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The Riverton Count

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ONCE you get past the apparent silliness of it, there may be something very elemental about David Wimp's devotion to fundamental arithmetic.

Wimp rises each morning in Riverton, Wyo. and is at his desk in the living room of his mobile home by 7 a.m. In front of him is a Casio calculator with a roll of paper in it. For the next hour or so, David Wimp counts, one number at a time.

He began counting in l982 with the number one. "Now I'm at 3,672,428," he says. His objective is to count, one number at a time, all the way to 1,000,000,000.

"Well," he says, ve probably used up about 12 calculators. I can get 5,000 numbers on a roll. I've got some shelves in my living room filled with used rolls, more than 200 rolls, I'd say."

Let me describe it again: Each morning Wimp sits at his desk, and picks up where he left off yesterday on the calculator, 3,672,426, then 3,672,427, then 3,672,428, and on and on. "To me it's an interesting hobby," he says. ve been at this million for 419 days. I'll probably reach 1,000,000,000 when I'm 62."

Why would anybody want to count up to 1,000,000,000?

"Well, it got started in me in a high school math class about 30 years ago," says Wimp. "The math teacher asked us each to count to a million in nine weeks. I was the one that went the farthest, to 25,000 with a pencil."

Wimp discovered he liked to count.

"I even counted when I was in the Army," he says. In Vietnam and Germany, Wimp was a cook for 20 years. Now he works part-time for a sanitation company and counts every day for a few hours and on the weekends.

"Yeah, there are probably other things I could do instead of counting," he says, "but it's an interesting hobby. I don't think I'll get tired of it."

Perhaps in an unstable world where governments collapse and re-form almost weekly, and the social fabric of just about any human institution is frayed and flapping in the wind, Wimp has discovered a pure and precise mathematical joy: counting. Order, stability, precision.

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