Feature: Wednesday, August 25, 2004
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Ruben P. Salazar made the visually pun-ny sign that advertises the Peace House’s purpose.
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Collier: ‘The nature of the work alienates me from part of the community.’
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Nelms: ‘I don’t know what he’s done for Crawford.’
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Johnny Wolf bought this little frame house in Crawford in March 2003 to help establish ‘peace on Earth.’
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Campbell: ‘Before George Bush came down here, nobody worried about political affiliation.’
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Jawad: ‘Things have changed for people who look like me,’
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Loud motors and loud music from passersby didn’t drown out the poets and protest songs.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Peace on the Prairie

In Crawford, opposing war is lonely work — but somebody’s gotta do it.

By JAMIE JORGENSEN, PABLO LASTRA and JOYCE TSAI

It’s a Saturday morning in Crawford, a normally sleepy town about 20 minutes southwest of Waco. The town is positively abuzz with activity on this balmy August day, the vast prairie around it basking beneath turquoise skies and shining sun. Half a mile east of the town’s one stoplight, a couple of hundred residents congregate at one of the local places of worship — the high school football field — to get the first glimpse of this season’s Crawford Pirates, in a scrimmage against the Eagles from Salado. Spirits are high. Despite the junior varsity team’s inability to hang onto the football on running plays, prospects are good for the upcoming game.

About a mile away, on the other side of the road to Waco, another group of worshippers are equally hopeful. At a small white-painted church, members of the majority-black Perry Chapel United Methodist Church are setting up tables and getting ready for a fund-raising barbecue. One member of the congregation proudly shows a photograph of herself meeting President George W. Bush at a local convenience store. Despite her shock, she managed to invite him to church, but he didn’t show. “He probably just forgot,” she says.

A little to the west, some very different cooking smells are coming from an older frame building near the main drag. Activists from all over Texas are getting ready for a “Turn Up the Heat” rally at the Crawford Peace House and preparing a vegetarian dinner. They’re expecting 100 or so people to show up at the little home purchased in 2003 by a Dallas man with the purpose of helping establish “peace on earth.” The schedule of events is nebulous, but it includes music, poetry, and a healthy dose of patriotic dissent. Crawford residents braced for a lot of changes in 1999, when they found out that Dubya was buying a ranch outside of town. But the distinct funk of curried vegetables and saffron rice was probably one change they never expected — not to mention the posters, peace flags, and wild-haired, button-covered folks who sometimes make the Peace House look like a little bit of 1960s Austin timewarped right into the middle of their town.

For the last year and a half, different peace activists have come to the house, stayed a few days or weeks, and gone on. People in Crawford generally seem to tolerate them without liking them. The activists, in keeping with their own belief in tolerance and bridge-building, have made some overtures to the community, only to find out that diplomacy is hard work. Some locals have spurned their efforts, while others think the activists haven’t tried hard enough. In fact, the Peace House folks seem as spiritually isolated from the locals as Crawford’s mostly-minority and mostly-white neighborhoods seem to be from each other — or from the closely guarded ranch a few miles northwest of town.

As for the town’s number-one celebrity, Dubya is inconspicuously absent from his ranch on this day. Residents say he rarely ventures into town, even when he’s around. Those curious about the “Western White House” are pointed toward a winding two-lane blacktop road. A few miles out, as the road begins to narrow, passersby glimpse a metal building with a sign that reads “Property of the U.S. Government” and a fleet of black cars parked outside. Farther down the road, drivers are cautioned by neon orange signs that warn “No stopping. No standing. No parking” — a phrase that apparently tickles the locals enough that it’s been turned into a refrigerator magnet on sale at a local souvenir shop. Rumor has it that those who fail to heed its warnings can look forward to meeting the real Men in Black.

Sitting on the porch of the Peace House, Josh Collier takes a drag off a cigarette, after first asking politely if his guest minds if he smokes. The newly appointed resident volunteer is taking a short break from his numerous duties, one of which is setting up the dining tent. It’s his job to move large platters of veggie stew, rice, and chana masala (a dish made with chickpeas, onions, and spices) that have been brewing all afternoon in the kitchen in industrial-sized pots and pans. As he sits, he waves to passing cars, many of whose drivers slow down for a good look, then speed away when they realize they’ve been noticed.

