Going It Alone in Jackpot, Nevada

A sign advertises the main attraction in the desert town of Jackpot, Nev.

hide captionA sign advertises the main attraction in the desert town of Jackpot, Nev.

Jeff Brady, NPR

Jackpot, Nev., near the Idaho border, is a casino town with some 1,300 year-round residents. Government presence isn't strongly felt in the small desert outpost — there's no city government, and the county seat is more than 100 miles away.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

Two of our reporters have been out on the road crossing the country. Andrea Seabrook began in South Carolina, Jeff Brady in Oregon. They're going to meet at Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. Along the way they're talking with Americans about government, how it affects their lives and what, if anything, should be changed. Yesterday Andrea Seabrook sent a report from an Army base in South Carolina. Today Jeff Brady reports from Jackpot, Nevada. As you might expect, Jackpot is a casino town, but in addition to the out-of-town gamblers, it's home to about 1,300 people year-round.

JEFF BRADY reporting:

Jackpot straddles the two lanes of US Highway 93. Driving 55 miles an hour, it takes about a minute to go through.

(Soundbite of casino activities)

BRADY: If you're not into gambling, there's not much reason to hang around unless, like Bobbie Lineberry(ph), you work here.

Ms. BOBBIE LINEBERRY (Jackpot, Nevada): I'm not very political. The biggest issue for me right now is my son is in Idaho National Guard and he's in Iraq.

BRADY: Lineberry says she's proud of her son and she thinks the military is treating him well, but she worries about later on. The last time her son was home he told her about a gun battle he was in.

Ms. LINEBERRY: He sat at my kitchen table and cried, and I can tell this is going to be something that he is going to definitely need help with when he comes home. And I hope the military takes that into consideration and offers him psychological counseling or whatever they need when they get back.

BRADY: For the immediate future Lineberry just hopes her son will be home for Christmas. Steve Cunningham of Grapevine, Texas, is here on vacation. He's a Republican and he's pretty satisfied with the federal government, where his party is in control.

Mr. STEVE CUNNINGHAM (Grapevine, Texas): We've advanced our government quite a bit in the last few years. I think this war in Iraq has benefited our country from the standpoint of our federal government having pulled together.

BRADY: Specifically, Cunningham says he's pleased the various security agencies are coordinating activities more since September 11th. Just a few blocks away in an RV park, Carol Walsh(ph) is standing outside her motor home. When asked to describe her relationship with her government, she complained that Republicans are favoring the rich over working people like herself.

Ms. CAROL WALSH (Jackpot, Nevada): I think the middle class is virtually disappearing. It's either you have plenty of money or you're on welfare or close to it. And I don't expect the government to take care of us, but I expect them to at least keep things status quo.

BRADY: Walsh's husband is here working on a construction project. Others have come just to work in the casinos.

Ms. DELLA ARTENY(ph) (Jackpot, Nevada): My name is Della Arteny, and I'm from Republic of Moldova. I have been in the US already for one month.

BRADY: Arteny is wearing a Cactus Pete's uniform. That's a casino just down the street and the largest employer in town. Arteny is one of many Eastern European students working in the US for the summer. She'll head back to Moldova in a few months to finish her economics degree. When asked how she as a non-citizen relates to the US government, Arteny recalled an experience a few weeks back in Laughlin, Nevada, when she saw a handicapped person use a motorized ramp to board a city bus.

Ms. ARTENY: I see that people with disabilities here, they don't feel the difference between them and normal people. They have everything to have a normal life, to work almost wherever they want, which is very different from my country.

BRADY: Jackpot is a place where government presence isn't strongly felt. There's no city government. The county seat is more than a hundred miles away. Still, the people here, whether they come to live, work or play, have strong opinions about the government. Jeff Brady, NPR News, Jackpot, Nevada.

BLOCK: And Jeff is keeping an online diary. You can read his entry from Jackpot, Nevada, at our Web site, npr.org.

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