Friday, August 26, 2005

 

Deep in the Heart of Crawford

by George Wallace (Suffolk County, NY)
1. HOLDING DOWN THE FORT
It sneaked up on me really.

I do think that what a person does in life is a complex package of political statements, but I'm not a particularly active person politically speaking. During the Vietnam War I protested some. The usual stuff, really - when Nixon came to the War Memorial in Syracuse in 1968, for example, I sang 'Sounds of Silence' along with all the others over his 'secret plan' to end the war; helped shut down the campus during the Kent State spring, too, til the school figured out most of the students just wanted a free pass to head for Florida. They declared the school year over and the protests fizzled.

That was over thirty years ago, and if there's any other moment besides that when I was politically active, I can't think of it. Oh yeah, two years ago I contributed a poem to the online Poets Against the War collection that Sam Hamill was putting together.

On the other hand I feel I've consistently served my community, my nation and humanity - as a Peace Corps volunteer, as a public health worker, as an Air Force Hospital Administrator, as a community journalist.

The fact is, I've thought a lot about the war in Iraq and it has been bugging me more and more, but I hadn't once thought about speaking out in any big dramatic way, even as the machinations of the Bush Administration in constructing a false rationale for the war became more and more obvious.

But that was before Cindy Sheehan - the mother of a soldier who had died in Iraq, who sat down in a ditch at a Texas crossroads just outside the Crawford ranch of President Bush, and vowed to stay there during his month-long vacation. She wanted the president to meet with her and answer a simple, decent question - What was the noble cause that her son Casey died for in Iraq?

The president wouldn't come out. And Cindy Sheehan wouldn't budge. It was a standoff in the hot Texas sun.

I immediately admired the action as being pure, simple, cutting through the divisive rhetoric so prevalent in the political scene today.

Maybe in part it was because the media were all over Crawford, all month, with not much else to write about. Maybe in part it was the symbolism of the situation, or the fact that Cindy Sheehan was putting a face on an anti-war feeling that's been growing in the nation. Or maybe it was just the idea that a cat ought to be able to look at a king.

Whatever the reason, Cindy's story kept growing.

Then a neighbor shot a rifle over Cindy's head, 'dove hunting' he drawled in laconic Texan; and another local ran over several dozen crosses she'd put out on the side of the road to note those who had died in Iraq. And to top that off, talk show hosts on radio and television - in my view outright propagandists and stalking dogs for the President - began trying to smear her and attack her.

Now it's one thing for the talking heads to trash each other, they get paid lots of bucks to do that. And it's one thing for politicians to take swipes at each other.

But here's this huge political machine bearing down on the mother of a dead soldier in a bar ditch outside the Bush Ranch in Crawford?

It just got to me, that's all I can say.

So I wrote a poem for Cindy Sheehan, and right on the spot decided to deliver it to her. I decided to meet with Cindy myself - or at least stand shoulder to shoulder with those in her camp, to show I support what she was doing.

After passing the hat among some great poetry friends, I flew out - negotiated my way through striking airline mechanic picket lines through Minneapolis to Dallas, and drove the two hours south to the town of Crawford, Texas, pop. 705.

Little did I know I was destined to help 'hold down the fort' for Cindy during the portion of her vigil when she had to return home temporarily. Little did I know it was going to be a chance to meet with hundreds from around the country, from mothers of Iraqi soldiers to vets themselves, not to mention the likes of Joan Baez, Margo Kidder and Steve Earle.

Little did I know I was about to become a small part of history - to help light a spark that could very well change the course of America. I stood shoulder to shoulder with Cindy Sheehan's August 2005 vigil in Crawford, Texas.

2. PEACE, ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE TRACKS
So out across the cottonfields of Texas I went, south from Dallas, through the city of Waco, blasting through Texas heat and terrible radio, looking for an occupied ditch outside George Bush's 'Western White House.'

This is an attractive part of the state, quite unlike Wichita Falls where I'd spent some time while studying hospital administration one horrible winter in the 1970s. The central part of Texas from Fort Worth to Austin is rich with rolling green fields and prairies, full with farmable land and dotted with healthy looking small towns.

It is also populated, strangely enough to a Northerner's eyes, with innumerable welders and sheetmetal artisans. Everything - houses, sheds, massive ranch 'entrances' at the ends of driveways, water windmills, deer blinds - seems to be made of the stuff.

