The Chinaman’s Chance

When the cashier at the hotel coffee shop in Rock Springs, Wyoming appeared at the cash register, the old Chinese man had already removed from his billfold a Hong Kong tendollar note and a US twenty dollar bill. His wearing gloves had made the process more
difficult. The cashier was fascinated by the plastic Hong Kong note. The Chinese offered it to her as a gift. “It’s worth barely a single US dollar”, he said. “Please accept it as my gift to you.”, handing it to her with both hands.

She gave him his change. He departed into the sub-freezing cold, below clear skies.
Snow drifts fringed the parking lot. She proudly showed the plastic note to her co-
workers, all bemused by the novelty of the gift.

Meanwhile, settled into his rental car, the old Chinese changed his lighter gloves for a
heavier pair. The frosty interior of the windshield was still new to him–never before
encountered by him back home. He tried wiping the windshield with his forearm and hand before allowing the defroster to finish the job.

A drive to the tourism office proved fruitless. His request for directions to the cemetery in
which the Chinese were buried was met with a cold stare. Tourists were welcome. But,
troublemakers were not. No massacre had taken place in the 1870s. The rumor that
Chinese immigrants–newly unemployed after completion of the Transcontinental
Railroad—had competed for mining jobs with locals had no basis in fact. No, the Chinese
had moved either to San Francisco or elsewhere, he was told.

On his own, he found the town cemetery. But, it offered no clues. Graves dating to the
1840s were to be found. (Many were of those passing through on the Oregon Trail.) But,
none contained Chinese.

The old Chinese was chagrined as he left town, thinking ahead to his return to his
hometown of Sah-In in Guangdong province, where he was a distinguished, though
generally regarded as an rascible chemist. Meanwhile, he passed the hotel on his way to
the I-80.

Slowing at an intersection, he could see an ambulance in the parking lot, its two EMTs
were loading a young lady onto a stretcher: the hostess he had encountered earlier. A
second ambulance almost ran him off the road and into a snowdrift as it squeezed past
him. A third ambulance could be heard in the distance, its siren growing louder by the
second. He was relieved that he had avoided a collision and was happy that he would be
in Salt Lake City in time for his flights to San Francisco and Shenzhen, followed by the long bus ride home.


Michael T. George
4 May 2017

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