Texas' Own Joe The Plumber

If you watched last night's presidential debate, you know who the star was -- Joe The Plumber. He's a fellow in Ohio who's worried about taxes.

His name was invoked no less than 15 times by Republican nominee John McCain, who is using him as sort of an Everyman in the discussion over Barack Obama's proposed tax policies and how they might affect small businesses.

There is, however, another Joe The Plumber, and he lives in Texas. In fact, it could reasonably be argued that he's the real Joe The Plumber. He got dibs on the Internet domain name a year go, sells Joe The Plumber t-shirts, employs eight people and operates a fleet of six trucks.

The phone to his 24-hour business in Amarillo has been ringing non-stop since last night, but he's not there today. He's hunting elk in Colorado.

Joe's office manager, Ronnie Bishop, who was having the calls forwarded to his cell, said the deluge started before the debate was over.

He picked up the first call and heard a "bunch of kids yelling, `You're famous,' " and hung up, thinking it was a crank call.

The phone hasn't stopped ringing, Bishop tells Hair Balls.

"I've had thousands from all across the country. People wantin' to buy t-shirts, people wantin' to buy the domain name."

Lots of reporters, too. "New York, California, the local ones are startin' to show up now."

Joe Francis, the Texas version of Joe The Plumber, is surprised, to say the least, but so far he's not returning calls, even to Bishop, his office manager. He left for Colorado at 5 a.m. this morning.

It turns out, though, that Joe The Plumber in Texas is supporting McCain, Bishop said. "We were talkin' about it the other day."

So if McCain needs another Joe The Plumber to help turn the tide in the weird campaign of 2008, he might check Amarillo, but this Joe is not scheduled to finish his elk hunting expedition 'til Oct. 25.

-- Steve Olafson

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