If a visitor were to come to Steuben, Wisconsin and keep going straight past the few homes and rusted playground with no children, the destination would be Jo’s Kountry Bar.
It was cold on day one of hunting season. People in big trucks parked in front of the large bar. Hunters bustled in, wearing matching orange hats and jackets. The customers turned and saw the new faces that obviously did not fit in with the neon orange attire. What at first was an awkward entry became a much friendlier environment.
Steuben is a village of about 132 residents in Crawford county that flipped by the highest percentage in the county from voting for Obama in 2012 to Trump this past election. According to the Crawford County voting tallies, out of 50 votes, 34 of them were for Trump.
It is part of what is called the Trump pyramid which also includes counties Wauzeka, Bell Center, Marietta, Eastman, and Freeman.
Jo Bunders, the bar owner and Trump supporter, was shocked by the county turning red.
“People are pretty closed mouthed,” said Bunders. “I was surprised that Trump won in Steuben. They weren’t talking about it. You only talked about it if you someone supporting Trump. Otherwise people were afraid of what people would think.”
Bunders made sure to greet everyone who came through the door. Her bar was the watering hole for visitors of Steuben that day.
The bar has been around for 30 years, and Bunders just got Wi-Fi recently. The walls were covered in lighted signs and posters. At the far end of the wall, there was a wooden sign that said “Red-necked Wind Chimes” with two dented beer cans dangling by strings. Bunders said there used to be more cans. In the corner, there was turkey feathers mounted to the wall with two bird feet giving “the bird.” Bunders said the decorations were from regular customers.
Bunders was born in Grant County, the county next door. She has lived in Steuben for about 33 years. Bunders, 56, has short white hair and square glasses. Bunders wore a simple V-neck shirt and pants. She seemed serious at first but once in a while she would give a big smile.
Bunders knows a lot of the people in town. Most people are about 30 to 50 years old. Bunders said that there were more people in town when she moved into town.
“I don’t know everybody’s dogs’ names, but I know most of them. I know everyone’s names and kids’ names; they just don’t lie, they are good people, hard-working people,” said Bunders.
It wasn’t rowdy or loud in the bar. Everyone chatted quietly while they drank and watched the silent T.V playing. Most of them did not vote at all but shared with Bunders similar views.
According to Bunders, the town hasn’t changed much since she’s lived in Steuben. She was born in Grant County, the county next door. She has lived in Steuben for about 33 years. Her daughter Jackie and grandchildren work in the bar with her.
People from Steuben and other places like Eastman come to Jo’s Kountry Bar for coffee at 7:30 in the morning. Bunders says that there is no place to get coffee in Eastman.
According to the bar owner, the town doesn’t have a post office anymore after a flood about eight years ago.
Bunders said she votes for who she likes and that she is an independent. She supported Obama because she thought he was a good speech maker. Bunders believed that Obama tried to do what he promised to do, but the Senate blocked it.
“I voted for Obama twice, and I voted for Trump because I’m sick of the politicians who are out for themselves.”
Bunders has Obamacare and it has risen $86, making it close to $300 a month. In the beginning the insurance worked for Bunders. She said it’s hard to pay that much when it’s coming out of their paycheck.
“I’m self-employed,” said Bunders. “That’s one week’s pay check. Literally out of pocket, I do get subsidies, I pay $191 out of pocket, now $86 more.”
Jo Bunders didn’t pay attention to the Democratic Party after Trump was nominated. She thought it was wrong what the Democratic National Committee did to Bernie Sanders.
Even though Trump is not a politician, he being a businessman is something that appealed to Bunders as a small business owner in Steuben.
“He’s just a businessman who started small, just a businessman and a regular person looks at that.”
Bunders said she and others are hoping that Trump will help the area economically. About six years ago a company called Advance Transformer moved from Boscobel, Grant County to Mexico. Some people in Steuben also worked there.