The last three and a half weeks since Josh moved into the house have been busy. In his first week, he helped stage the Crawford-area premiere of Fahrenheit 9/11, which drew about 1,500 people to the town. He worked to connect all the organizational dots — calling news media, enlisting volunteers for equipment, getting the house and grounds in order, as well as countless other tasks. For today’s event, along with the usual duties, he’s prepared a speech. “How would I feel if my family was killed by bombs?” he will ask the crowd later on. “And why aren’t more people asking themselves the same question?”

With his blondish-brown ponytail and beaded choker, Josh, 24, in some ways looks more like a Seattle progressive than a country boy from Red Rock, Texas. After graduating with a double major in women’s studies and Spanish from Southwestern University in Georgetown, he headed for foreign parts, traveling in several countries. He taught schoolchildren in Ecuador for two years before coming to Crawford.

Collier knows that part of his mission is to establish a continuing human presence at the Peace House. In fact, he’s one of only two people who have lived there for any length of time since it opened. The first resident was Doc Mishler, a traveling Christian-on-horseback from Montana who lived there in the summer of 2003. Though Mishler tried connecting with the community, he didn’t have quite the same agenda as the Peace House activists. He wasn’t a full-time missionary of peace like Josh, who gets a small stipend from members of a Waco peace group.

When it comes to adjusting to his new digs, Josh says, “I grew up in rural Texas, so it’s not a strange place to be.” He’s gotten to know some of the neighbors, knocked on doors, especially on this side of town — the poorer side of the tracks, and talked to a few people in the convenience stores on Crawford’s main street when he stops in for last-minute groceries. (Most Peace House regulars are vegans, who have a hard time buying what they need in Crawford. In fact, even carnivorous locals get most of their food elsewhere, since the town has no full-service grocery store.)

But he admits, “The nature of the work alienates me from part of the community,” and “when things aren’t going on, it’s pretty lonely.” So he deliberately sits out on the porch and waves to folks who drive by. As he speaks, a black pickup truck slows down to stare at the house. When Josh dutifully waves, the driver steps on the gas pedal and speeds away. Another dozen or so cars pass by in a similar manner, like humans at a zoo, spooked when the animal in the cage throws them a peanut. But Josh keeps plugging right along, waving at all the cars. A few people wave back. Then the next driver speeds by, honks, and yells, “Go back to California, hippies!”

That’s OK — it’s just people expressing themselves, Josh says, though he looks a little tired from the heat and all the commotion.

Probably the two most important developments in Crawford’s history were the arrival of the railroad in the 1880s, not long after the town’s founding, and the arrival of the Bushes in 1999. In between, the town didn’t change all that much, except that now the only traces left of Indians are in things like the name of Tonkawa Park (where the football stadium is located) and in the rock paintings near what is now — and probably was then — a popular swimmin’ hole. Population grew from 400 to 700. It’s still a farming and ranching town, but now also a bedroom community to Waco. Lots of people born here stay here — or move away and come back so their kids can go to the town’s excellent schools. Trains still roar through town at least seven times a day, and the tracks still serve as a division between the thriving and not-so-thriving parts of town.

For most non-residents, Crawford was just a gas-and-bathroom stop on a road trip until Bush bought his ranch in 1999, just as his race for the White House was gathering steam. Now, whether or not George II drops by in person for a chicken-fried at the Coffee Station — the town’s only restaurant, which also serves as a gas station and convenience store — he’s still everywhere. Large “Bush 2004” banners seem to drape every building in the few downtown blocks, and you can get your picture taken with Bush’s eerily lifelike cutout in just about every store in town. Four gift shops and most other commercial establishments sell Bush memorabilia. Not a Kerry sign in sight — unless you count the homemade one that says, “Flush the Johns 2004.”

It’s the kind of place where the mayor, on the day Fort Worth Weekly visited, was taking lunch to the police chief, Donnie Tidmore. Since Bush arrived, the five-person police department has added a couple of reserve officers to help on busy days — usually when the president is at the ranch, the media descends, or the Peace House holds a big event. Who knew that being a small-town police chief would involve answering phone calls from all over the world complaining about how a U.S. presidential election was handled? Tidmore said he got a kick out of people calling and thinking he could do something about the election mess of 1999. “When the election went haywire, everything went crazy,” he said. “I started receiving calls from all over the nation and the world ... people saying how votes were improperly counted.”

With Bush finally in the White House, Tidmore learned more unusual lessons — how to coordinate with the Secret Service, for instance, and how to handle the “mentally unbalanced” individuals who are drawn to his town because of Bush. “They cause us to take certain precautions, and we take them to the hospital to get them the appropriate care,” he said.

