Voice of Little America: Vote for Mickey Mouse Land of Great Penguin gives candidates cold shoulder

America goes to the polls

Election 1996

From Wyoming

November 06, 1996|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,SUN STAFF

LITTLE AMERICA, Wyo. -- On Super Tuesday, the little radio station reminded folks it's National Split Pea Soup Day and by the way, remember to vote.

Well, the people of Little America -- a truck-stopping, steak-and-cheese-eating, fire-cracklin' community in Big Wyoming -- well, the people spoke, just a little but enough. And their unified message to Washington was clear: We're undecided. We didn't like Dole because he scares us, and we didn't like Clinton because he offends us, and we couldn't vote for Perot because, well, just because.

"I told everybody to vote for Mickey Mouse," said Tamara McBroon, 28, single mother of two, part-time college student, full-time employee in Little America's gift shop. A registered Republican, she planned to reluctantly vote for Bob Dole.

She fell asleep during the presidential debates, but stayed awake for Michael Enzi's bus stop in Little America last Saturday. The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate apparently didn't leave an impression with McBroon.

Voter turnout here was high as expected -- 80 percent, or 80 people in Sweetwater County. It's just a stone's throw to Yellowstone, provided you can throw a stone 273 miles. The weather for southwest Wyoming on Election Day was white. White sky, white roads, white mountains, white pickup trucks. The extended Election Day forecast called for high, nasty winds and more snow.

Visitors -- sometimes called "foreigners" -- could misconstrue this oil-rich land for a wasteland of endless fencing, roadside mule deer and the real possibility of freezing to death in your rental pickup. All you have to do is follow the "Steer Straight for Food" sign to Little America. Spend the night, have the Little America Steak and Cheese sandwich, and tell the folks back east you saw the Great Penguin.

BTC Little America's symbol is the penguin, a 130-pound, 3-foot-tall bird in the heartland of Little America. A member of Adm. Richard E. Byrd's South Pole expedition bequeathed the penguin to this place, where in 1890 a fur trader got really lost and promised to erect "a haven of refuge." There's a story behind the penguin, too.

"It was intended that it should arrive in this country alive but climate change was too severe," the marker reads. The bird named Emperor died and "was stuffed in the East."

And on Election Day, the Great Penguin stood with his fellow Little Americans.

"Woman called me on the phone from the Wyoming Republican Party and started to say things about Clinton," said Mariam Banks, 35. "I just hung up on her. I heard all that stuff on the radio and TV, but I didn't have to hear it on the telephone." Plus, everybody's got faults, she says.

Another reluctant Republican, she also was likely to vote for Dole.

Based on the most reliable exit polling from Little America (population 150, give or take a toddler), the well-bundled electorate voted along wobbly party lines. The county is about half Republican, half Democrat.

"Dole is probably the lesser of two evils," said Dave Mortensen, the unofficial mayor. He voted for Dole, but not because he thought Dole stands for anything. He voted because it was his duty to drive the four miles up Route 30 to the Granger Town Hall -- Wyoming's Precinct 1.

Carla and Robert Adams are two of the four election officers for Granger (pop. 98). The issues that matter in this county are conserving public land and preserving a Western way of life. "We don't want people in the East telling us what to do," said Carla Adams.

Pub Date: 11/06/96

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