Even the Peace House in Crawford, which I reached by late Saturday afternoon, has its sheetmetal moment - in the form of a huge 'Peace is not an Illusion' screen, cut out of the stuff, and propped up to obscure a view of the cottage's bathroom window from the road it sits along, on the wrong side of town.

To say that the Peace House is on the wrong side of the tracks in Crawford, Tx, population 705, is no exaggeration. The brainchild of a few locals, when it came time for them to find an affordable refuge for liberal thought in town, they had to go across the tracks from the wealthier side of town - the side where there's no streetlights, many tiny tract houses and mobile homes. The wrong side of the political spectrum for a conservative little town like Crawford, it seems, needs to be shunted aside.

John Wolf, one of the co founders of Crawford Peace House, told me the story of the place as he brushed fireants off his shirt and back. A school Social Studies teacher, he reckons that it's very tough not to be conservative in the small town like that. His Grandpa, he told me, remembers the KKK and how if you didn't belong to it, you might as well leave town. John Wolf said he thought he'd taught his students better than to think that way over the years, but now here it was the new millennium, there was war in Iraq, and the young adults were just as conservative as their parents and grandparents had been.

"How did they turn out this way?" he lamented. We talked about how Americans are being fed the same truisms over and over by talk show hosts and cable television 'news' stations, and how a strategy like that proved so effective in fascist nations. "You repeat something long enough and people believe it, they say it themselves, it becomes a conditioned reflex.'

Where there is no vision the people perish. Fortunately for Crawford, Wolf and others did not lose their vision, even if they saw media blackouts and increasing dominance of big media venues by propaganda mongers and henchmen of the oligarchy. So when the War in Iraq broke out Wolf and friends opened the place in March 03 on the strength of sales of anti-war buttons at $1 a go. They even found a way to do a showing of the film Fahrenheit 9-11, despite the difficulty in finding a venue. In the end they opted for an inflatable screen in the football field, 3000 showed up in the town of 700, over the shouts of pro-war protesters.

A new line of fire ants climbed up the porch column as John Wolf was telling me this. In fact they seem to leap onto him as he swayed and talked. He was soon covered in them, despite my attempts to brush them off.

We went out to the Labyrinth ('It's not a maze,' someone said pointedly - 'a maze is an Elizabethan Folly sort of thing, while a labyrinth is more primal than that, who knows what you'll find in the middle, expect a minotaur at the center, or enlightenment, or maybe just a Peace Pole'). The object is to slow down your thought process, like a Zen stepping stone garden, by walking the labyrinth. Slow down and contemplate peace.

So we walked slowly, John explaining that recently things had gotten pretty tough for the Crawford Peace House - in fact, the place was down to its last three bucks and the telephone had been cut off.

Then Cindy showed up.

Now, he says, they've got $150,000 in the bank and they've paid off the mortgage.

3. OUR LADY OF THE DITCH
Cindy Sheehan didn't just come out of nowhere, of course. She'd been involved in efforts to get her concerns and the concerns of mothers of men and women who had died in Iraq heard, in the past year. But when she got the notion to plant herself in a ditch, she became a national figure.

What is a ditch? It is rock and bramble and barbed wire. It is a barrier to keep some things in and some things out. It is a trench to hunker down in when confronting an enemy. It is a place to run your car off into when things go awry. It is a place that catches runaway rainwater and controls its sudden torrents.

There are mosquitoes in a ditch and chiggers in a ditch too, probably rattlesnakes if you ask me. And as I say, plenty of water in wet season. This being dry season, it's hot even though this ditch is backed up by a stand of trees.

Cindy's Ditch is all that, and it's at a crossroads too, a strategic crossroads where traffic bound for Bush's Crawford Ranch by car have to pass.

Now we all know what a crossroads is in southern lore. It's a place where hangings take place. It's a place where a bluesman stands, guitar in hand, after having sold his soul to the Devil in order to learn how to play the darn thing. It's a place for critical decision-making

I don't know if Gandhi ever parked himself in a ditch. I'm not sure Martin Luther King did either. But it was Cindy Sheehan's stroke of genius to sit down in a ditch at a crossroads, and wait for America - and George Bush - to come to her. Deep in the heart of Crawford.

In a sense, she had the courage to expose herself to danger in the middle of Conservative George Bush country. She pulled the beard of the lion, and the lion refused to come out of his den.

A hero is someone who moves forward in the darkness, says George Seferis. Sometimes, a hero is someone who sits down in a ditch.