Folks in Crawford who don’t support George W. Bush are pretty quiet about it. Stephanie Ferrell moved to Crawford three months ago from Arlington after her husband got a job in Waco. “I don’t know what would happen if people found out you’re not a Bush fan,” she said. “Word of mouth might get around if you put up a sign or something. I think they’re partial to him, and if you’re not, they might shun you.” One shop owner considered donating tents for the Fahrenheit 9/11 showing, but later decided against it, for fear of offending neighbors.

It probably wouldn’t have offended the mayor. He’s a Democrat. Robert Campbell is also the pastor of Perry Chapel United Methodist Church and a retired Air Force civil engineer. After his military career, he and his wife made their home in Crawford because she was born and raised there.

In the last presidential election, 79 percent of McLennan County voters supported the Bush/Cheney ticket, but Campbell said those numbers may give people the wrong impression. Democrats represent Crawford in the Texas Legislature and in Congress. “People’s perception is that Crawford is very conservative, but the truth is before George Bush came down here, nobody worried about political affiliation,” Campbell said. Personally, he said, he votes “for the person I think will do the best job,” not for the party.

Many Crawford residents say the Western White House has helped boost the city’s once-dwindling economy, and it’s easy to see how the steady trickle of tourists and occasional flood of news media, and government types would fill local cash registers. “I can see it in the city,” said Kim Williams, office manager for Abel Services, a heating and air conditioning business. “You can tell it’s definitely boosted the city up.”

It’s true that Crawford has recently gotten a facelift, but it’s not solely due to the president, Campbell said. “A lot of times people see the things that have changed, like a new residential development or other things that have improved, and they attribute that to President Bush, when these things had been in the planning since before he was elected.”

Ginger Roberson isn’t that diplomatic. Her house, on the wrong side of the tracks, is a world away from the Coffee Station and the shops with the Bush cutouts and t-shirts.

Roberson’s home, surrounded by junked cars and broken-down houses, has no electricity and no phone. She didn’t want to talk to the Weekly because she was having a “shitty day,” but she told the University of Texas student newspaper, The Daily Texan, a few weeks ago that little has been done for “the Africanized side of town. ... There’s Spanish people and black people that live down here, and I feel like we’re all lost. People will say, ‘Well, get up off your ass and work.’ Well yeah, OK, you give me a job.”

Another resident, Gwen Nelms, a member of the mayor’s congregation, has lived in Crawford all her life. Last year her children were the only black kids in their school, she said, and while the president has brought attention to her hometown, Nelms said she doesn’t think it’s made much of a difference. “I never saw any changes in my part of town that came when Bush came,” she said. “I don’t know what he’s done for Crawford.”

Nonetheless, she invited Bush to worship at her church when she saw him at the convenience store. She said he’s a lot taller in real life than one would think. She shook his hand, she said, and then he stuck it right in his pocket.

“I don’t have anything against Bush,” Nelms said. “He has to answer to God like all of us. I invited him to church, but he didn’t show up, probably because he forgot. We have plenty of room if he ever wanted to join.”

She does wish he’d cross the tracks one day and meet the people on her side of town. “The track divides, and that’s just how it always has been,” she said. “Up here, down there. It’s been like that since before my mama was born.”

She’s seen the Peace House folks but hasn’t thought much about them, she said. “I can understand them wanting peace. Just like him [Bush] being here — doesn’t make any difference at all.”

The Peace House founders would be sorry to hear her say that. Making a difference is what the house is all about — giving “hope to humanity by providing peaceful alternatives to war.” That’s from the mission statement on its web site, which describes the house as offering “a culturally diverse environment for spiritual growth” and a place for gatherings dedicated to peace — and for foreign media to come for “alternative press conferences” when Bush is in town.

Pulling on the handle of the squeaky screen door, a visitor is enveloped by the smells of curries and spices from the banquet being prepared in the kitchen. Shag carpet, well-worn sofas, and shabby chairs give the digs a relaxed and cozy ’70s-era feel. Tie-dyed and rainbow peace flags share wall space with posters. “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism — Thomas Jefferson,” reads one.

