Tom Ross' column appears in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4205 or tross@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs Craig resident Gary Kline received a golden Christmas gift last week that left him momentarily stunned. And a complete stranger presented the gift to him.
It was the gold Bulova pocket watch Kline received from co-workers at the Steamboat Ski Area during Christmas week 1990. In the interim, the watch was stolen and didn’t fully resurface this fall until Wayne Eller, owner of Sleeping Giant Ranch west of Steamboat Springs, purchased it at a Routt County Sheriff’s Office auction.
“I paid $120 for it,” Eller said this week. He sensed that he had something far more valuable than $120 and searched the watch on the Internet and found that it was indeed a valuable timepiece. But it wasn’t until he took the watch, which was not running, to a jeweler that he became truly intrigued with it.
“The inside was so dirty, so I had it cleaned and put a battery in it,” Eller said. “I thought somebody had probably been looking for it for years.”
The watch resumed faithfully keeping time, but the jeweler noticed a curious inscription on the inside of the watch cover. It was dedicated to someone named “Bink” for 19 years of service at Mount Werner.
Eller said he got in touch with Bulova to try to track down the original purchaser of the watch. And he called local businesses with the words “Mount Werner” in their names. It was when he finally called several Steamboat Ski Area employees that he learned “Bink” was the nickname for former longtime Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. mountain manager Gary Kline.
Eller met Kline for the first time over breakfast at Johnny B. Good’s Diner last week and handed him the watch. Kline acknowledged that he had once owned a similar Bulova, but said that it was a little different from this one.
Then Kline noticed the inscription, and was momentarily confused.
“What the hell’s the deal?” Kline asked incredulously. “How did you get it? I thought some kids stole it. Isn’t this your watch?”
“It was until 45 seconds ago,” Eller said. “Merry Christmas.”
The recollection of the watch brought back a mixture of emotions for Kline.
“My crew gave me the watch when they fired me” in the midst of a management change at the ski area in the early 1980s, Kline said.
But what about that nickname, Bink?
“I was on a crew building the road to the top of Storm Peak,” he said. A member of the crew spied a baby’s pacifier laying on the ground. It was such an unusual find for the top of the ski mountain that the guys on the crew gave Kline the shortened version of "binky," a slang term for a pacifier. And like so many nicknames, it stuck.
Eller has made it a practice to mine the Sheriff’s Office auction for opportunities to do good deeds at Christmas time.
“For the past eight years running, within three weeks of Christmas, God has put me in a position to do something good for people,” he said.
To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com