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u E ST TEXAS It’s 6:50 p.m. in Sterling City, minutes before the first home game of the season. I’m in the town’s Dairy Queen offering to buy two girls their Dr. Peppers with a credit card in exchange for $3 cash, the admission cost to the game. I’m told the town has maybe two ATMs, and neither is working. The Dairy Queen is packed. The entire town of around 1,000 seems to be here, and everyone is clad in purple and red T-shirts, the respective colors of the Garden City Bearkats and Sterling City Eagles. For all my toetapping, in clear the three workers manning the Blizzard station and taking drive-thru orders won’t have time to deal with the line. I’ll be late to meet state Rep. Joe Heflin, one of the last Democratic officeholders in the region. I’m not too worried. Heflin’s already impressed that I came out here not just to a six-man football game, but out to West Spectators at the first home game in Sterling City between the hometown Eagles and the Garden City Bearkats PHOTO BY ABBY RAPOPORT 085 DEMOGRAPHICS 9 of 16 COUNTIES HAVE HAD DOUBLE-DIGIT POPULATION LOSS End lone West ‘texas is losing population and political power. Amid the anxiety, will its independent- minded politics give way to the Tea Party? BY ABBY RAPOPORT OCTOBER 15, 2010 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 113