By Ross Markman
There are the reporters, computers, telephones and the guys in the back shop, but nothing is more crucial to the survival of the Havre Daily News than one man with a tray, a paragon in an otherwise cookieless world.
You know him as Jim Gabriel.
We call him the bakery man.
At the beginning and end of each week, he enters our office, a tray piled with cookies, cakes and sandwiches in hand, a Northern Lights Bakery hat on his head and a smile on his face.
Gabriel is morning coffee to those of us who don't drink coffee.
It's usually about 9 or 10 a.m. when we hear the voice of Rhonda, our circulation bookkeeper/town crier, announce the five most famous words at the Havre Daily News: "The bakery man is here."
Within seconds, even before Gabriel makes his way through the front door, a line has formed awaiting his arrival. It's Christmas twice a week at the Havre Daily News.
Gabriel is Santa Claus.
Some go after the ham and cheese sandwiches. Others opt for a slice of cheesecake, a muffin or croissant.
I wonder if we're his best customers. Or his favorite.
I wonder if the other places he goes, the bakery man is swarmed like he is here like a pack of Dobermans at a pork chop party.
Gabriel doesn't say much.
He doesn't have to.
His arrival is as anticipated as payday and almost as appreciated. On the rare occasion he's late, cries of "Has the bakery man been here yet?" echo through the office.
I must admit, I wasn't into this whole bakery man thing at first. As the pickiest eater this side of Earth, I never found anything to my liking on his tray.
Until three weeks ago.
That's when Gabriel added snickerdoodles my favorite cookie to his tray.
It was like he read my mind. Or perhaps he noticed my co-workers poking fun at me for eyeing that tray every time and never buying a thing.
This week, I had a little talk with the bakery man. I thanked him for regularly bringing the snickerdoodles. And I asked him about his business.
Gabriel and his mom, Gracia, have run the bakery out of Hi-Line Lanes east of Havre for the last five years. They have a few walk-ins each day, Gabriel said, but most of their business is made to order and what he sells on his daily route.
During the week, the bakery man travels to about 30 businesses in Havre. Some offices have one customer, others like ours have more than a dozen.
Each place also has someone like Rhonda, he said, "a point of contact."
"That definitely helps," Gabriel said. "It keeps me from going from office to office and disturbing people."
I can't speak for other businesses in town, but I doubt we would mind. In fact, I bet we would miss deadline for one single cookie crumb or morsel of cake.
Oh, wait, what's that?
The bakery man is here.