Some employees were older and retired early, according to Bunders. They picked up part time jobs until they could retire. Some went back to school.
“It hurts my business when the economy sucks,” said Bunders
Bunders said that Steuben is a farming community. There used to be a lot of dairy farms, but when milk prices are low, farmers struggle. Bunders said many farmers have turned to beef and crop farming.
There were some comments Trump made that Bunders thought wasn’t smart.
“He talked a lot of sh-t the first year, and he’d have a good week and then say something stupid and I would think, oh my God, but the last month maybe of the candidacy, he really looked in the camera and looked like he was talking right at you.
Bunders said that Steuben probably flipped for Trump because they were looking for change. She talked to people who believed Trump was the lesser of two evils.
Bunders mentioned that people were not impressed with Benghazi and the emails.
“Whether she was the better political candidate or not, her track record was the bigger part against her,” said Bunders. “The lying – lying about emails and lying about Benghazi.”
Bunders was not bothered by the sexual allegations of Trump. She was not sure if they were telling the truth.
“Why wait until the last month to come forward?” said Bunders. “Maybe the Democrats knew about it and were waiting.”
Bunders said that a lot of “misogynist sh-t” happens at her bar.
When it comes to immigrants, Bunders is more bothered by people who are in the United States illegally. She said they need to do the paperwork and become citizens. Bunders believes that we do need those immigrants.
“I’m not going to pick apples, tomatoes.”
Bunders said that not everyone that voted for Trump are racists. She did not like Trump’s racist comments.
“I voted for Trump, and I’m not racist,” said Bunders.
As Jo spoke with customers and served hot bowls of chili and delicious burgers, attention is shifted in the direction of the nonchalant customers sipping beer. A father and son from Howard, Green Bay had come to Steuben to hunt and drink.
The father, Brian Haworth, 53, has been coming to the town for 30 years. Brian and his son 23-year-old son Josh both did not vote. Brian was quick to remark that his wife voted “for the guy with the fake toupee.”
Josh said he had a gut feeling that Trump would win and that a lot of people were hating on Obama. He said he didn’t vote because there wasn’t anyone good to vote for.
Brian said people probably didn’t want to vote for a lady. A lady that works for Jo quickly replied, “I didn’t want a liar.”
Jody Martin, 56 is a semi driver who also did not vote because he thought it doesn’t do any good. Martin didn’t vote for Obama. He could not recall the last time that he voted.
Martin said that he doesn’t believe in voting just Republican or Democrat.
He did not like either candidate, especially Hillary Clinton. Martin said he did not know how Clinton got away with the emails. He thought the last investigation was resolved too quickly.
One thing Martin disagreed with Clinton on is gun control. He was also one of many people that said she was a liar.
Despite his dislike for Clinton, Martin thought Trump was going to lose.
Across the bar was Richard Jacobson, 60, and his son-in-law Matt Montag from Pittsville, Wisconsin. They were bundled up in hunting clothes. Jacobson voted for himself and Montag voted for Trump. Jacobson however did prefer Trump over Clinton.
“Hillary Clinton is a criminal,” said Montag, who is in the National Guard, referring to the emails. “Any other person that would’ve dealt with classified information would be in prison.”
In the past, Montag voted for Mitt Romney and Bill Clinton.
Montag’s theory as to why Steuben flipped to Trump is that there are a lot of hunters there and Clinton wanted to take their guns away. Both Jacobson and Montag eat what they hunt.
They also agreed that there needs to be a ban on Islamic refugees. Jacobson said that the country didn’t have a problem with them until Obama was president. Montag replied that it’s because he let the refugees come into the United States.
Jacobson agrees with building a wall between the United States and Mexico. But they both said that not all refugees and immigrants are bad. Montag said he would support a ban now until there is background checks on them.
Montag and Jacobson did not agree with people calling Trump supporters racist.
“So does that mean if you support Clinton you support criminals?” said Montag.