Amateur ice cream salesman Austin Tarango is a huge nerd.
That proclamation is the second sentence out of his mouth when a reporter walked up to where he was straddling — backward — his bike on Second Street. It was the beginning of an answer as to why Tarango was in Casper selling ice cream out of a crudely constructed icebox and, to a lesser degree, what was up with the sparkly, too-small, red, white and blue cowboy hat he had tied to his head.
“I was going to come up for the eclipse and thought I might try to make a few bucks,” the University of Wyoming sophomore said Saturday in downtown Casper. (As for the hat, he thought it was an essential part of his uniform. The only hat he could find that fit didn’t actually fit, but it does sparkle.)
Tarango decided on selling ice cream because it was easy and cheap. He knew the crowds in Casper were expected to be huge for Monday’s solar eclipse. And while he’d never hawked popsicles before, he went to the hardware store, bought a foam insulation box, covered it in cardboard and spray-painted it.
On the front — or the back, as it faces customers as Tarango rides away — are prices for his wintry wares. Disassembled boxes for Fudgsicles, Otter Pops and Italian ice are taped to the container. Done.
“Yeah, I duct-taped a giant (inflatable) popsicle to the side, too,” Tarango said.
Like all burgeoning businessmen, Tarango’s had to adapt. He realized people often didn’t know what he was selling until after he’d sped past them. The giant popsicle helped. So did his decision to start playing the ice cream song from his speakers as he rode.
“Some kids started waving me down,” he said, laughing.
Then he decided to stop riding and instead parked his polar express in the center of the action, in the shade near the intersection of Second and Center streets. He said he’d done pretty well for himself. It’d been a hot day, and crowds had grown as the hours passed.
He wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the money yet.
As he spoke, a bearded man walked up, shaking his head. He took his phone out and snapped a picture.
“This is the coolest bike I’ve ever seen,” he marveled.