No grocery, $5 haircuts - and the Bush ranch
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Located seven miles from Crawford center - which ends just seconds after you drive through the town's lone blinking traffic light - the Bush ranch is hidden from view and access. Orange signs posted along the narrow road warn "No Stopping," "No Standing," "No Parking," and when people do try to stop, there's not much to see except a pop-up security barrier at the gate.Skip to next paragraph
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Bush's newly built home itself is a simple low-slung structure of local limestone, designed to catch the strong breezes and provide optimal views. It also includes a swimming pool, which the president calls the "whining pool" because his daughters put up such a fuss about having it.
While the administration is often criticized for its environmental record, the Bushes are practicing "greenies" on the ranch. They recycle rain runoff and waste water, and have a geothermal heating system.
Mrs. Bush has been restoring wildflowers and native grasses to the grounds. No stairs exist because the first couple wants the home to be easily accessible to their parents, and, eventually, to themselves, since they plan to retire here.
Like President Reagan, this chief executive loves the privacy and wide-open spaces of his ranch. He visits every weekend he can, and The Associated Press calculates that by the time he returns to the White House in late August, he will have spent nearly two months of his young presidency in Crawford.
A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll shows that 55 percent of Americans believe four weeks is too long for a president to be away from Washington. Keenly aware of the image of a slough-off president - the Washington Post calculates that Bush has spent 42 percent of his presidency at vacation spots or en route - the White House refers to this as a "working" vacation. The president has planned about two trips a week to spread the gospel of "heartland values." Last week, much of his time was taken up with the televised announcement of his stem-cell decision.
Still, there's no doubt the president is enjoying considerable down time. He's gone on long, early morning walks with his wife, golfed with friends at a nearby course in Waco, fished, and jogged through canyons on his land - where he's also building a nature walk. Bush professes to not mind the Texas heat, which is less suffocating than the humidity of Washington, and says being outdoors keeps him a "balanced person."
For those reflective moments, the man often ridiculed for lacking intellectual depth is quick to share his summer reading list: "In the Heart of the Sea" by Nathaniel Philbrick, the bestseller "John Adams" by David McCullough, and a mystery, the title of which is a mystery.
Although Bush can't claim to have Crawford roots like his neighbors, he has a considerable amount in common with them. He shares their values of faith and family. It's also a dry town - Bush drinks no alcohol.
Not surprisingly, local residents voted overwhelmingly for Bush, a phenomenon that's likely to continue, particularly if the president starts to follow the ups and down of the local Pirates sports teams. Everyone else here does.
"We don't have any problem with understanding him wanting to be here for three or four weeks," says Mike Murphy, pastor at Crawford's First Baptist Church. "If people were to come and see how easy it is to slow down and really realize some of the more important things in life - faith, family, community" - then they would understand the pull of the ranch on the president, he says.
Still, some residents harbor ambivalence about their new celebrity neighbor. They are proud of him, and business is growing as a result of the first family's presence. But Crawfordites are an independent lot, and some resent the intrusion of the media and Secret Service.
"Some young people, and older folks, never wanted the town to change in any way, shape or form," says Robert Campbell, the mayor and self-described only Democrat in politics in town. "That's a pipe dream."