With bucolic Crawford, Texas (pop. 705, except when President Bush takes his August vacation there) and its environs groaning under the weight of Cindy Sheehan's protest, protesters protesting Cindy Sheehan's protest and the media covering it all, locals are beginning to long for the days when their rural roads were dusty and, well, empty.
Now one wants to return to a quieter time. McLennan County Commissioner Ray Meadows, who told TIME he was "mad as a hornet" when he first saw cars and tents spilling over the ditches on Prairie Chapel Road in what was to become Camp Casey, has called on his fellow commissioners to limit traffic and activity on seven miles of road around the Western White House.
At Tuesday's county commission meeting Meadows pushed for passage of a new ordinance to limit traffic, parking and marching on several rural roads near the President's ranch. Not all five of the commissioners supported the action and the Texas Civil Rights Project has threatened a lawsuit, but on a 3-2 vote Meadows won support for a public hearing on the issue. The bad news for residents concerned about the return of Sheehanwho left the ranch to care for her ill motheris that the public hearing will be held in about 30 days time, long after President Bush returns to the White House after his summer vacation.
The ordinance is similar to one the county adopted in 1993 during the 51-day siege by federal law enforcement at the Branch Davidian complex east of Waco. When that incident ended tragically, the sheriff complained that he might have solved the standoff more peacefully over a cup of coffee. So far, the current sheriff and his deputies have opted for a laid back approach and there have been only a couple of confrontations, including the arrest of a man who mowed down symbolic crosses planted along the roadway by anti-war protestors. But controlling the crowds is taking its toll on local law enforcement.
"What has happened in the past two weeks is our sheriff and chief deputy have been turned into parking attendants," Commissioner Meadows complained at Tuesday's meeting. School officials told commissioners they have had to change rural school bus stops because some parents are fearful the heavy traffic will cause accidents. And so for now, at least some residents want to put up the Keep Out sign. "We're just good, warm, welcoming country folk," said Martha Fulp, matriarch of a fourth generation Crawford farming family, "but this is too much."