Winner - 2005

If someone gave me the title to a saloon in a small town, I would  just throw back my head and laugh. Then I would give a shout out to those critters lined up outside whose mouths were all parched and waiting on my grand opening that as soon as I got the Suburban loaded up here in New Jersey that I'd be right on down with my hurricane lamp, and my gold  mirror and the sarsaparilla and whiskey.

I'd make that place the most welcome place you ever did see, dogs could  run in and out all day and cats could saunter around the place and sniff  at the card players who held bad hands. Old ladies could come in and sniff at them, too.

Men with manners would be allowed access and men without manners could  take a refresher course outside, slick back their hair, wash their hands out at the pump and swagger in knowing that at "Belle Fisher's" men are men, women are to be wooed gently and drinks are on the house whenever the  house wins at poker.

There would be music at night and there would be a place to unburden yourself, and seek out the friendship of your fellow man and woman. No-one would be judged to be a stranger at my place, and anyone who would cross the portal with good intent would be extended the gift of a fresh start. Of course, they'd have to hand over their guns first and we'll watch them like a hawk for a little while but the "opportunity" would be something given freely that mere money could never buy.

Eileen Fisher, Vernon, New Jersey