Misti Gunn fights back tears Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013, at a market in Merlin, Ore., as she describes the financial hardship her family went through before winning $1 million in the Oregon Lottery. Rily Gunn said he was driving his family home to their cabin in the woods after registering for computer programming classes when he pulled off the freeway for corn dogs for the kids, and decided on a hunch to buy a lottery ticket, though he knew his wife would disapprove. (AP Photo/Jeff Barnard)
MERLIN, Ore. (AP) — Laid off since May, Riley Gunn was driving his wife and three kids to their one-room cabin when he stopped to buy corndogs — a guilty pleasure they normally don’t indulge.
Gunn also got some lottery tickets, even though money was tight and he knew his wife wouldn’t approve.
He felt sure he would win — and he did. His $16 investment brought a $1 million prize.
[auth] Later, when the 34-year-old Gunn learned of his good fortune, he woke his wife, Misti, to make sure he wasn’t imagining it.
She jumped out of bed, saying, “‘You’d better not be kidding me,'” Riley Gunn said, standing in the Lil’ Pantry Market & Deli, where he bought the winning ticket. “I said, ‘Does that seem like something I would do?'”
Misti Gunn, 32, said she didn’t laugh, cry or scream. All she could do was sit in a chair, staring into space.
The Gunns had to borrow money from a friend to make the 200-mile drive to Oregon Lottery headquarters to pick up their check.
Sitting in the parking lot, waiting for the office to open “was the longest 10 minutes in our lives,” Riley Gunn said.
Gunn bought the ticket while the family was on their way back to their cabin in the woods in Southern Oregon after he registered for computer programming classes.
He had been a project manager for a telecommunications company in Reno, Nev., when he got laid off in May. Misti Gunn had been a customer service representative for a software contractor.
When it became too expensive to live in Reno, his sister offered to let them live in a one-room cabin with a woodstove for heat outside Wolf Creek.
Before buying the lottery tickets, the family had driven to Grants Pass to register for winter term classes at Rogue Community College to work toward their degrees — his in computer programming, hers in business management.
The kids were “getting rambunctious” on the drive home and Gunn said he pulled off to buy corn dogs and pizza pockets at a deli he liked in the little community of Merlin.
“I just kind of figured this was the kind of place you read about winning the lottery,” he said. “It’s a small town and you never know.”
They deposited the $670,000 — their winnings after taxes — in a bank, then wrote a check for 10 percent of that amount as their regular tithe payment to their church.
“You give back to God what he is giving to you,” Gunn said.
Then they went to a car lot and bought a pair of brand new Jeeps — a Grand Cherokee for her, a Rubicon for him.
“It was overwhelming to go to a car lot and be able to pick a car, any car, that you wanted,” Misti Gunn said.
They also bid on a house in Redding, Calif., where they lived before Reno.
Gunn said he plans to use the rest of the money to start his own business developing ideas he has long had for software and renewable energy.
“It’s going to change my life,” Misti Gunn said, fighting back tears. “Living off nothing is just very hard.”