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Wednesday, 14 November, 2001, 22:42 GMT
Texas town: Howdy comrade
Longhorn cattle
Tipping over sleeping cows is a popular pastime
Kevin Anderson

Welcome to Crawford Texas, population 705.

The population has mushroomed, albeit temporarily, as several hundred journalists, the Secret Service and White House support staff have arrived to cover the meeting of Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President George W Bush at the Western White House, Mr Bush's ranch, just outside of Crawford.

By midday, a half dozen camera crews from across Texas and around the world were roaming up and down the main street of Crawford.

Residents Roy Jones and Bill Sparkman were sitting on a bench outside of the town's barbershop taking it all in.

Residents Roy Jones and Bill Sparkman
The barber's shop is town's social hub

Mr Sparkman is the town's barber, and he also serves with the town's volunteer fire department.

Shooting the breeze

The barbershop is still a hub for social activity, and Mr Sparkman's customers come in to get a cut, a shave and to "shoot the breeze."

They talk about the weather, how the crops are doing and the stock market.

But this is main street Crawford, not Wall Street.

They're not talking about their portfolios. No, here it is stock market as in livestock, cattle, sheep and hogs.

Mr Jones was born and raised in Crawford and has lived all of all of his almost 70 years.

This is small town America. "I leave the key in my car all the time. I don't lock the doors to my house," he said.

It's a friendly town. If anyone were in trouble such as a death in the family, "a whole passel of people would come by and help, like bring food. They'd bring so much food, you couldn't eat it all," he said.

But this is a small Texas town, and there are some peculiarities to small towns in the Lone Star State.

Russian flag
Russia's flag flies over Texas

For one, next to one of the petrol stations on the main street of Crawford is a pen with a couple of longhorn cattle.

And the newspaper in nearby Waco suggests that if Mr Putin and Mr Bush need something to do apart from chow down at the BBQ dinner or Texas two-step to the Country-and-Western Ranch Hands Band, they can always go cow tipping, a pastime in rural America where people tip over sleeping cows.

Small town welcome

And not all small towns in America can claim President Bush as a neighbour.

At the Coffee Station restaurant and convenience store, one can buy a postcard with the message, "Howdy from the home of President George W Bush".

The town has welcomed their new neighbour and was eager to roll out the red carpet for their Russian visitors. Welcome to President Putin and President Bush, says a sign in Russian over Crawford's main street.

Crawford restaurant
Howdy from the home of President George W Bush

Signs in Russian in a Texas town would have seemed Americans' worst nightmare just a few decades ago, but now they demonstrate just how much Russian-US relations have improved since the end of the Cold War.

Dima Kapitonov, Svetlana Mordasova and five other Russian students were shopping in Crawford ahead of their meeting with President Bush and President Putin.

Dima was very excited at the prospect of meeting the Russian President. "President Putin is loved by all Russian people," he said, adding that the economy was improving and the Russian people had hope again.

And the students are also hopeful at the improving relations between the US and Russia.

Svetlana tells of how her host mother said, "20 years ago, I would have never thought I would have a Russian girl in my house."

And the attacks of 11 September have further helped bring together the two former Cold War adversaries, the students said.

Dima said that Russians could relate to the attacks in the wake of bombings in Moscow in recent years.

Svetlana said that she spent the day with her host family crying, and that her mother in Russia called her host mother in Texas and said, "we're with you."

See also:

13 Nov 01 | Americas
Vagueness the key to missile summit
12 Nov 01 | Europe
Hope for US-Russia summit
21 Oct 01 | Americas
Bush and Putin's promising chemistry
24 Aug 01 | Americas
Russia unmoved on ABM
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