WASILLA -- From the bumper sticker on their pickup to the church where they worship, everything about Chuck and Sally Heath is suddenly newsworthy.
Their daughter is one of the biggest national news stories of the year, and so, of course, the parents of Sarah Palin are big news too.
Reporters started calling early Friday morning when John McCain picked Palin as his running mate. By Saturday, about 80 of them had flown to Alaska, driven to Wasilla, found the Heath's home and knocked on the door.
Not even church provided sanctuary from the blitz.
"We went to church today, and there they were -- three camera crews," Chuck Heath said Sunday while taking a break from mowing his lawn.
"I talked to a Japanese crew, and we've heard from England and India," he said. "Someone from Australia e-mailed us yesterday. I guess this is making headlines all over the world."
Between the nonstop buzz over McCain's stunning choice and a 24/7 news cycle that requires constant feeding, Wasilla is smack in the path of a media storm.
The Heaths are taking it in stride. But Chuck had to chuckle when even his pickup made national news.
"They showed a picture of the bumper sticker on there, that one that says 'Vegetarian: Old Indian word for bad hunter,'" he said.
With Palin in the Lower 48 campaigning with McCain, the Heaths have become go-to players for news media hungry for a hometown angle on Palin.
So has Chris Coleman, who lives next door to Todd and Sarah Palin on the shore of Lake Lucille.
The Coleman driveway is marked "private," but every so often a stranger winds up at the house, usually by mistake.
"Maybe in a month, I might have three or four cars pull into the driveway, go 'oops' and pull away and leave," Coleman said Sunday. "Since they made the announcement, there must have been, gosh, 25 the first day and I couldn't even tell you how many yesterday.
"I had a Japanese news crew shooting from the end of my driveway. You can see the top half of the Palin house from there. They were trying to shoot the top of the house."
An unmarked white minivan showed up four or five times on Saturday, and on its last visit, someone with a camera got out and went to Coleman's greenhouse, next to the fence between the two houses.
"He tried to climb over the fence," Coleman said. "I said, 'Enough.' He looked up and saw me and bolted to his car and ran. All I could think of was the National Enquirer."
PUTTING WASILLA ON THE MAP
Google "Wasilla" and you get 2.79 million hits -- a number that's sure to have grown by now. If nothing else, Palin is putting her hometown on the map.
From the Washington Post: "Sarah Palin grew up, played basketball, wore a tiara and first stood for office in this town that is really an incorporated cluster of strip malls and lumber yards."
From the Los Angeles Times: "Wasilla, about an hour north of Anchorage, is in the Mat-Su Valley, a place of sweeping lakes and rivers where clouds of mist lie low in the fields and snow-striped mountain peaks jut from the clouds. ... Charmless strip malls with big-box stores line the main highway; lakefront homes open onto dramatic views."
From the New York Daily News, whose reporter visited Chuck and Sally Heath: "Scores of reporters descended Saturday on the A-frame wood hunting lodge where Sarah Palin's parents live amid hundreds of sets of trophy antlers and a taxidermy collection that includes a giant moose head and a full-grown mountain lion."
Since the initial rush to interview the Heaths, McCain campaign workers have intervened. Reporters are supposed to call a media liaison with interview requests.
"They gave us a protocol to talk to people, and Sally's kind of in charge of it," Chuck said as he ushered a Daily News reporter and photographer into the house, showing off the skull of a steppe bison he found while gold mining and hundreds of colorful fishing lures he has pulled out of the Little Su River over the years. In the living room, a couple copies of a Sarah Palin biography sit on a table, and in the basement a wall filled with family photos includes a big picture of his daughter back when she was Miss Wasilla.
He's trying to abide by the protocol laid out by the McCain campaign, but Chuck Heath is naturally engaging and a born storyteller.
"I hate not being hospitable," he said.
Find Beth Bragg online at adn.com/contact/bbragg or call 257-4309.