On most days, Josh is the only occupant of the one-bedroom house. But when Bush and the news media are in town or when a protest or other action is planned, the little house bursts at the seams, and people spill over into the yard, where they find a Zen-inspired maze of rock-edged pathways leading through patchy grass to a sundial in the center and outward to a rim of flowers and greenery. Kay Lucas, a horticulturist and director of the Peace House, designed the meditation garden to help people stay connected to the earth. She lives a few miles away. “It’s all about the web of life,” she said. “God connects all of us.”

Johnny Wolf of Dallas, who builds theatrical sets and stages for a living, bought the property in March 2003 and — in concert with co-founders Hadi Jawad and Valley Reed — set up the Peace House. Since then, Lucas and Wolf said, a group of about 30 members of several Texas peace organizations has kept the house and its activities going, aided by donations and sales of anti-war buttons at rallies. “The whole idea of the Peace House is to form community and build a vision of who we want to be,” he said.

Both a practicing Quaker and a Sufi, Wolf said the house is a way of speaking out about the truth so that it transcends the partisan divide. Despite what people think, he said, his group is not out to get Bush or the Republican Party. “I protested Clinton, too,” he said. “And in another five months, I might be on the street protesting John Kerry if he’s wrong. ... If he continues to kill people and carry out policies that are unfair, we’ll be telling the truth about him, too.”

Wolf finds it ironic that some people “dismiss us as some hippie cult,” especially in light of Bush’s history. “I think it’s interesting that the president admits to partying and getting stoned and drunk for 20 years,” Wolf said. “Now I had a bout with that as a teen-ager, and I still have effects from it. But half of his [Bush’s] life was spent killing his brain cells. You wonder what’s there.”

He believes that some in Crawford support the Peace House objectives, though they may not do so publicly. “You notice that in all of the banners in town, there’s nothing that says ‘Re-elect the president,’ because of the controversy of him being elected in the first place,” Wolf said. “It cracks me up when I go there. ... I think, well, maybe I have something in common with these people. Maybe they don’t believe that he was elected the first time, either.”

Co-founder Jawad, a Palestinian-born U.S. citizen who moved to America more than 30 years ago at age 19, said the house is a necessity in these times when it’s crucial to express dissent “to show that the pillar of democracy is alive and well.” Since Sept. 11, “most people have been sitting on the sidelines while Bush and his administration have attacked the hard-earned civil liberties of the people of this country,” he said. “Since then, things have changed for people who look like me.” Jawad was pulled in for questioning by the FBI after the 9/11 attacks. “I don’t feel safe in Crawford, but to be completely frank and honest with you, I don’t feel safe even in urban areas now. ... But I love this country and I challenge anyone to argue against that.”

Lucas, a small-town resident herself, said she feels a duty to stand up to what she calls the government’s lies. “Our troops shouldn’t be sent to war for no good reason,” she said. “They are our grandsons and sons. They are people. They are not cannon fodder.”

“It’s my duty as a citizen to hold [government’s] feet to the fire,” she said. “Most Americans will not believe that what happened in Germany in the ’30s and ’40s could happen here, and they do not know that in some ways it has already.”

Peace House organizers have been fairly successful at drawing media attention. In May 2003, a “Showdown in Texas” caravan, part of a statewide peace rally effort, came to Crawford and made headlines when five attendees were arrested for violating the town’s parade ordinance despite the fact that they weren’t protesting. On March 20, the one-year anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom, a “Global Day of Action,” resulted in protests in hundreds of cities around the world. In Crawford, the event attracted about 1,000 people, including peace activists and Ralph Nader, who delivered a speech calling for President Bush’s impeachment. This being Texas, they also held a chili cook-off.

Still, most folks’ first exposure to the mission of the Crawford Peace House came a month ago, when the group screened Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 9/11 in town. When he read that the movie was not playing anywhere near Bush’s adopted home county, Moore said he’d personally deliver it to Crawford. And he even invited Bush, who was vacationing at the ranch, to come and watch, since he was “the star of the film.” About 1,500 people came to see the sparks fly.

“I don’t know if anyone else in elected politics knew that there was a Peace House until that week,” said State Rep. Lon Burnam of Fort Worth, director of the Dallas Peace Center and a key supporter of the house. Hundreds of people converged on the grounds for free food, music, and discussion before the movie was shown on a huge inflatable screen at the football field parking lot in Tonkawa Park. They ranged from serious peaceniks to the merely curious, attracted by the “Peace on Earth” banner hung across the front of the house.

Moore was a last minute no-show, claiming that he didn’t want his presence to detract from the film itself. Still, the showing brought national attention to the little enclave of peaceful protesters. “I noticed that with Fahrenheit 9/11 we got a lot of encouragement, thumbs-up, and waves,” said Kay Lucas.

