It started with one stuffed elephant. Then another. And another. Twenty-some years later and Becky Otwell has filled her "grandchildrens' room" with so many countless stuffed toys that, well, she can't count.


"I have no clue how many there are," Otwell said. "You'll find elephants all over the house."


But the elephants aren't the only elements of a definitely patriotic decor. Where there isn't a partisan pachyderm, visitors will see "USA" in needlepoint, pictures of bald eagles, Mickey Mouse with an American flag, a proud Uncle Sam and lots of red, white and blue all over.


And, oh yeah, there is even an Equus asinus.


"I also have a donkey. I have friends that are donkeys," she smiled.


It's certainly no coincidence that Otwell, one of the most visible, popular figures in the Victor Valley, has an affinity with elephants. During the 1980s the ardent Republican was appointed by former State Assemblyman Chuck Bader to serve on the county's Republican Central Committee. She was subsequently elected to that position two more times. Otwell, a 30-year resident of Hesperia, served on the committee for a total of eight years.


Her affection for conservative politics continues today. Last week, she attended an event for the apparent Republican presidential nominee, John McCain. She even had the opportunity to shake the Arizona senator's hand.


But Otwell, who owns Shear Realty, is involved in much more than Republican politics. The former owner of Prudential Real Estate and possessor of a long Victor Valley pedigree, Otwell was appointed to serve on the fair board and has been involved in numerous service organizations. She is active in the Hesperia Chamber of Commerce and currently serves as president of the Hesperia Kiwanis Club.


Her deepest passion, however, is her country, the United States of America. On this Fourth of July, Otwell and her husband Leroy are planning to attend festivities at the County Fairgrounds in Victorville. While others are eating hot dogs or enjoying entertainment or fireworks, Otwell will likely tend to other activities that are especially near and dear to her heart.


"We might be registering people to vote," she said.


And perhaps some registrants will follow in Otwell's particularly pachyderm path.