4. I TAKE A WALK I GO FOR A SWIM
It is dawn of the first day and I'm an early riser. I've slept overnight in the Peace House and before going out to Camp Casey, I want to freshen up. Someone's told me there's a nice Quarry to swim in - Tonkawa Park - just up the road about a half mile, so I've decided to give that a go.

So I head on out in the opposite direction from the middle of town, my back to the huge ugly humming grain elevator at the railroad crossing, and the crossing going clang clang clang.

Along the way I pass the tiny houses which occupy this side of Crawford - cottages, mobile homes, small neatly kept yards. On the way a Chihuahua barks at me aggressively. A car eases up behind me, slowing down. I'm with war protesters, this is redneck country! Is this my easy rider moment?

It is not. The driver is a Hispanic man, he lives in the next house round the corner. He gives me a polite wave as he passes and turns into his driveway. He owns a double wide trailer, the lawn is immaculate, there's children's play equipment. The property's lined with flowering crepe myrtle, there's a peach tree weighed down by its fruit. It is modest and well kept and I find it hard to imagine he's a gung ho Bush fan.

I mean his postage stamp property is in stark contrast to the many thousand acre ranches outside of town, where the landed and the ruling class live with their proud 'entrances' and I'm thinking on this side of the track these are THE people, you won't see any kowtowing to the oligarchy here. I'm thinking Woody Guthrie, who said 'the sign said private property, and on the other side, it didn't say nothing." I'm thinking Middle Ages Europe, with serfs huddled outside the castle walls. I'm thinking Frankenstein.

Further down the road I discover a cow flop in the middle of the road, freshly steaming. Where are the cows? Down the road behind a barbed wire fence in a green field of beat down grass, sweetly lowing. There are thistles, blue clumps of cactus, and yellow sunflowers waiting which way to turn to greet the morning sun.

All the way to the park I still hear the grain elevator from the entrance to the park, but once inside it becomes quieter, a thicket of wild grapes blackening on the vine, virginia creeper, small dark-leaved trees crowded shoulder to shoulder. There's an RV camp, a Little League baseball field ("the Crawford Pirates"). There are riding stables. A pretty spot outside of a reasonably pretty western town.

But where's the quarry? I'm about to turn around when I see it. It's not a quarry at all, but a natural pool in a hollow carved out of bedrock by a small stream. Tonkawa Falls. I double back, to a small pathway and a sign that says 'swim at your own risk,' follow the rusted hurricane fencing and take the steps carved out of the stone down to the waterside.

The pool is cool and calm and still. Nothing seems to be in it but a single small fish looking back up at me. So I slip in, paddle around quietly as I can for a couple of minutes, and slip back out without a sound.

Refreshed, I walk back to the Peace House. The Chihuahua looks up at me with one eye open, barks half-heartedly but does not get up. Once again the grain elevator is humming. The railroad crossing is still clanging.

But the drivers have grown impatient - they have begun going around the guardrails. Hesitantly at first, then more boldly.

They know there's no train coming.

5. NO TORNADOES TODAY
It is hot out here - hotter than the devil's foot up a Baptist butt - and getting hotter by the minute, so I figure to take a drive out into the country, see the sites a bit, and have breakfast.

For all that his name is plastered all over this section of the country, George Bush is nowhere to be seen. He's the invisible president, he flies in and out by helicopter. There are some say they don't like him here, he's not really a Texan, he's not really ranching out there in that spot he bought back in 1999 from a real rancher. Some say he's afraid of horses.

But there seems plenty of support for the man. Heck, the parkway out of Waco all the way to MacGregor's named after him. There are Bush signs everywhere and even a huge billboard of George and Laura welcoming people to Crawford - though not from the end of town where the Peace House is located.

I'm looking for MacGregor but not in much of a hurry as no one seems to be up yet around the Peace House except for the inveterate sleepless like myself - all day out in the hot Texas sun this time of year will do that to you. So I take some of the back roads - like Fossil Rim Road, with its abandoned shed and its dead end and its squashed armadillos. Val Verde Road with its mix of fields, some left in stubble and others with freshly planted new corn, many of them in a shallow sea of hovering dragonflies. Where the open ranch and planted fields give way to stands of trees, the woods are a mix of feathery cottonwood dark scrub trees with tight-fisted oak-like leaves, osage apple.

