his luck—and his life—changed.

The story began in the early 1970s when Cam was an announcer and disc jockey at KYAL in McKinney, Texas, and attained celebrity status. He met many music stars, and he enjoyed flying to Nashville in the company plane with the station owner.

One night Cam was in Nashville for the final performance of the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium before it moved to Opryland U.S.A. “After the show, an acquaintance invited me backstage with all the Opry stars. I didn’t have any paper for autographs, so I took out a dollar bill,” Cam told me. “Before the night ended, I had virtually every Opry personality’s autograph. I guarded that dollar bill and carried it with me always. I knew I would treasure it forever.”

Then station KYAL was put up for sale, and many employees found themselves without a job. Cam landed part-time work at WBAP in Fort Worth and planned to hang on to this job long enough for a full-time position to open up.

The winter of 1976–77 was extremely cold. The heater in Cam’s old Volkswagen emitted only a hint of warm air; the windshield defroster didn’t work at all. Life was hard, and Cam was broke. With the help of a friend who worked at a local supermarket, he occasionally intercepted Dumpster-bound outdated TV dinners. “This kept my wife and me eating, but we still had no cash.”

One morning as Cam left the radio station he saw a young man sitting in an old yellow Dodge in the parking lot. Cam waved to him and drove away. When he came back to work that night, he noticed the car again, parked in the same space. After a couple of days, it dawned on him that this car had not moved. The fellow in it always waved cordially to Cam as he came and went. What was the man doing sitting in his car for three days in the terrible cold and snow?

Cam discovered the answer the next morning. This time as Cam walked near the car, the man rolled down his window. He introduced himself and said he had been in his car for days with no money or food. He had driven to Fort Worth from out of town to take a job. But he arrived three days early and couldn’t go to work right away.

Very reluctantly, he asked if he might borrow a dollar for a snack to get him by until the next day, when he would start work and get a salary advance. “I didn’t have a dollar to lend him; I barely had gas to get home. I explained my situation and walked to my car, wishing I could have helped him.”

Then Cam remembered his Grand Ole Opry dollar. He wrestled with his conscience a minute or two, pulled out his wallet and studied the bill one last time. Then he walked back to the man and gave him his bottom dollar. “Somebody has written all over this,” the man said, but didn’t notice that the writing was dozens of autographs. He took the bill.

“That very morning when I was back home trying not to think about what I had done, things began to happen,” Cam told me. “The phone rang; a recording studio wanted me to do a commercial that paid five hundred dollars. It sounded like a million. I hurried to Dallas and did the spot. In the next few days more opportunities came to me out of nowhere. Good things kept coming steadily, and soon I was back on my feet.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Things improved dramatically for Cam. His wife had a baby and named him Joshua. Cam opened a successful auto-body shop and built a home in the country. And it all started that morning in the parking lot when he parted with his bottom dollar.

Cameron never saw the man in the old yellow Dodge again. Sometimes he wonders if the man was a beggar— or an angel.

It doesn’t matter. What matters is that it was a test, and Cam passed.

Robert J. Duncan
Submitted by Jan Landis

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