Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Visiting my buddy in Crawford, Texas

11:00 p.m.

Wingate Inn, Round Rock, Texas

Breaking camp this morning, it was already "baking", even in Mother Neff's shady glade. It was a short ride north to Crawford, little more than a crossroad on the Texas plain. But a billboard with the smiling faces of George W. and Laura welcome each and every one (regardless of political, or other orientation.)

Welcome! Now go home.

The "Coffee Station" seemed the place to be, a row of cars across its front. A convenience store, gift shop and restaurant all rolled into one. The restaurant was full. I took my place in line, noting the strange mix of farmers, farm workers, and then there were all these OTHER people: clean cut, smartly-dressed, men and women who looked quite out-of-place in a western ranching town. Could they be...REPUBLICANS???

Inside the "Coffee Station", Crawford, Texas. Western White House staff, reporters, Secret Service, foreign dignitaries or even the President and First Lady; you never know who's going to show up.

I really felt I had infiltrated enemy lines. Do you think they noticed? (As if the California license plate didn't stand out here.) The waitress asked if, since I was alone, I'd like to share a table with another fellow she had just seated. First I said, "I don't think so." But then I changed my mind. "If you want to ask him if it's okay..."

I sat down across the table from Billy Garrett, a husky thirty-something fellow; VERY clean-cut ("I get my hair cut every two weeks."). I learned he owns a bed and breakfast in Waco, and also runs a pool-cleaning service. In fact, he cleans the President's pool. He was just out there this morning. He said the President's pool is pretty ordinary, a simple 20' by 80' pool.

Billy was able to bring me up to date on the Cindy Sheehan drama playing out near the President's ranch. Clearly, Billy felt she is being bank-rolled and manipulated by powerful liberals.

"The press says she's been sleeping out at 'Camp Casey' (her protest site.) It's not true. She's been staying at a motel in town."

He also took exception to all the Bush-bashers who criticize his time spent at Crawford. "Every President takes vacation in August. When you're President, you work all the time, 24-7. When he's here, he's working. He can do here anything he can do in Washington."

Billy said it's easy to spot the liberals, "they have a certain look," and we looked each other in the eye. We talked about the war. He said it is right that we went into Iraq because of the way women were treated there. (Were the rights of Iraqi women high on the White House agenda when they planned this invasion? I doubt it. And it remains to be seen if women's rights will truly improve in Iraq.)

I told him I have opposed the war from the start (even BEFORE the start.) There is virtually no difference between this affair and Vietnam. America was deceived then, and we have been deceived again. The only ones who profit are militaries, manufacturers of military hardware and munitions, contractors who rebuild what has just been destroyed, those providing services to the military, consultants who assist in rebuilding destroyed nations, etc. Jeez, I think I have just made a case FOR war! It doesn't matter where, or on what pretext. War is GOOD for the economy! (And this is the thread that unites Vietnam and Iraq. Economics and the control of resources.)

After a burger with fried jalapenos (Billy recommended them - excellent!), I visited the "Yellow Rose" gift shop across the street, browsing all the Crawford and Republican souvenirs. Having a President in your backyard is really good for business! One display rack holds framed photographs and biographical sketches of some of our heroes: John Wayne, Roy Rodgers, Gene Autry, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. He's a cowboy, and they absolutely love it here.

Downtown Crawford. Preaching "The Ten Commandments" and war.

I don't quite recall this phenomena, this cult of personality, when Nixon's "Western White House" was in San Clemente, CA, or Reagan's was near Santa Barbara, CA.

I have to admit, it was both fun and very interesting being here at the center of the Republican universe. Thousands of signs around Crawford and the surrounding country read such things as:
This is Bush country
These colors don't run
Support our Troops
God Bless America (but NO one else!)
Smoke 'em out 43!
And my favorite:
Liberals are more dangerous than terrorists

Behind enemy lines in Downtown Crawford. There is a clearly-expressed belief that war is the only path to freedom. This, juxtaposed with Christian principles and "The Commandments" is quite mind-boggling.

Crawford has a new post office. (The volume of mail must have increased exponentially when George W. and Laura bought the ranch in 1999.)

And don't you forget it. I guess I'll pass on that withdrawal.

Followed directions out to the Western White House. Several miles out, I came to "Camp Casey II", one of the protester encampments and, directly opposite the counter-protesters' camp, then a little further beyond, a road block.

"Camp Casey II"

At the road block, I stopped to speak with the officers sitting in their car. The passenger climbed out to see what I wanted. He was wearing a "Secret Service" tag.

"Do you know where Cindy Sheehan's camp is?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know where Cindy Sheehan's camp is? That's one of the main news stories out of this area, and you don't know?"

"I don't know."

"Is it down this road?" I asked pointing to the barricades.

"This road is closed."

A female officer, a state trooper, I think, now got out of the car and approached, remaining several paces back.

I continued my inquiry with the Secret Service agent. "Do you know where George W. lives?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know where the President lives?"


"Do you know who you work for?"

"I know who I work for."

"Do they teach you to be ignorant?"

"If that's what you want to call it."

"Do they teach you to lie?" I was taunting him now, irritated by his automaton-like behavior. "It's un-American to lie, you know."

He remained expressionless.

Finally I thanked him for the information.

