Camp Death

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The dead soldiers died so the ungrateful people at Camp Casey could have the right to protest.

The dead soldiers died for lies and oil.

The dead soldiers died to protect us from another 9/11.

How many more soldiers have to die?

There is so much death surrounding the triangle at Camp Casey I that it's a relief to see the giant white circus tent a few miles up the road at Camp Casey II.

This camp is closer to Bush's ranch and sits on property owned by Fred Mattlage, a distant cousin of Bush neighbor Larry Mattlage, who scared protesters last week by firing his shotgun in the air in front of them. He said he was preparing for dove season.

Camp Casey II is where the action is. They have porta-potties and a big free buffet with cold iced tea and lemonade. And on Saturday night, before McMurtry and Earle take the stage, family members of dead soldiers tell their heart-wrenching stories. They talk about how Bush has time for bicycling but not for talking to Cindy. Cindy's name is holy here; it always gets a round of applause.

Tammara Rosenleaf of Helena, Montana, is the first to speak. She moved to Texas to be close to her husband, awaiting deployment from Fort Hood. Her speech is emblematic of Cindy's purpose. She says she has a book of phone numbers for the plumber, electrician, etc., so she knows who to call in case of a minor household emergency. But there's no number in her book telling her who to call if her husband's killed. Who does she talk to then?

And that's why Cindy says she's here. She and other family members of dead soldiers met with Bush in Seattle last year, but she says she wants an opportunity to ask him a specific question: Why did my son die?

On Sunday, I ask Rosenleaf if there's even an answer.

"I think that there could be," she says. "I think that Mr. Bush knows why he's really in Iraq."

The folks at Camp Casey don't want any old answer to Cindy's question. They want the answer they want to hear.

They wouldn't want Gary Qualls' answer, which is that her son died for America's freedom and Iraq's liberty. And Qualls wouldn't like Rosenleaf's answer, just like he doesn't like the fact that gay rights groups have aligned with Cindy, because he says gay people are not equal.

And both sides will fight over where Lance Corporal Louis Qualls' white cross should stand. Depending on who plants that little piece of wood, they'll either be explaining why he died, or they'll be asking.

Walking into Coffee Station, the first person I see is George W. Bush.

The cardboard makes him look smaller, but that grin is unmistakable. He's right next to the candy stand, as if to say, "Sorry about the bomb scare, partner. Here's a Snickers. I hear it really satisfies."

I pass on the candy and leave Coffee Station with a sandwich and tater tots, but I'm barely two tots in when the deputies and police give the all-clear. People straggle back into the Yellow Rose and Fort Qualls. As a reporter from the Waco NBC affiliate interviews the Crawford police chief, a guy holding a big American flag clangs the bell in front of the Yellow Rose.

The guy probably considers it the sweet clarion call of liberty, and it's probably why the dead soldiers died, but it's also loud and obnoxious. It seems like a good time to leave Crawford. Sure, there's a bomb scare and Joan Baez, but not much else is going on.

A 24-year-old man named Casey Sheehan and a 20-year-old man named Louis Qualls were killed in combat, five months apart. The father of one says he understands why; the mother of one says she doesn't. When whatever's going on here is over, both parents will go home and grieve for the rest of their lives. At some point, their sons will cease to be symbols, and maybe then they can rest in peace --Craig Malisow

Stink Pit

Deli owner Gina Glasscock has a problem. "Nobody wants to eat where it stinks," she insists. With a few possible exceptions, this is true, especially at lunch. In April 2004, Glasscock and her partner Angie Douglas opened PD Johnson's Dog Day Deli in the basement of the circa-1915 Thompson Building on Main Street as an addendum to their Dallas Dog Day Delis on McKinney Avenue and Luther Lane. It seemed like the perfect vertical setup: the high-powered three-story, $4 million Iron Cactus Mexican Grill and Margarita Bar above drawing crowds with margarita thirsts on into the night and a deli in the bowels to feed the cut-and-run business lunch crowd. But the dog was driven out. By grease.

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