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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Crawford, Clifton, TX

I had a 11am VA appointment in Temple for an audiology exam, which gave me time to sleep in which I needed, then pick up my repaired screen from ACE Hardware, mail off Kevin's box and get my paperwork for my teaching job copied, then signed out at the company, never to come by again. My love affair is now officially over, cut quickly with no heavy heart. It was easier than I thought it would be.

The audiologist told me I had "mild" hearing loss. What a shock that was. "You may not have known your hearing was that bad --Huh?-- since you have always had this loss or it was a very gradual loss" the doctor told me. She gave me three exams, three kinds I've never had before, including sticking probes into both ears to measure the reflex threshold of both ear drums. My left ear has scar tissue in it (from a 1978 ear infection) and the loss in that ear is pronounced. I knew about the scar tissue. What I didn't know was how pronounced the hearing loss was. She even told me about ear "prosthetics" that the VA will provide for me if I get disability for this loss.

So with that news I started my weekend, and it wasn't good news. Hearing loss, eh? What did she say? I sat in my van wondering what or where to go next, unsure of where to go since everything nearby was closed. I was mentally paralyzed for a while.

I had been eyeballing Meridian for a few days now, to go there and hike around the state park and the small lake it meanders by, so that was my plan.

I stopped at the Dynasty Restaurant off TX36 in northwestern Temple, a very good Chinese buffet with Moo Goo Gai Pan! I knew the place was good by the many cars in the parking lot. Even the fried rice had various versions: chicken, shrimp or plain and it wasn't poisoned with dead pig particles. My server, Jessica, was very attentive. I sat in the back at a small table and planned out my trip while looking over a map of Texas. I wrote the notes down on a paper napkin which I ended up dropping somewhere. I left the buffet stuffed like a T-Day chicken. I have to watch that on my trip and need to make sure I get at least an hour's worth of walking in a day.

Somehow I missed the turn-off to TX317, the north-south road that goes straight through Crawford--the Texas White House for eleven more months--and drove on by now familiar route 36, passed the old historical cemeteries and state park I drove past a few days ago. Only this time I didn't see as many roadside hawks. This time I saw flocks of circling vultures overhead.

I've been to Crawford four times now, once with Kevin in the summer of 2006 and we both enjoyed the store vendors' hospitality. But this time I was shocked to see one gift store had closed. The Yellow Rose is still there and will probably always be there, and today I noticed the Red Bull shop that is next store to the now vacant building. What had happened to the owners of that place? They were a brother/sister team who both were proud of President Bush, mostly because he helped rebuild Crawford's economy. The streets were widened for the Secret Service personnel and flowers have been placed along the sidewalks. But somehow this time there was a sadness to the place. Few tourists lingered, few parking lots were taken and some items were now on clearance.

The older grey-haired woman in the Red Bull shop, who proudly claimed her shop to be the first gift shop in Crawford "Established 2000" says the white sign on the front door. "I hope I stay open many more years!" she added, while busily tending to two more customers. I didn't want to bother her. 'I hope we still get visitors next year. We had a couple from Plains, GA come by here and they liked it"

"Plains, I've been there!" I replied. "I like Plains!" Plains is a bigger town than Crawford, with a busy peanut business in town that was there before Carter was president. The difference between the two presidents is that Carter is very busy still in his hometown and he is very well received.

"I hope it's just as busy next year as it was in 2001," said the old lady, when the height of business in this small ranching town of two blocks rose to unprecedented wealth for the residents. "I hope Bush doesn't get to be as unpopular as Carter was" she said.

There were Bobble Heads with the likeness of George and Laura Bush selling for $40. "The producer made one last crate full and that's all I have left!" said the propietor. After that they're all gone. There were other Bush-related trinkets that I felt were overpriced except perhaps for the Bushophile: coffeemugs with "Crawford, the Western White House" printed on them...made in China of course. Cut-outs of Bush that now are tossed in the corner, framed photographs of the president when he's in town, dressed in ranch gear. The usual t-shirt, caps and pencils, porcelain with Bush logos on them are still very much for sale, but the customers are no longer here like they were two years ago, or even three years ago when I drove through here for the first time that summer of 2005.

I stayed on TX317 now driving north, continuing on through more ranch towns like Valley Mills "Welcome to Bush Country" and Clifton, another small town of around 3600, with a surprisingly good coffee shop, the White Horse, that provided free WiFi. I stopped there to enjoy a cappuccino and write this. I was there almost an hour.

"Look, she brought her computer in" said one white-haired woman who watched me walk by with my laptop and Canon. She was sitting with three other elderly at a nearby table. I greeted them all.

The coffee shop seemed unusually large. The server told me the building had been many things before it became an art studio/coffee shop. It was once a general store. Its floors were real wood and the walls brick.

Clifton was a worthwhile stop if I had had more time. Its streets were wide and clean and the many artsy store were invitingly decorated. "Clifton, Deep in the Art of Texas" said one t-shirt on sale at the White Horse. The town, founded by Norwegians, is now an artisan colony for the Wacoites who surely come by to shop for expensive prints and other crafts.

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