People signed up for mailing lists, plastered themselves with political buttons, and bought t-shirts that proudly stated, “I watched Fahrenheit 9/11 in Crawford, Texas.” Activists sold small packets of “Seeds of Change,” that promised to yield a garden of social progress, and wandered through the actual gardens and stone labyrinth on the grounds. Some meditated among the flowers, some engaged in lively discussion — and some just gawked as though they’d stumbled over a Wayback Machine.

Few locals were apparently in the audience for the anti-Bush documentary. Reuters news service reported that “there appeared to be twice as many foreign students from Belgium as locals.” International students mingled at the Coffee Station with pro-Bush activists wearing “No more Moore” t-shirts.

A few weeks later, on the Saturday of the “Turn Up the Heat” rally, the excitement was actually turned down considerably. No tv crews showed up to dangle fuzzy microphones in people’s faces; no Bush supporters waved Bush-Cheney signs or chanted. In fact, only about two dozen die-hard peace activists turned out to sit in front of a small stage covered by a blue and white striped awning. They listened to speeches, played folk music, recited poetry, and endured the mosquitoes and chiggers to promote the pathway of peace. They talked about how it was the highest duty of all of the world’s citizens to speak the truth and work for a peaceful world. They sang along to Joni Mitchell songs and patted a big friendly brown Labrador retriever who’d come from Austin with the musicians. As people left the stage, some audience members clapped, while others snapped their fingers, like approving beatniks from 50 years ago. They unfurled long homemade banners along the fences. One read, in big spray-painted letters, “NO MORE BU_ _ SH_ _.”

Most residents interviewed said the Peace House has been welcomed in the town and that the peace activists are usually not a nuisance. Cathy Horton, president of the “Keep McLennan County Beautiful” board and a volunteer with the Republican Party, said that she feels no tension between the Peace House and other residents. “When the people at the Peace House moved here, I went to introduce myself and meet with them. I see them around town all the time, driving or reading a book on their porch,” she said. “I really have no qualms with them. They’re not out to be radical. Moving down here was just their way to express their opinion.”

Still, the peace activists’ aims frequently conflict directly with those of Crawford’s other residents — not on war and peace, but on traffic.

“I know the people at the Peace House are trying to make a statement, but it would have been easier if they hadn’t come here,” said Teresa Bowdoin, manager of the Crawford Station gift shop. “I think they are bad neighbors because they don’t think about how their protests affect residents. We are not confrontational here, but you get the feeling that we’re inviting trouble with all the protests.” Several residents said the Peace House group was often inconsiderate of the town when organizing events and that the protests and marches tied up emergency services and disrupted traffic around town.

Stephanie Ferrell said neither the president’s presence nor the protests have affected her much, but that those things are magnified in locals’ minds because the town is so small and usually so quiet. “The streets go from having no traffic to being sort of congested,” she said. “One of the neighbors was angry at the traffic and said ‘I wish he’d just go home!’ I’m from Arlington, so it didn’t seem to me like the traffic was that bad.”

The biggest clash between activists and the town came with the arrests of the five people in May 2003. The Crawford 5, as they came to be known, were eventually freed, but the negative press did the town no favors, with some citing the event as an example of the Bush administration’s trampling of civil rights. A lawsuit filed against the police chief and the town of Crawford was dropped in August 2003. Chief Tidmore declined to comment on the case.

Michael Machicek is probably the most easily recognizable Peace House regular. To locals he must seem like a walking cliché — a self-acknowledged peacenik in his late 40s with long wild hair, a tie-dyed shirt full of protest buttons, and low-slung pants.

He was also one of the Crawford 5 and has his own theory about the arrests. “The chief of police appears to be a well-mannered man, but he has another side,” he said. “If you want to know the truth, it came out in the appeal, when he testified that he was doing what the Secret Service ordered him to do. The Secret Service didn’t approach us. They got the police force to do it. The police talked as though they were acting of their own accord, and then they said they were following orders. That was the excuse Nazi guards used. That’s no defense.”

On the same July day that the Peace House organized the screening of Fahrenheit 9/11, Cathy Horton organized a pro-Bush rally in Crawford. She said the effort was a success. “We had about 800 to 1,000 people show up,” she said. “I didn’t have a problem with their protest — the reason America is so great is because we all have the right to speak freely.”

