James F. Jones went to bed Tuesday night worried about normal things.
He had a grandkid who needed minor dental surgery the next day, which had his wife Margaret anxious. The 55-year-old auto mechanic also thought about the trucks and cars brought in to his repair shop this week. And somewhere in the back of his mind, he thought about his pet project: restoring his 1964 baby-blue Chevy Nova. He needed a $300 part for the clutch that he just couldn't afford right now.
He woke up at 6 a.m. Wednesday and listened to the morning news on television.
He stepped out of his trailer and called to his wife and daughter, who were getting his grandchild into the car.
"Hey, someone in Washington just won the Mega Millions," Jones said.
In a dreamlike moment, so surreal that hours later he still couldn't fully process it, the family looked at the ticket. That someone, it turned out, was his wife. And this hard-working, tight-knit family used to fretting over utility bills, found itself neck deep in big money: $130 million. Michael Vick kind of money.
"If you ain't never had nothing, how can you expect to behave when you have something," Jones said Wednesday afternoon as he stood behind the counter of his shop, surrounded by tires, valves and the pervasive smell of grease.
Jones said his wife buys lottery tickets periodically, and the large pot "Mega Millions," especially "when it gets hot." Mega Millions pots come from lottery tickets sold in 11 states, so the payouts can be enormous. When Jones' wife bought the ticket Tuesday, playing the same numbers she has played for years, he thought nothing of it until he heard the television report.
"We're just glad the good Lord gave it to us and we plan to put it to good use," Margaret Jones said Wednesday night from her home, as her family gathered to celebrate with Coca-Cola and potato chips.
The Joneses, who live outside of Washington, said they weren't sure what they were going to do with the money. Margaret Jones chose the cash-out option, a one-time payment minus taxes. She wasn't sure Wednesday night how much that would be exactly.
"We just want to figure that out and then go from there," she said. "We plan to help our kids out."
Jones said he plans to build a place for the local Shriners to meet. Jones has been active with the Shriners for years and wants to raise money for Shriner hospitals.
"Our hospitals are going to be knowing about the Washington Shriners from now on," he said.
Aside from that and the part for his clutch, Jones just hopes he keeps his store. And his wife recently repaired an old train set that she received as a present as a little girl. She asked him recently if they could set up a shed near their trailer to house it. At the time, they couldn't afford it.
"I told her this morning, whatever house you want for that train, we'll build it," he said.
The soft-spoken Jones, admittedly overwhelmed but, by all appearances, calm and collected, talked with a reporter and showed him the shop he has owned for 14 years. He now runs it with his 26-year-old son and his son-in-law. They spent Wednesday dealing with customers, well-wishers and, occasionally, a member of the media.
Jones was anxious about how the money would change things. He did not want his picture taken.
"We just don't know," he said. "I don't know what it is we're facing."
Jones Brake & Muffler is impossible to miss in town: it's the shop right on Robert Toombs Avenue Washington's main drag with a one-story tall Paul Bunyan-type figure holding a tire. The "Big Man" was given to Jones a few years back and is in need of a paint job.
News of the win traveled quickly through the community. A clerk at the city hall joked that the town, known as "Historic Washington," was now "hysterical Washington."
"They're just regular, hard-working people, just working like everyone else to get by," said Wanda Trimm, who owns a gallery on the town square. "We're just so happy for them. The whole town is thrilled for them."
The Jones family's winnings stand in stark contrast to the economic fortunes of Wilkes County, which has been struggling for years as factories and stores close. The average household income for the county of 10,637 is $36,149.93, well below the 2003 national average of $48,800.
With one $1 piece of paper bought out of habit, Margaret Jones secured for her family a wealth equivalent to more than half the assessed value of all the property in Wilkes County. The winnings are equal to all the foreign aid the United States sent to the nation of Haiti in 2003.
"This is the second-largest [prize] in Georgia history," said Tandi Reddick, a spokeswoman for Georgia Lottery.
The highest prize, $150 million, was given out in 2003 to a then-30-year-old soldier stationed in South Korea who played the lottery while he was visiting home in Fitzgerald for a 30-day break. Staff Sgt. Stephen Tirrell Moore took the cash option of $88.9 million before taxes.
Jones decided to close up early Wednesday and go see his wife.
Shortly before he left, a customer came and asked about his truck. Jones profusely apologized, saying he just hadn't had a chance to look at it. The man said that was OK, he knew Jones' grandchild was having surgery that morning. No need to apologize, the man said.
Jones explained that his grandchild was fine. Then he stammered.
"It's not that," he said, smiling. "It's something else."