It is beautiful country, the southern end of North America's Midwestern prairie with all the richness that implies, tough and honest and continental. Being below the frost line it can get mighty hot and now the fire ants have invaded from South America there's a new pest to add to the old.

I realize, slowing to a stop and taking a walk around, you can't understand any place in this world without smelling it and hearing it. Without hearing, in this case, the creak of a water windmill against the big blue empty sky. Without smelling the tall emerald blue and green grasses beyond the roadside baking in 100+ degree sun.

I duck inside a coffee shop in MacGregor. Here we have it now - this is all-Texas, the town's got a Dairy Queen, stacks of deer blinds, plenty of beer to go. Inside are small groups of well-scrubbed good old boys, rod and gun men, hair combed and wearing tight clean bluejeans, they're gathered four or five to a table and everyone knows everyone except me. The place is chock full of George 'W' memorabilia. At the register under glass, they even have a letter from Bush on White House stationery, and a big check under the glass - it's a Texas size check, blown up to quadruple size - with his name scrawled in oversized childlike pen script, the bank and account number removed. The check's made out for $32.63.

No one says a word to me except the waitress, who has no choice.

I eat my grits and eggs and Texas Toast, and watch the local weather channel. The same images, over and over. Doppler Radar, nothing. 100 degrees all week. Dew Point 10 percent. There's a tornado watch map for the entire region.

No tornadoes anywhere in Texas today.

6. THROW DOWN CHILI
How quickly a scene grows.

Two weeks or so ago, Cindy was essentially alone out here at the crossroads. Now, even with her away, there are two Camp Caseys, tens of thousands of people have come through, there's many hundreds camped here every day to show that her message for Bush, to "Meet With Cindy," is from her but is also a message from America - that the president ought to meet those who disagree with him, not just play before those who agree with him.

Speaking of Bush supporters, a handful of counterdemonstrators have set up camps too. Lining Prairie Chapel Road, are pro-Bush slogans "Get along home Cindy" til you get to the crossroads.

Prairie Chapel Road, by the way, that's where the stand of 'Our Lady of the Ditch' is felt most profoundly. Cindy's encampment awaits her return, dozens are camped here, just off a triangular patch of grass that was declared 'off limits' by the local authorities, essentially down in the ditch.

While a mere handful of Bush supporters are here on any particular day, all over Crawford you find anti-war vigils. Camped at the Peace House. In the ditch. And on a parcel of property provided by a neighbor who took pity on them, an area of flatter land but no shade, there's a huge tent erected there, big enough to handle three New York Bar Mitzvahs or one big gathering of anti-war vigils.

Of course this is Texas, it seems tiny on the huge prairie horizon. But like I say how quickly a scene grows. The media with nothing to do is there for Cindy and despite the fact that Bush operatives have tried to expand her message and then 'git' her, and despite the fact that the normally effective smear and discrediting plans have been put into vociferous action, she won't go away.

The people come, they drop everything and leave their kitchens or their work.

The main story here is Cindy, who has as they say 'put a face' on the opposition. The main story here is mothers of fallen soldiers, the dead and the injured. The main story here is soldiers who have yet to go, families of soldier, peace activists, people compelled by the simple decency and sincerity of her question to come, veterans of former wars who know better.

The main story here is America standing with Cindy.

I plant myself down in Cindy's ditch, holding signs and taking communion with those there. The Oregon wife. The Chicago veteran. The Arizona mystic The Iraqi marine vet.

It is a kind of a throw down chili. There are spinners, quilters and guitar pickers. Poets, priests, politicians. There's a banner maker from Homer Alaska, she's brought dozens of colorfully painted peace banners with her and has them on display.

There's the wife of an active duty soldier about to be deployed, all bravado and brass along the side of the road, she confronts me to make sure I'm not one of 'them'. After a moment though, that changes. She has accepted me into the group, and takes me to a collage of photos of soldiers in Iraq. She points to a dead soldier, covered in chalk-like dust.

"I can't look at those," she chokes, and falls into an inconsolable weeping. I can't look at them either.

Who and who and who. There are conscientious objectors and Vietnam vets. There are mothers whose sons have died and mothers whose sons are still living. There's a woman from Lake George who had been following the story and just couldn't stand by and let something like this happen. There's a former Russian orthodox priest who worked soup kitchens from San Francisco to New York City, who sees this as 'a spiritual thing' (he's assigned to 'waste management' at the camp, on one morning alone I help him shift more than 100 bags onto a trailer - it's one thing to attract support, it's another to feed and clean up after it.)