Many town residents proudly said that they would never go see Moore’s documentary. Dorothy Spanos, owner of the Coffee Station, said she didn’t like the fact that protesters, along with Moore, were disrespectful of the president. “The only problem I’ve had with the protests was when they had a big rally and they hung an effigy of the president and put it in a coffin,” she said. “I mean if we don’t respect our president, you can’t expect other nations to respect him, either. That’s why I didn’t like the movie Fahrenheit 9/11, even though I didn’t see it, because I heard it was very disrespectful of President Bush, and I feel like that is anti-American.”

Not allowing politics to interfere with business, the Coffee Station had a booth near the screening site; a worker there told The Lone Star Iconoclast (a local newspaper) that, “We’ve sent 15 to 20 people to the Coffee Station to buy veggie pizzas. Everyone has been real nice.”

Despite most residents’ tolerance for the Peace House, many are still puzzled by their eccentric neighbors and their isolation from the community. Nathan Diebedow, a reporter with the Iconoclast, said in an interview that the town would be more open to the Peace House if its residents tried to be a part of the town in a constructive way. “I’ve told them that if they want to be taken more seriously, they have to stick around until after ‘protest season’ and attend some Crawford Pirates football games,” he said. “I’m talking about getting out of their element and sitting in the cold stands with black and gold face-paint and t-shirts that say, ‘Pro-Football, Anti-War.’ If just one of them did this, they’d all be better off. After I told them that, they said they had already thought of it and were like, ‘Football is too violent.’ ”

Like the president, the peaceniks rarely mingle with the townsfolk, and they admit they could be doing more to win the hearts of the community. House volunteer Josh Collier thinks most people in the town respect the Peace House and that probably at least a few sympathize with its liberal message, even if they don’t do so openly. “The owners of the Yellow Rose were going to donate tents for the Fahrenheit 9/11 showing, but then they said they couldn’t because they didn’t think the neighbors would appreciate their involvement,” he said. “I think many people in the community don’t want to be isolated.”

Peace House activists said they have tried to reach out to the community. For instance, when they first established the house, they invited the leaders of the three mainline local churches to engage in an interfaith discussion. But the attempt drew only two local people — Cathy Horton and one local shop owner. Later the activists tried to donate food through the churches to the local food bank, but the donation was rebuffed. “Some refused, and others never responded,” Lucas said. They also tried to give a portion of the proceeds from the Fahrenheit 9/11 event to the city but again were snubbed. “We kind of thought they would need it to pay for the added burden to the city during the event,” Lucas said. “But we were told by the city that they didn’t take donations, which was kind of strange.” A volunteer EMT group in Crawford finally accepted $300 from the Peace House. But in general, Wolf said, “there’s so much resistance from the town ... It’s hard to even share.”

On the Saturday of the latest rally (and the church barbecue and the football game), the Peace House folks expected a lot more activity than they got in their effort, as their web site said, to “Send a message to the Western White House to bring the troops home now!” Organizer Paul McDaniel said a sign had been placed by the front yard asking motorists to honk if they supported peace. During the course of the afternoon and early evening, the Weekly heard two honks. For the most part, the procession of vehicles was reminiscent of rubberneckers slowing down to catch a glimpse of a car wreck. The most obvious attention came from a Crawford police car that drove around the block several times in the course of the event. Peace House supporters said one brave soul from the Crawford area was in the crowd.

One circling SUV carried a middle-aged woman passenger who screamed “Go Bush!” while a young man in a truck behind her gave onlookers a one-fingered salute. The passenger in another pickup yelled, “Screw off, hippies!”

As a guitar player and a singer took to the stage to play a folk protest song, motorcycle riders cruising nearby revved their engines, drowning out the music. The musicians exchanged glares, unable to hear themselves, and kept on singing. Halfway through the song, the bikers peeled out. “We stand against violence in a country that is pro-violence,” explained McDaniel, who emceed the event. A pickup truck parked behind the Peace House blared an Aerosmith song loud enough to disrupt the speech, until it too took off when the Weekly tried approaching the driver for an interview.

Another attempt at interviewing a neighbor was slightly more successful. The man, who asked to be identified only as a “next-door neighbor,” said he had no problem with the Peace House as long as his property is not invaded. “They left trash on my yard from the movie showing two weeks ago, and it’s still there,” he said. His take on the idealism of his neighbors was jaded. “Everybody’s got opinions,” he said. “It don’t mean shit.” l


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