I let a few weeks pass before bringing up the election.
"I don't want to talk about it," said Tea Party Slim.
"I understand." I finished off my pumpkin scone. "Bad memories."
He sipped his coffee. "Water under the bridge."
We sat at a small table at the downtown Starbuck's. Two weeks after the historic election. Four more years of Barack Hussein Obama probably looked like an eternity to Slim.
"Is your family well?" I asked.
He nodded. "Yours?"
"Just dandy. What you doing for Thanksgiving?"
"Wife cooking up a storm, as always. Having over a few friends. Son coming up from Denver with his family."
"Yes it is. You?"
"Kids will be home. We're taking everything over a sick friend's house. She's been in the hospital but can't cook."
Slim sipped his coffee. "That's nice."
"Yes it is."
"Good thing she had insurance, and thank goodness for Medicare. There were complications."
I could tell Slim wanted to say something, maybe a comment about Medicare running out of money and maybe it should be privatized. Instead, he just said, "I hope she gets well soon."
"She's doing better." I sipped my coffee. "Wonder what the State of Wyoming plans to do about the Affordable Care Act?"
"Obamacare," snorted Slim.
At last! "State doesn't do something, get a health exchange going or something similar, feds will step in and run it."
"Federal government can't run anything."
"Not even the military?" I knew this was a sore spot, him being a veteran and all.
"Don't go picking on the military now," Slim said. "It's one thing we do right."
"I'm just saying..."
"You're not a veteran," he said. "I was protecting the U.S.A. while you were a party boy in college, buying kegs with your student loan."
"I never thought of that, Slim. I was probably too busy working two jobs."
Slim harrumphed. "Just don't pick on the military."
"Let's make a deal, Slim. I won't pick on the military and you lay off Medicare and Social Security and state employee pensions."
"Why should I pay for state employee pensions? And why should you get pensions while private sector employees don't?"
"Let's put the shoe on the other foot, Slim. Why should I pay for military pensions and the V.A.?"
"Because we've put in our time and that's part of the deal -- serve your country and you get benefits."
"I could say the exact same thing about my 20-something years as a state employee. I've put in my time, including many years without a raise, and I've contributed to the defined benefits plan. When I retire, I expect benefits."
"You can't compare serving your country with serving the state."
"It's different, that's all. People put their lives on the line. You're a paper pusher."
"True. But how often was your life in danger? And how much paper did you push around?"
"It was Vietnam..."
"You were off the coast on a big ship, were you not?"
"Were you ever actually in Vietnam?"
"We had to arm the planes that went on bombing runs. Dangerous work."
"I'm sure it was." I finished my coffee. "I don't question that. I am thankful you get a pension and can go to the V.A. when needed. So why do you want me to face retirement without a pension and medical coverage?"
"I didn't say that."
"That's what your Tea Party Republican legislators want to do."
"They just want fairness, that's all."
"Look, employers in the private sector want to pay less than minimum wage and no benefits. They get ticked off when they train people and they go to work for the state. Meanwhile, the state can't hire much-needed staff because Wyoming wages are ridiculously low and our legislature is the embarrassment of the nation."
"If you don't like it, you can always retire and move to blue-state Colorado."
"Love it or leave it?"
"I used to have that on a bumper sticker."
"I don't doubt it. Maybe you need a new one, Slim. How about "'Wyoming: Love It Unquestionably Or Leave it?"
"I know another slogan that might be better."
"Wyoming: You Can't Eat the Scenery."