I arrived in Springfield, MO at approximately 10:00 p.m. CST on Tuesday night after a five hour drive from Searcy, AR (I made a few detours along the way). There were already over 100 people in line at Border’s Books, awaiting the arrival of Governor Sarah Palin at 10 a.m. I bundled up: three long sleeve shirts, three pairs of pants, one hooded sweatshirt, a parka vest, a heavy jacket, three pairs of socks, two pairs of gloves, an “eskimo” hat, and a 1,500 BTU propane heater. I was warm…sort of.
About midnight, men from TGI Fridays (now officially known as “TGI Hot Chocolate”) brought free cups of hot cocoa and coffee to us Palin faithful. About 1 a.m., a local entrepreneur showed up with some pretty classy Palin buttons for sale. About 2 a.m., another local entrepreneur showed up selling snazzy Palin t-shirts; someone screamed, “SHE’S HERE!” as all 250 of us jumped up to see their grandmother walking towards the crowd. “She’s 81 years old!,” they yelled. Very impressive, but slightly disappointing since, for some reason, we were all expecting that “she” to be Sarah Palin!
About 3 a.m., scavengers returned with Taco Bell, and a man sitting in front of us in line fell out of his chair, onto the pavement–apparently he had dozed off. About 4 a.m., I finally decided to put up a tent and crawled inside for an hour of sleep. About 5 a.m., I stole my friend’s car and drove 5 miles across town looking for a warm place to thaw out. I finally found a Walgreens and stood lifelessly in the middle of the aisle for what felt like hours, as the icicles on my face melted. About 6 a.m., a local radio personality showed up with fresh, free Krispy Kreme donuts. At 6:30 a.m., a man began handing out Christian literature to everyone in the crowd. A few minutes later, he was on top of an embankment, sharing the gospel through a megaphone. About 7 a.m., Border’s opened their doors and began handing out color-coated wristbands. Only the first 1,000 people in line received these wristbands which was a ticket in to meet the Governor.
*The time in between these 1-hour increments was filled with much weeping and gnashing of teeth about the cold, photos, conversations with newly made friends in line, and the spillage of several drinks (I accept full responsibility).
After receiving the wristbands, we were free to come and go as we pleased–the Governor would arrive at 10 a.m.–but we decided to stay in the store, determined to not miss a second of…well, of anything. Sarah was scheduled to give a speech outside at 9:30 a.m. But the speech was cancelled due to the weather. This seemed ironic to me–I figured a 30-degree wind chill would be a tropical paradise for this Alaskan native.
Around 8 a.m., reporters were outside taking pictures of the trash that Palin supporters had left on the ground–leave it to the media. You know us Palin supporters. We just hate the environment. Would they report the fact that there was ONE trash can provided for us? Or that many people went back outside after their time with Sarah and helped cleanup? Of course not.
Gov. Palin arrived at nearly 10 a.m. exactly (quite punctual for a politician). She wasted no time, making a beeline for the staging area. I was within the first 100 or so in a rapidly moving line to meet the Governor. As we approached, we were asked to place our coats, cameras and cell phones into shopping baskets until after meeting the Governor.
“This is just pretty cool,” the store manager remarked as I stepped around the corner, next in line to meet the Governor. “She is actually talking to people–she’s shaking hands and asking people about themselves. Wow.” It became obvious that most book signers at Border’s are not quite so friendly to their fans.
Finally, after 12 hours in the cold and virtually no sleep, it was my turn to meet Sarah Palin: “Hi, I’m Nic. I’m from Arkansas. You’ve inspired me to run for city council in my hometown of Searcy. We have a corrupt local government and you have challenged me to help do my part and clean up the mess.” She asked me when my election is and I told her November 2010. She said, “So I guess you’ve already started campaigning some, huh?” I nodded as she grabbed my hand, smiled and said, “I hope you win.” And that made the whole trip worth it.
Throughout this great adventure, I was amazed to see so many people from so many walks of life. Rich, poor, young, and old. A lady right behind us in line was in a wheelchair. A child in front of us had autism. It was so inspiring to see so many people from so many backgrounds so genuinely enthusiastic about their country.
It was amazing to see the hospitality of the community–the free cocoa, the donuts, the restroom accommodations, the evangelism. Is this typical for every book signing? Or is there something special about Sarah? The obvious joy and surprise that Sarah brought to even the staff of Border’s indicated that things were a bit out of the ordinary. They were visibly impressed with her friendliness and genuine concern for her supporters.
Friends and family continue to ask me if Sarah was as nice, as pretty, and as sincere as she seems on television. Not even close, I tell them–she is above and beyond.
It was truly an honor to spend just a few moments with such a courageous leader. More and more I am convinced that she is the new Ronald Reagan. She is that once-in-a-generation, charismatic, conservative stalwart. But better yet, she is simply a real person–an average American who answered the call when she saw corruption in her city government; an average American who has inspired me to do the same.
God bless you, Sarah.
Nicholas Horton is the Editor of The Arkansas Patriot and a candidate for Searcy City Council in Ward 1. Contact Nicholas at firstname.lastname@example.org