Exile on Main Street

George W. Bush’s weary neighbors.

  • Editors' Pick
  1. Keith Lynch lives three miles down the road from President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, and, like many of his neighbors, he comes from a family that has worked cattle on this land for more than a century. His great-grandfather Will Simpson came to McLennan County in 1857, forty years before Crawford was incorporated as a town, and the hand-tooled saddle he rode on during sixteen cattle drives up the Chisholm Trail to Kansas sits in Lynch’s living room beside a reliquary of Simpson’s keepsakes (a pair of reading glasses, a wide-brimmed Western hat, a threadbare illustrated King James Bible). Lynch, who used to rope calves at local rodeos for prize money, is sun-weathered, soft-bellied, and partial to a white straw cowboy hat that he removes for Sunday-morning worship. At seventy, he still raises cattle on his family’s ranch, nearly a thousand acres of blackland prairie that is Simpson’s hard-won, if modest, legacy.

    The prairie here, west of Waco, is flat and monotonous. Temperatures routinely break a hundred degrees in the summertime, and drought and grass fires are common. Wealthy Texans like to have their retreats elsewhere: in the wide-open, rugged grandeur of West Texas, near the Chinati Mountains; on South Texas’s lush coastal plain, where Dick Cheney once famously went quail hunting; or in the bucolic Hill Country outside Austin, where Lyndon Johnson was born and grew up, and where, on visits home from Washington, he pioneered the role of Rancher-in-Chief. Until Bu...