There's Ann Wright, a 29 year Air Force veteran who is 'second in command'-ing the camp in Cindy's absence. There's the 20 year old from Tulsa with a Celtic tattoo on her chest to 'catch evil,' who just had to drive on down here - and on the way, picked up two folk singers in Abilene." There are folk singers and playwrights and poets. There's a Mama Cass class torch singer in a flowing purple dress. There's a playwright from Venice Beach California with perfect hair, and a gal named Chappy, a roaring performance poet from Austin who brings the crowd to their feet with her ranting.

And there's a bedraggled mystic ditch warrior from the woods of Arizona named Rick who whispers his fourteen stanza poem - which he says he 'channeled' - in anybody's ear, a surprising powerful cadence despite the sing-song and overt focus on the authority of Jesus, somewhat odd in the ear of someone from secular 21st century New York: 'the president has told us/that Jesus changed his heart/but if he's really read the Bible,/it seems he's missed one part/I know he'll hate to hear it/because it's a bitter pill/but the Bible's fifth commandment is/thou shalt not kill.'

And then there's the African-American mom, saying what many are saying - never mind draft, this is poor people fighting a rich man's war. Her son was killed during the invasion, the first from Georgia. 'Bush knows it was wrong," she says. "We know it was wrong. The point is to get them out. My son died in a unit that went the wrong way, the day Jessica Lynch was captured. It was supposed to be a 41 day war.'

Bush hasn't met with her yet.

On stage a succession of individuals offer testimony to their anguish and their determination, well into the dark hours of the night, the Texas plain giving back some of the heat it has absorbed all day. Individuals whose lives have been moved, shaped, altered or irrevocably bound up in the trauma of the war in Iraq.

There is Jeff Keys, a Marine Lance Corporal who plays taps over the improvised graves when the sun goes down.

All told, it is a moving vigil. Simply stated, deeply felt, and profoundly heard.

I retire to the tent I have set up on the perimeter of Camp Casey (my sign: Peace. Poetry. Tent). I've taken my turn at the podium, I've read and delivered my poem for Cindy. I have shared poems from Poets Against the War to those who stopped to talk with me, and poems sent to me by friends who want them read out. I've heard story after story from those who could not fail to come to Crawford, as I have, and be part of this thing Cindy Sheehan began.

I'm tired, and hot, and dirty, and a tent is just the thing. At night it's just me and Texas again, Scorpio rising in the August heat. So quiet. I can hear a horse neighing, a ranch of two away. I can hear some cows engaged in some flagrant cow ecstasy. Silence conceals so much, reveals so much, and profiles much more.

A rooster crows at dawn.

7. HOW MANY DEATHS WILL IT TAKE
Under the tent, the entertainment has taken a serious turn. Cindy is not back yet, but major figures - congressmen, commentators, celebrities - are showing up to add their voice of support to the effort, to show that like America, they stand with Cindy. Including Steve Earle, a gravel voiced Texas rocker who exudes folk history with each strum of the guitar, sings 'The Revolution Starts Now,' electrifying the audience.

I get interviewed by Lois Lane, aka Margo Kidder reporting for a small newspaper in Montana. I talk with independent photographers from LA to Spain. I meet a grandchild of American poet Louis MacNeice. I help Jeff Keys - who has given a cathartic 90 minute monologue series of vignettes of Marine life in Iraq late one night - adjust the oversized coffin which provides sober reminder of those who have died there.

It is all very communal and supportive and despite the harshness of the conditions - each day heat prostration hits a couple of people, bug bites and sheer exhaustion of exposure to the heat debilitates many) - congenial enough. But there is an undercurrent of uneasiness running through the camp. Is that a secret service guy? Did you hear that the cops were pulling out shotguns down at Tonkawa Park? Would it be a bad thing to offer the counter-demonstrators some water?

I'm writing notes, a young stud asks me who I'm writing for and if I have an id. The next day, a man in khakis and a Brooks Brothers shirt interviews me, saying he's from the Washington Post. Someone confronts him, asking for press ID, he flashes something plastic and indistinct, and leaves off quickly.

And there is the hardship. Heat prostration. People stop making sense or become somewhat inarticulate. We sweat mightily. We get bitten up and unwashed.

I tell someone I went swimming in the quarry. Oh there's water moccasins in there, he says blandly. Don't swim in there alone.

