STEVE INSKEEP, host:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
We're hearing from voters this week who live and work along Interstate 10. People here in California call it The 10. And after starting our journey on the Santa Monica Pier, we've moved through New Mexico, Arizona and just barely crossed over into Texas. Today we pick up this telephone road trip farther east across the Lone Star State - in Sonora, Texas.
We have reached Cindy Sanders(ph) there. And Cindy, welcome to the program.
Ms. CINDY SANDERS: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: Now, Cindy Sanders, I know you are manager of Stripes Convenience Store. And how close to the Interstate 10 is that?
Ms. SANDERS: I'm assistant manager. I'm right off of an exit.
MONTAGNE: Assistant manager - sorry there. I've just promoted you.
(Soundbite of laughter)
MONTAGNE: But you're just off an exit. And on a map, Sonora appears to be just about in the middle of Texas. Tell us a little about Sonora. Describe it for someone who hasn't really been there.
Ms. SANDERS: Oh, it's a small town of about 2,700 maybe. It's an oil-field town. My dad was from here and grew up here. So he has been in an oil field his whole life.
MONTAGNE: And as you think about what's going on in your community in Sonora and in the country this New Year, what are you thinking?
Ms. SANDERS: I just go day by day. I take care of my kids. And it don't do me any good to sit and worry about anything else.
MONTAGNE: Do you think about oil, oil prices, since you're in a part of the country that's - oil-field country, as you call it?
Ms. SANDERS: Ridiculous gas prices. All the customers come in, stop at our store and say, well, I should have gotten a hundred miles back, it was cheaper.
MONTAGNE: Though for you, who might work or have relatives who work in the oil business, aren't high price is a good thing?
Ms. SANDERS: I guess. I mean - but, it sucks for the people that are traveling and the people that live in the small towns that have to pay that price.
MONTAGNE: If you had to pick out an issue, and the kind of issues that are floating around out there - the Iraq war, health care - what one sticks for you?
Ms. SANDERS: The immigration, because they make it so hard for a born and raised American that's having trouble, that's struggling to get welfare. And I know this because I have been on welfare before. And...
MONTAGNE: And you felt that you are competing in a sense with the...
Ms. SANDERS: Oh, yeah, you are.
MONTAGNE: Although that is your experience. I mean, there are studies out there that show that illegal immigrants actually don't use those services as much as...
Ms. SANDERS: I'm sure there's some of them that do. You've got all these families driving nice cars, but yet they've always got food and money in their house. I - me, myself - I - I make too much money for my two kids to get them on Medicaid. So my kids have no health insurance right now.
MONTAGNE: Are you supporting your family on your assistant manager salary?
Ms. SANDERS: Yeah, and with the help of my dad.
MONTAGNE: Well, Cindy Sanders, please stay on the line with us, because I'd like to bring in someone else to our conversation. Further east, along Interstate 10 in Beaumont, Texas, we've reached Marie Richard - and I'm pronouncing that correctly. Am I, Marie?
Ms. MARIE RICHARD: You sure are.
MONTAGNE: Now, you are an assistant to the editor of the Beaumont Enterprise, the newspaper there. Am I right?
Ms. RICHARD: That's correct. Forty-eight years this past September.
MONTAGNE: Oh, wow. So you've seen a lot. You've seen a lot in the newspaper and probably a lot going on there in Beaumont.
Ms. RICHARD: Yes, I have. A lot of changes.
MONTAGNE: Looking back, what changes strike you the most?
Ms. RICHARD: Oh, I think what strikes me the most is the changes in families. I'm looking at the paper this morning, this woman shoots her husband. And you know, where I come from, mothers was a backbone of families. I'm really concerned about the women in the world. I know a lot of them have it very hard. I'm just - I'm really, really concerned about the morals in this world today.
MONTAGNE: What else concerns you that in particular you might look to candidates to fix?
Ms. RICHARD: Candidates that are running like maybe for president now?
MONTAGNE: This whole next year.
Ms. RICHARD: Right now I'm not concentrating on it too much. All the people I hang around with, they discuss these things all the time. Sometimes I just ignore it and I figure, well, I'll start catching up later on because I'm sure we're going to be hearing the same thing over and over again.
MONTAGNE: And you are a person who works at a newspaper.
Ms. RICHARD: Yes.
Ms. RICHARD: Yeah, we see it all the time.
MONTAGNE: Well, Marie Richard is in Beaumont, Texas. Let's bring in one more voice to our conversation. It's someone I have spoken with before: Shannon Woods(ph). Hello, are you there?
Ms. SHANNON WOODS: I'm here. How are you?
MONTAGNE: Hey. Let me just say a couple of things about you, Shannon Woods. We talked when you were in Baton Rouge. You had left New Orleans - fled New Orleans, really, after Katrina. You're now there in Mobile, Alabama.
Ms. WOODS: Correct.
MONTAGNE: Both cities along Interstate 10. Could you tell us what have you been doing, well, since we last spoke? That was about a year ago.
Ms. WOODS: A year ago I was still in nursing school. And my family, which consists of my husband and my two kids, were in Mobile and I was in Baton Rouge. So...
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. WOODS: Life was kind of hectic when we spoke last.
MONTAGNE: And you're in Mobile now, a nurse.
Ms. WOODS: Yes, but I work in the ward. I work at Tulane.
MONTAGNE: You work - you drive into Tulane.
Ms. WOODS: I do, twice a month.
MONTAGNE: Now, why are you driving into New Orleans for this job?
Ms. WOODS: I drive to New Orleans because I make double what I make in Mobile in New Orleans. And I (unintelligible) and see my family and come home.
MONTAGNE: So New Orleans is still home?
Ms. WOODS: Oh, definitely, always.
MONTAGNE: It's been a couple of years since you really have been able to live there.
Ms. WOODS: Yup, exactly.
MONTAGNE: Well, I don't want to presume that Hurricane Katrina is all that's on your mind, although obviously it's a living and driving experience for you. At the beginning of this new year, what are you thinking about in terms of things that concern you?
Ms. WOODS: I'm thinking about my family and my kids. I have a 13-year-old and seven-year-old, so life with my 13-year-old, which is my daughter, is changing. She is forming her thoughts and opinions that she'll have for the rest of her life. I think about her a lot. And health care is my profession, so I'm always thinking about that.
MONTAGNE: Do you see - does the presidential election look like it's going to matter to the concerns that you've shared with us?
Ms. WOODS: God, I would hate to be negative and say no. It's everyday life for everyone, and unless you're in their circle, I mean maybe your career or whatever, you just don't talk about it or think about it that often. Now, it's going to be at the top of everybody's list closer to the election. But you know, we're worried about our families. We're working. We're taking care of our kids. You know, I was at a huge function with probably (unintelligible) and no one - not one circle of conversation - spoke about the elections. You know, we're talking about family and the holidays. It just wasn't at the top of anybody's list.
MONTAGNE: We thank all three of you for joining us. As we said, we're traveling along Interstate 10, and Shannon Woods is a three-fer for our Interstate 10 conversation - part of our program from Baton Rouge to New Orleans to Mobile, Alabama, all along this highway. Marie Richard is there in Belmont, Texas; Cindy Sanders in Sonora. Thank you all.
Ms. WOODS: You're welcome.
Ms. SANDERS: Quite welcome.
Ms. RICHARD: Thank you. You're welcome.
MONTAGNE: And good luck to all of you in 2008.
Ms. WOODS: Thank you, same to you.
Ms. RICHARD: Thank you.
Ms. SANDERS: Thank you.
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