“I don't want to see Cheyenne get any bigger,” he says. “It will lose its Old West character.”
I sip my latte. “Old West character?”
He nods. “You know, Cheyenne Frontier Days, rodeo, country-western music, steaks as big as my cowboy hat, Old West shootouts, horses and cattle, boots and spurs.”
I look at Slim. He was wearing a plaid shirt and jeans. His UW ball cap rested on the table. On the way in, I saw that he wore sensible shoes. “Nobody's trying to take away your boots, Slim.”
He shakes his head. “All of these people moving into Laramie County,” he said. “They'll change the place. It will lose its conservative character.”
I thought about the recent election. Wyoming's lone Republican House member and one of its Republican senators were reelected by wide margins. Democrats lost one of their 14 legislative seats (out of 90). Tea Party types were elected to the county commission. The state gave Romney his second-biggest margin (after Utah) over President Obama. Meanwhile, our southern neighbor Colorado legalizes marijuana and goes even more blue and it's one of the battleground states that hands Obama the victory.
“So you expect an invasion of Colorado Liberals any day?” I ask.
“We have a new supercomputing center west of town and Microsoft is building a data center right next door. Microsoft is also building a test site east of town to see if biogas from our waste treatment plant can power computers.”
“What's wrong with that,” I say. “Isn't that economic development? Don't you want your kids and grandkids to find good jobs in Wyoming?”
“But we give these companies millions of dollars in financial incentives. Why do the taxpayers have to foot the bill? Microsoft owns the damn planet.”
“That's Google that owns the planet, and maybe Facebook.” I smile. I know that Slim is on Facebook a lot with his pet rants. I've been tempted to unfriend him but don't want to hurt his feelings.
“And downtown? Why does the city have to subsidize downtown development. Let the free market decide what businesses go downtown.”
“The free market turned downtown into a ghost town. It wasn't until the legislature provided funding and the city matched it that we were able to save the train depot and turn it into a gathering place and a museum and that wonderful outdoor plaza. I've seen you at the downtown farmer's market.”
“You can have a farmer's market anywhere. A Wal-Mart parking lot, for instance.”
“Why isn't it at the Wal-Mart parking lot?”
“Hell if I know.”
“Maybe Wal-Mart fears the competition? Maybe it doesn't like vegans and assorted Liberals wandering around its parking lot?”
“It's no competition to Wal-Mart. They're even building another Super Wal-Mart east of town. I love shopping at Wal-Mart because I know it irritates you Lefties.”
He had me there. “What would you do about downtown, Slim? How would you deal with all of those absentee landlords who are holding on to their properties so they can maximize their investment when commercial real estates improves.”
“I have no problem with that. People should be able to do what they want with their property. We don't need the U.N. coming in a taking away our God-given right to own a building or a piece of land.”
“Even when doing so damages the livability of your town?”
Slim puts down his coffee. “Livability. There you go with some of that U.N. Agenda 21 lingo.”
“I'm just talking about making my town a nice place to live. Isn't that what you want?”
“I want to live in a place where a man's home is his castle and he can protect it any way he wants. I don't need some urban city planners coming in spouting about social justice and environmental justice, telling me I can't burn wood in my fireplace or park my RV out on the street.”
I'd read an interview in our local paper with new county commissioners M. Lee Hasenauer and Buck Holmes. They are both fixated on Agenda 21 and urban planners spouting off about social justice. They want to keep Laramie County western, whatever that means. “You're against planning for the future?”
“I'm against big city experts coming in and doing the planning,” says Slim.
“You don't want any planning?”
“Let the free market decide.”
I drain the last of my coffee. “What would you do, Slim?”
He looks pensive as he stares into his cup. “Not a thing,” he finally says. “I like this place the way it is. Conservative. Gun rights protected. Governor fights the feds. I can park my RV where I want.”
Slim has a hulking RV. It blocks out the sun when he parks it in front of my house.
“Why would the U.N. Want to tell you where to park your RV?” I ask.
“That's what they want. They want to tell us where to live and what to drive and the width of our streets and what kind of energy we can use.”
“And they want to take away our boots and spurs. Do you have boots and spurs Slim? If I remember correctly, you grew up in suburbs somewhere in Ohio.”
He shifts in his chair. “That may be, but I'm a Wyomingite now. I don't need any spurs but I have five pairs of boots and I wear them.”
“When you go shopping at Wal-Mart?”
He levels his gaze at me. “I'll wear them any damn where I please.”
“Even to the downtown farmer's market?”
“Especially the downtown farmer's market. My cowboy hat, too, and my Wranglers, and my gun because I have a concealed carry permit. If I had spurs, I'd wear those too, so you pantywaist organic-farming Liberals would hear them jingle-jangle-jingle as I walked toward you.”
“They might quiver in their Birkenstocks, Slim. Then they'll sell you some organically-grown local produce and some home-baked bread and some grass-fed bison steaks and locally roasted coffee sweetened with unpasteurized goat's milk.”
Says Slim: “Those are some Old West traditions I can get behind.”