George W. Bush, the ticklish cowboy from Crawford

When a ranch isn't a ranch, revisited.


T.g.
August 29, 2005 11:28PM (UTC)

A couple of weeks ago, we banished the word "ranch" from these pages, at least when it might be used to describe a certain 1,600-acre parcel of land just outside of Crawford, Texas. The Los Angeles Times isn't quite ready to join us yet, but it apparently deems the question worthy of a nearly 2,000-word answer.

"President Bush calls his Prairie Chapel Ranch 'a slice of heaven,' a special place where he can ride his mountain bike, fish his man-made pond and clear brush to his heart's content," the Times says, then asks: "But is it really a ranch?"

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It all sounds just a little familiar.

We noted that "the presidential-getaway-as-ranch" construct has always been a way "to make a millionaire from Yale look like some kind of workaday cowpoke." The Times says that vacations in Crawford give Bush, "who was born in New Haven, Conn., and schooled at Yale and Harvard," a chance to "remind the nation that he's a Cowboy President."

But if part of being a cowboy involves having something to do with cows, the Times says the president is a few head short of a herd. "There are some guys that are all hat and no cattle," former Texas congressman Kent Hance tells the Times. "The president's not that way; he's hat and five cattle."

Even five may be a stretch. As the Times reports, Kenneth Engelbrecht kept a herd of about 200 cattle on a portion of the property he leased from the Bushes, but Engelbrecht and the Bushes parted ways recently, and Engelbrecht took his cattle with him. The White House is circumspect about how many cattle are in Crawford now. Deputy White House Press Secretary Dana Perino initially told the Times that the president still has "a few" cattle on the ranch. Pressed for details, she said there were "four or five."

Engelbrecht won't say anything, it seems. "My deal with [the Bushes] was to stay clear of everything," he tells the Times. "We left on good terms, still friends with the president. So far, I haven't found that anything's helped me by putting it in the paper. They're pretty ticklish about that."


T.g.

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