"How do you keep cool out here?"

"Think cool thoughts."

A culture of cool. Chillingly cool.

Returned to "Camp Casey II" to learn if they had any better information. They told me to go back and turn left at the barricade, "don't even stop." I would find "Camp Casey" a few miles beyond.

"Camp Casey" and a road leading into the Bush compound.

It was not difficult to find. The site is marked by a huge white tent. (The tent, I'm told, was purchased from a group that had used it for a George W. Bush fund-raising event.) A rancher apparently donated the use of one acre of land, right at the corner of a drive leading to the President's ranch. Cars were lining one side of the road for a quarter mile or so. Things were winding down here after a big weekend of events. The "Bring Them Home Now Tour" is leaving tomorrow and is scheduled to rally in Washington, DC on September 24-26. They have three routes to Washington: north, central and south, with rallies planned in cities along the route. See the website ( http://bringthemhomenowtour.org/ )

I wandered around under the "big top" for a while, listening in on arrangements being made for the tour, and a radio interview being broadcast live. Watched as the boots of fallen soldiers were collected into black plastic bags, to be laid out once again in Washington.

Broadcasting from "Camp Casey"

Returning to "Camp Casey II", took a closer look at "both sides of the fence" visiting first the counter-protesters' exhibits, then the protesters'. White crosses (and some white markers with crescents) lined this country lane. Billy said there had been some heated discussions about certain crosses appearing in this "demonstration." Some families opposed the name of their fallen soldier being used in such a way. They had the crosses removed. Some were re-located to a pro-Bush site in Crawford.

Across the road from the protesters' "Camp Casey", the counter-protesters. It was over 95 degrees out here.

Along one road into the Western White House, crosses for each soldier killed in Iraq. On the opposite side of the road, "Support Our Troops" signs.

With god on our side...

1 comment:

Drew said:

Great job of photojournalism, Tim! It's awesome to see the camps and the people and get your very poised and succinct observations. I think I see your post-wine-industry career jelling here!

It was scorching out here on the nearly treeless plain. I talked with a sheriff who had a temperature gauge in his car. "It's 95, but with the 'heat factor' (humidity included), it's 102."

Three veterans were sitting with a fellow who, from his close-cropped hair appeared to be "active duty". Another person was recording the interview. I moved in to hear what was being said. The soldier, who is in the Army, was describing the chaos of street fighting in Iraq. It was totally out-of-control, he said.

He then described shooting at a child who "looked like he had something. I'm pretty sure I hit him...it's not right." At this point, his rigid features started to shake, and he broke down crying. The three veterans knelt close and embraced him. "It's okay. It wasn't your fault."

I wish every person could have seen war through this young man's eyes. It would bring shame to our chest-thumping, flag-waving, shoot-em-up adolescent behavior.

On the right, an active duty soldier, who has served in Iraq, relates his experiences to veterans. As I passed by, he was talking about a chaotic street fight in which he shot at a child. "I'm pretty sure I hit him...it's not right."

Back at the "Yellow Rose", I bought a couple of post cards to send to family. Outside, Garlene Parris walked over and introduced herself. A real character. In her youth, she was a trick rider and showed me pictures of her as a child, riding in an arena, standing on a horse; and another, where she's riding along doing a hand stand, her hands planted on the horse's hind quarters. Her mother, Velda Tindall-Smith is in "The Cowgirl Hall of Fame", and has been nominated for the "Cowboy Hall of Fame".

She was on a mission to collect cowboy hats, visiting ranches in the area. Regarding the protests, she says she tries to remain neutral. Then she called over a gentleman about my age (whose name I missed); "you have to meet him." He is planning to be the first foreigner to walk the entire length of The Great Wall of China, hopefully next year.

In Newfoundland, Jeff and I failed to notice the "friendly people" we had heard so much about. Here in Texas, I'm struck by how friendly people are (though my politics may be at odds with most here.) I don't recall this from my experience in Texas many years ago. It's refreshing.

In downtown Crawford, crosses that families requested be removed from the protesters' display.

Before leaving Crawford, I stopped in at the "Crawford Peace House", a "permanent" effort to bring an end to the war in Iraq. They coordinate many events from here, including the "Camp Caseys". In the kitchen, two women worked in extreme heat to prepare free meals for those who have come to support the effort.

It's definitely grass roots, but they are having an impact, as witnessed in the press.

The heat was taking its toll on me, and riding towards Austin, I was thinking "air conditioned motel tonight, definitely."


Jkampion said...

In their face!! Gotta love it! Good for you, bro. I'm proud of you.

timtraveler said...

He won. I'm the one who got pissed off!

Bob said...

You're right. Texans are extremely cordial and straightforward. I like them a lot. For some 'big' reasons, they have quite common with Aussies ("The Texas of the South Pacific") and Brazilians ("The Texas of South America")

I don't mean to be patronizing, but many of those that remain all their lives in the Lone Star State don't have access to the same insights we have. While the ones that leave usually come around...

Drew Kampion said...

I made a comment on the "confrontation" incident, too, but like a dink I posted it below the billboard image below ... sheeeze!

timtraveler said...

Jeff commented about the Coffee Station photo:

"Did the menu feature pictures of the food so that 'dubbya' could just point out his selection?"