Palin parents surprised by vice president nomination

Chuck and Sally Heath 'speechless' after returning from camp to news

Posted: Friday, August 29, 2008

ANCHORAGE - If not for flooding at a remote creek, Chuck and Sally Heath might have found out by radio that their daughter, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, had been picked by John McCain to be his GOP running mate.

Al Grillo / The Associated Press
Al Grillo / The Associated Press

High water Thursday kept the Heaths from reaching their gold mine, which they use as a camp to hunt caribou.

They returned home, intending to drop in Friday at the Alaska State Fair, where their daughter was scheduled to take part in the ceremonial launch of the Alaska commemorative quarter with the assistant director of the U.S. Mint.

Those plans went out the window with the announcement that Palin, a first-term governor, social conservative and new mother, had been thrust into the national spotlight by McCain.

"Holy cow. I'm just kind of speechless on the whole thing," Chuck Heath, a former elementary school teacher, told The Associated Press.

In hindsight, he said Friday morning, he should have known something was up.

Alaska's first gentleman, Todd Palin, called him as he and Sally Heath drove to the remote camp behind Gunsight Mountain, 56 miles northeast of Palmer, which is far from a cell phone connection.

"He didn't know we were going hunting," Heath said.

Todd Palin told him to listen to the radio.

"He said, 'Make sure you listen to the news from hunting camp.' I should have put two and two together," Heath said, because he knew McCain was going to make an announcement.

When they couldn't cross Caribou Creek on four-wheelers, they headed back to Wasilla and reached their home at midnight.

The phone rang at 4 a.m. Friday. A friend from Atlanta was on the line, noting the buzz that Palin was McCain's likely vice presidential pick.

Heath said he tried Palin's various phone numbers and could not reach his daughter. That was a clear signal she had flown to Ohio to meet McCain.

"I would bet she's back there," Heath said before the announcement.

With only a few hours sleep, and with the phone ringing constantly at his home, he remained bemused by the commotion.

"I'd rather go moose hunting than be involved with politics," he said, but he supports his daughter.



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