Ride Operator Buys Tickets for Poor Girl Daily, 16 Years Later Girl Becomes Rich & Finds Him

Jacob worked as a ride operator at Cedar Point in Ohio, and several times a week, he saw a little girl with her grandmother, who only rode the carousel once. When he learned about their financial struggles, he decided to buy her tickets every day. Sixteen years later, the little girl looked for him with a huge surprise planned.

Natalie searched through her old boxes, looking for something she remembered storing there. She was in her house’s attic, and daylight shone from the one tiny light on the ceiling. There was dust flying around the room, tickling her nose and making her sneeze every once in a while. But she was adamant about her quest.

She took out papers, old gadgets, old books, and tons of other things from those boxes. Some of these items had become beige with age, and a musty smell permeated the area. It wasn’t pleasant, and Natalie wanted to get out of there quickly, but she wouldn’t until she found what she needed.

Natalie was in her attic looking for something important — a memory from her childhood. | Source: Unsplash

Finally, she found it at the bottom of one of the last boxes in the attic. It was an old polaroid that she hoped was still in good condition. Luckily, the image was still intact despite being stored so poorly. And Natalie smiled as she stared at it. The back read, “Cedar Point, Summer 2006.”

“Why would you that? It’s too much money,” the older woman asked, holding her fingers to her chin in concern.
Memories started flooding her mind like a beautiful movie she could never forget although she had not thought about it in a long time.

Cedar Point was an amusement park in Ohio that she frequented as a child. As a ten-year-old, she remembered the metallic sound of the rides, the sweet scent of cotton candy in the air, and the yells of the excited children running around.

Everything about that time was perfect, and she mostly felt grateful. Her grandmother saved a little bit of money here and there to take her there every day of that summer. But someone else discovered her story and changed everything. That was why she was looking for that polaroid in the attic. She wanted to remember that man and what he had done for her.

Sixteen years ago…

“Grandma! Look!” ten-year-old Natalie yelled at her grandmother when they arrived at the park for the first time. Kids were flying around, eating caramel popcorn and blowing bubbles, and the little girl’s eyes widened in delight at the idea. She wanted to do all those things, but she knew they didn’t have enough money.

She pulled on her grandmother’s hand until they reached the carousel, her favorite ride. | Source: Pexels

She was pulling on her grandmother’s hand, urging her to their actual destination: the carousel. For some reason, Natalie was obsessed. She loved horses, and going on that ride had been her dream for a while. Her grandmother, Gina, had promised they would go that summer, and Natalie couldn’t believe they were there.

They always lived close to the park, so Natalie often heard the screams of the people on the roller coaster, saw the tired kids with their parents when they left, and sometimes looked wishfully at the lights through her window at night. She craved all those rides, but she once saw a magazine with a picture of the vintage carousel at the park with beautiful, white horses decorated with plastic flowers, and she was captivated.

Finally, they reached that ride, and Natalie wanted to cry at the emotion that rose in her chest. It was exactly as she imagined it, straight out of a movie. She turned to the older lady, tightening her grip, and uttered, “Can you believe it, Grandma?”

Her grandmother smiled fondly and leaned down. “Yes, I can. Go on then, I’ll give the ticket to the ride operator.”

Natalie let go and rushed to the ride, stopping to pick which horse to sit on. They were all so beautiful but came in different colors with different expressions on their plastic faces, and to the ten-year-old, it felt like the decision of a lifetime.

She was extremely excited and wished she could ride the carousel many times, but they couldn’t. | Source: Pexels

“Come on, Naty! The ride is going to start!” her grandmother called out, laughing at her granddaughter’s indecision.

Finally, Natalie picked the horse with the pink hair and blue horse-riding chair. She would never forget that moment or the look on her grandmother’s face as she waved each time the ride passed her by.

It was the best moment in her life so far. The type of moment that stops time and you remember forever. For just a few minutes, Natalie forgot her family was struggling. She was just one of the kids who could play around in this expensive place without worries.

Sadly, the carrousel ride ended much too quickly, and she got down from the horse, feeling bittersweet about the whole experience. Her grandmother was waiting and grabbed her hand.

“How was it, Naty?” the older woman asked.

“It was great, but I wish I could go again,” the girl answered, looking up hopefully at her grandma, who sighed deeply.

“I’m sorry, sweetie. That’s all we can afford right now. But I promise we can come here every day from now until the end of summer and get you one ride. That way, you can treasure the experience for longer. How does that sound?” her grandmother offered, and Natalie smiled brightly.


Jacob offered her something unbelievable, and Natalie got what she wished for the most back then. | Source: Pexels

“Really? Yay!” she cheered, jumping around while still holding her grandma’s hand.

Gina kept that promise thoroughly. They came every day, and somehow, it never got old. Natalie only rode the carousel and eventually even learned the name of the ride operator, Jacob Salas, who always wore a red hat with his park uniform. He had to be in his 20s but he was dressed like he was from an older generation.

One day, her grandmother used the bathroom, and Mr. Salas approached her. “Why don’t you ride again while you wait for your grandmother?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, sir. We only have enough money for one ticket a day. My father died years ago, and my grandmother doesn’t work anymore, so my mother is the only person earning money for us. It’s not enough to spend on rides,” Natalie told the operator, who nodded in understanding.

But she saw a glint shining in his eyes as he leaned to look in her eyes. “You know what? I’ll buy you tickets for this ride as long as you want. How does that sound?” he grinned at the girl, who widened her eyes in shock.

“Really?”

“Really!” he nodded and urged her to get on the ride again.

Gina didn’t want to accept, but Jacob insisted, telling her that Natalie was so happy. | Source: Pexels

Natalie was swirling around in the carrousel when Gina returned and asked Mr. Salas about this. “Don’t worry about it, ma’am. She can ride for as long as she wants today and from here on out. It’s on me.”