8. THE ANSWER MY FRIEND
On Sunday Joan Baez arrives on the scene with the resilience and beautiful serenity of a lifelong Quaker. No resignation even at this stage of her life (her mother's parasailing at 92, so who will stop Joan?). Joan Baez, a sunflower in a Texas field. She's been protesting since she was a kid in the high school lunchroom. She was with Martin Luther King, sang lullabies to him to lull him to troubled sleep. She was everywhere during the Civil Rights movement and the anti-Vietnam movement. "I didn't think this would happen again in my lifetime," she tells me.

Joan Baez. She has got to be the only person on earth who can make Kumbaya sound good in the 21st century - even without doing the uptempo version she learned from some rural blacks when she first started singing it.

A legend, but a real person, she headlines one evening's entertainment, but doesn't do the celebrity thing - soak up the limelight and then split - she stays day after day, talking to people, sharing her experiences, supporting the moment. Like me, holding down the fort until Cindy returns.

To Ann Wright and the thousands who have come together under the tent at Camp Casey, she says, "You give me hope." Back in her trailer afterwards she gives me a hug. "Bring that back to the people in Woodstock and in New York," she says.

9. THE BEST MONUMENT TO DISSENT
In all, I will stay here at camp four days, and fly back just in time to learn that Cindy is on her way back to Crawford. Though I haven't had a chance to shake her hand, something even more important has been accomplished - I've helped keep her camp going and demonstrate that her question to the president is decent and simple and is America's question. America deserves more than spin and smear, it needs an adequate answer - what noble cause are the soldiers dying for in Iraq?

I don't know if Cindy Sheehan's stand in Crawford is a watershed moment for America over the war, but the nation has finally been brought into sharp focus about the issue, and its division over the issue as well. The dissent has begun in earnest, and it sure feels like a historic moment for the nation. In fact someone has already put up a temporary historical marker on the site of Camp Casey.

There are not too many monuments to dissent in America. Where are the monuments to those whose patriotism and sense of humanity and moral integrity led them to question their government - in the labor movement, peace activist across several wars, Spanish Civil War brigade volunteers.

After Vietnam, Abbie Hoffman said 'this is the first time in history a people rose up against its own army, said we don't want it, and made them stop.'

One day there may be something here to permanently mark the spot where Cindy Sheehan accomplished that for America. Until then, the best monument to dissent is the justice and the liberty it brings to the people.

10. GRACE HAPPENS
Grace happens in the strangest places. I picture in my mind the silouhette of tiny Joan Baez and Jeff Keys, a huge Marine, on the horizon at dusk, he blowing taps on a bugle with the crowd gathered around the crosses of Arlington South.

Grace happens in the face of danger. Deep into the night the pickups fly by with people shouting. There's a rumor that a group of belligerent pro-war people are gathering up a caravan, and have already provoked trouble in California. The community is confronted with a proposal to make it illegal to park, stop or stand on Prairie Chapel Road. Other roads? Mattlage, Homestead, Quiet Valley, Canaan Church, Castle Creek, West Middle Bosque and the other roads around the Bush ranch. ('The roads are the people's roads,' counters an opponent. 'You can't have a de-constitutionalized zone around the President.').

Liberty and justice have to be guarded vigilantly, against threats both from the outside and from within. At a protest rally in Crawford a year ago, five were arrested, though their conviction overturned as unconstitutional. How will the authorities deal with thousands?

And how will they deal with the inevitable hundreds of thousands protesting this war, in Washington?

11. WAR IS OVER
I'm thinking of 250 thousand people in Washington protesting Vietnam.

Allen Ginsberg tried to 'levitate the Pentagon' through his peace chants. He was one part delusional and two parts right.

John Lennon said 'war is over if you want it.' He was three parts showman and four parts visionary.

Now Steve Earle says the war in Vietnam stopped not because he opposed it, but when his Father came to oppose it. And that we can do it again.

Me? My brains are as addled as George Bush in the Texas heat. I'm wishing I could take a nice cool swim down by the Quarry at Tonkawa Falls, but thinking about those water moccasins.

Then I remember. Someone has said that if you go with a crowd, and splash first, you should be all right. The snakes are more afraid of you then you are of them. And anyhow, there may not be any snakes at all - it may just be that locals are telling you that so they can keep the swimming hole for themselves.

So I decide, I will go back into that water.

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