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Utah Town Has Question About President: 'What's Not to Like?'

Like most residents of Randolph, Utah, Pat Orton, owner of Gator's Drive Inn, is a loyal supporter of President Bush. The town gave the president 95.6 percent of the vote in 2004.
Like most residents of Randolph, Utah, Pat Orton, owner of Gator's Drive Inn, is a loyal supporter of President Bush. The town gave the president 95.6 percent of the vote in 2004. (By David Finkel -- The Washington Post)

Terrorist threats? That's anywhere but here. Iraq? That's somewhere over there. Hurricane Katrina? That was somewhere down there. Illegal immigrants? Not here, where everyone is fond of Ramon, who came long ago from Mexico and is married to the Catholic woman, who is the one non-Mormon everyone mentions when the conversation turns to religious diversity. As for racial diversity, everyone says there are three African Americans in the county, including the twins on the high school cheerleading squad, which also includes a Hispanic, according to the superintendent of schools, Dale Lamborn, which means "we've probably got the most diverse cheerleading squad in the state."

What else is here?

One main road that is 1.3 miles long from the county building on the north end to the fence on the south end with the faded yellow ribbon on it in honor of the only child of Randolph so far to have gone to Iraq.

One church, where everyone gathered to welcome the young man home from Iraq with ice cream.

One post office, with one full-time employee, Postmaster Gage Slusser Jr., who, as everyone knows, was one of the 17 to vote for John Kerry in 2004. "The village pseudo-intellectual," Slusser calls himself. "Don't get me wrong," he adds. "These are good people."

"Just good people," echoes Debra Ames, the county recorder, adding: " You try to feed your cows at 40 below zero." The courthouse where Ames works is near the one little market, which is near the one service station, the part-time hair cutter, and the one bank, where deposits are up and defaults are down and banker Adam Jensen says of Bush, "What's not to like about him?"

And in the exact middle of this: Gator's Drive Inn, where Orton is explaining that her mother died of lung cancer on Sept. 6, 2001, and that the viewing was five days later, which is why she missed a lot of what happened on 9/11.

"I'm the boss, applesauce," her mother used to say, and Orton can imagine Bush liking that sentence as much as she does.

"Don't be wise, bubble eyes, or I'll knock you down to peanut size."

That, too.

Sooner or later, everyone stops by Gator's, which makes it the best place in Randolph, population about 480, to listen to people talk about their beloved president.

In comes Debra McKinnon, 53, who says she nearly dropped dead nine months ago from heart failure and is working for one reason only: health insurance. She takes 12 pills a day, for which she pays several hundred dollars a month, which, without insurance, would be four times that. Is that Bush's fault, though? "No," McKinnon says. "It's a problem from the drug companies to the lawyers to the doctors to Congress, and it's not because Bush isn't a caring man. I think he's a very caring man. I think he's a decent, God-fearing person, and I hope we are, too."


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