“Why would you that? It’s too much money,” the older woman asked, holding her fingers to her chin in concern.

Jacob shook his head. “It’s not. I don’t have that many expenses, and besides… no one in this park is having as much fun as that girl.”

“No!” Jacob exclaimed after a few minutes. “No! Young lady, I can’t take this. It’s too much!”
The ride operator kept his promise, and Natalie was able to ride the carousel as much as she could that summer. And with the money she saved from tickets, Gina sometimes bought them caramel popcorn or sodas. They always shared them with Jacob to repay him for his kind gesture. And one day, they even took a polaroid picture together, where Natalie was wearing Jacob’s red hat, smiling wonderfully at the camera.

It was the sweetest memory Natalie had of her childhood. By the time summer ended, she got tired of the carrousel and the park. She said thanks and goodbye to Jacob one day, and it was the last time she saw him.

Present…

For some reason, Natalie dreamed of that summer and started looking for that polaroid. She knew she had taken it with her when she left for college years ago, but it had somehow gotten lost in the shuffle of life.

Natalie married a wealthy man, and her life became completely different from her childhood. | Source: Pexels

And things had turned out so different for her. Natalie had earned a scholarship to a university in Philadelphia, where she met her husband, Anthony, who came from an insanely wealthy family. It was daunting not to have to worry about money or anything. Her husband had even bought a house for her grandmother and mother back in Ohio so they would never have to pay rent again.

It was incredible. She had worked hard her entire life, but she had also been surrounded by amazing, generous people willing to help her in many ways. And Natalie thought she had repaid them as best she could with her eternal friendship, love, and loyalty. But there was one person she had not compensated: Mr. Salas.

***

“Grandma, do you remember Mr. Salas?” she asked Gina after explaining how she found the polaroid of the three of them at the park.

“Oh, you mean that young man who let you ride that carousel? I haven’t thought of him in a long time,” the older woman replied. “I can ask around if you want.”

“Please! I want to know if there’s any way I can pay him back for his generosity to us back then,” Natalie continued.

“Oh, darling. I’m so proud of the woman you’ve become. It’s amazing!” Gina gushed, emotion thick in her voice.


She called Gina and asked about Mr. Salas because she wanted to do something for him as he had done for her. | Source: Pexels

“It’s all because of you and Mom. I hope you know that Grandma,” the younger woman replied, a smile coloring her tone.

“I’ll look for Mr. Salas. But hey, can you send me a copy of that polaroid? I can use it in my search,” the older woman suggested.

“That’s a great idea!” Natalie said and took a picture of the polaroid with her phone.

A few days later, Gina called her and revealed that Jacob still lived in Ohio. Moreover, someone had even given her his address and phone number.

Natalie called him as soon as possible and talked to him for almost an hour, asking about his life and what he was currently doing.

“Things have changed a lot since my days at that park. I almost wish I could return there sometimes,” Jacob told her wistfully and then explained what happened since they last saw each other.

Jacob revealed he got married later that year and had four children with his wife before she decided to abandon them. He was working two jobs to keep them afloat. Two of his kids were teenagers who worked after-school gigs to go to Cedar Point every once in a while.

Natalie told him how important her memories of the carousel and his actions were to her. | Source: Pexels

“Mr. Salas, when I was a little girl, you gave me the thing I wanted the most: to ride that carousel to my heart’s desire, and I can’t even begin to tell you how much I still value what you did,” Natalie started, tears gathering in her eyes. “If you could have anything right now, what would it be?”

“Oh wow. I want so many things for my kids, honestly. But as an amusement park lover, I would take them to Magic Kingdom. But just the trip alone is so expensive, and the park tickets are something else. However, I’m saving for it, so it’ll happen one day, even if my kids are adults by that time,” Mr. Salas revealed honestly. Despite his money issues, he had a hopeful outlook on life.

He’s like Grandma. She was always cheerful and tried to downplay how much we were struggling, Natalie thought.

They talked for a few more minutes and finally said goodbye.

Natalie knew what she had to do and relished the idea of it. She enlisted her grandmother’s help to coordinate with Mr. Salas’s eldest son for all the personal information needed to purchase plane tickets. And a week after, Natalie called Mr. Salas again.

“Check your email, sir,” she told him, excitement making her palms sweat.

“No!” Jacob exclaimed after a few minutes. “No! Young lady, I can’t take this. It’s too much!”

Natalie insisted that Jacob accept her present and asked him to send her pictures. | Source: Pexels

“It’s not enough compared to what that summer meant to me. You bought tickets for me once, this is how I’m repaying you. Enjoy it. Do it for your kids because the memories of those carefree rides last a lifetime, and believe me, there’s nothing like it,” Natalie insisted, and she heard Mr. Salas crying in the background.

Then she heard cheers and knew he had told his kids, who all came to the phone at some point. “Thank you! Thank you!” they yelled.

Natalie had bought them all plane tickets to Orlando, Florida, with reservations at a Disney Resort and access to Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, and Animal Kingdom. As she heard them cheering on the phone, she felt immense pride in herself.

Yes, her husband was rich, but she bought all that with her money, and she had made an entire family happy in the process. Her efforts and luck led to this beautiful moment in time.

“Make sure to take pictures and send them to me,” Natalie commanded jokingly.

“Young lady, you are… I have no words. I will send many pictures. Thank you!” Mr. Salas stated gratefully, and they hung up.


The carousel was no longer the best moment of her life. This moment was. | Source: Pexels

Natalie put the phone down on her coffee table and stared at nothing in particular in her living room but thought deeply. She was wrong years ago. Riding the carousel was not the best moment of her life. This was.

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