We passed the flashing Caution: Heavy Traffic Ahead sign as we reached town. Idyllic Sunday afternoon stuff, the first part of the way: On the left, a guy on a riding lawn mower; on the right, somebody else at a half-barrel grill. I nodded at him, smiling, as we passed.
"Go home," he mouthed at us.
Welcome to Crawford.
It was Other Joe's idea: He decided that the copy desk needed to go out and see in person some of the news that we'd been writing headlines about and checking spelling on. This being pretty much the last weekend before the circus left town he organized a spur-of-the-moment expedition.
We pulled in at the sign that read "Event Parking," across the railroad tracks from the grain elevators. We debated getting on the shuttle bus to go to Camp Casey, on up the long road from Crawford to the president's ranch, but decided instead to see the sights of downtown Crawford.
There are two of them, mainly -- the Yellow Rose souvenir store on the right, and the Coffee Station coffee shop/convenience store on the left. We went in both; I bought a $1.50 refrigerator magnet from the Yellow Rose reflecting the Crawford attitude to outsiders (see userpic).
Outside the Yellow Rose was a replica Liberty Bell and Ten Commandments monument. The commandments were there presumably to signify the ungodliness of the anti-war protesters. Unlike the real Liberty Bell, the replica was ringable, and was rung often. And loudly. Annoyingly loudly, after the sixth or seventh time...
Next to the Yellow Rose was, essentially, counterprotest HQ, with crosses representing soldiers whose families had objected to the Camp Casey memorial. At least some of the crosses, I believe, were originally at Camp Casey and relocated here. Next to the tent, off-camera to the right, was a barbecue trailer with a sign saying, "Smoke 'Em Out, 43!" It was unclear whether this referred to terrorists or anti-war protesters. The tent, interestingly, included a neutral T-shirt for sale (unless something was on the back that rendered it partisan): "I Survived Crawford 2005."
Next door at the Coffee Station, business was going great guns; the owner was only getting by because a friend had volunteered to help on the restaurant side while he worked the convenience-store register.
Next we headed back to the Crawford Peace House, where some tents were set up for campers the other side of a meditation labyrinth laid out in small stones. A schedule posted on the front porch informed us that there would be a rosary at 5 p.m. with "Martin Sheen (President)." (We were going to have to head back not too long after 3 p.m., for the benefit of the copy-deskers who were working tonight; we had already learned we were going to miss a march through Crawford by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton at 4.) In the food tent next to the Peace House, a man was holding forth loudly on Sept. 11 conspiracy theories.
Rather than take the shuttle van, we decided to drive out to Camp Casey ourselves. It's a ten minute drive or so, and quite scenic; Other Joe commented on how easily you could forget, living in Waco, that this existed only minutes away. The road actually leading to the president's ranch was blocked off by state troopers at a key intersection, forcing us to curve left, then right, to where it intersected again, and was blockaded again -- next to Camp Casey II.
There are actually two Camps Casey, named, of course, after Cindy Sheehan's son who died in the war -- the first was along the side of the road further back from the ranch, with the counterprotesters forming up across a ditch from them. This led to traffic snarls (and snarling local residents -- again, see userpic), and one landowner offered part of his land for a bigger camp safely off the road. This was Camp Casey II. Under the large tent, a stage and PA system were set up, and singers and poets holding forth. In front of the large tent, several rows of crosses. (Camp Casey I remains a going concern, with its original line of crosses in the highway right-of-way.)
Other Joe noted a difference between this protest and the Vietnam-era anti-war protests: No spitting on people in uniform, this time. Both sides use "Support Our Soldiers" as a rallying cry; both sides fly POW-MIA flags.
As we drove back through Crawford there were three or four people across from the Yellow Rose holding signs saying that U.S. soldiers should be defending the Rio Grande, not the Euphrates. These may have been the white supremacists that were supposed to be coming to town...
The two camps were mostly keeping to themselves; if there was any shouting (directly at each other, anyway) or any pushing-and-shoving, I didn't see it. It may be that I was in town at the wrong time for it, since we missed the march through town. Democracy in action: encouraging in some ways, discouraging in others (do you have to be in one camp or the other? What about Camp I-Don't-Trust-Bush-Further-Than-I-Can-Th
By the way, here's more pictures from the trip...