OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ In the small eastern Oklahoma town of Checotah, area ranchers who gather at Katy's Cafe for breakfast usually talk about cattle prices or whether the crappie are biting at nearby Lake Eufaula.
Reality television typically doesn't top the list of conversation.
But that was before Checotah native Carrie Underwood became a finalist on the Fox television show ``American Idol.'' The 22-year-old senior at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, who withdrew this semester to continue on the show, is one of the final four contestants.
``Most of the time they're talking about cattle prices or politics,'' said 76-year-old Lloyd Jernigan, director of the Chamber of Commerce for the town of about 3,800. ``But Carrie is probably the number one conversation right now.''
Underwood's friends and family say the polite, quiet, small-town girl with the beautiful voice featured on the show is how they remember her as a child growing up in Checotah.
``She never did do anything out of line,'' said Carl Shatswell, Underwood's grandfather. ``You couldn't ask for any better youngster growing up.''
And while Shatswell described Underwood as quiet and shy, that description changed when it came to her singing.
``I figured she'd make something of it, because she's sung all of her life,'' he said. ``She went to Kansas one time and was singing on the bus. Her grandmother and me, we tried to get her to hush up, but the rest of the folks on there, they wanted her to keep singing.
``She was just three at the time.''
Holly Paulsboe, Underwood's sorority sister at Sigma Sigma Sigma at Northeastern, said Underwood was a dedicated member and a good student who also has an eclectic taste in music.
``Some people think she's strictly country, but there are other genres she likes,'' Paulsboe said. ``She listens to heavy metal too.''
Both Paulsboe and Underwood were pursuing degrees in mass communication.
In 2001, Underwood was the salutatorian of Checotah High School, which has about 450 students in grades 9-12.
Principal Pam Keeter said Underwood was always a good student who was dedicated to her studies and her musical pursuits.
``She's smart, polite, respectful,'' Keeter said. ``She's just one of those kids.''
Keeter did recall Underwood sported an unusual look when she delivered a speech at the high school graduation ceremony _ a black eye courtesy of a stray softball.
``She was playing softball and ended up with a black eye, and maybe even a broken nose,'' Keeter said. ``You might look at her and think she's real delicate, but she's no sissy. She just came up and gave that speech and kept going.''