CRAWFORD, Texas — Melissa Harrison thought she was just being neighborly when she let a group of antiwar activists hold a news conference on her property. Then her father, who lives just down the road, began calling her Hanoi Jane.
Even in Crawford, which prides itself on its laid-back lifestyle and friendly people, the good-neighbor thing has its limits.
"It was more than I bargained for," said Harrison, 35. "I was embarrassed."
As the town nearest to President Bush's ranch has gone from being a vacation media outpost to an antiwar encampment, frictions between the outsiders and the local population have begun to intensify.
A man from nearby Waco drove to the protest camp in his pickup truck and deliberately ran over small crosses planted along the road to honor the Iraq war dead. Larry Northern, 46, was arrested and charged with criminal mischief.
A sheep rancher whose property is across the road fired a shotgun into the air to protest the protests. Some residents have called on the county commission to do something about the crowd.
On Tuesday, activist leaders agreed to move "Camp Casey," the roadside tent camp they set up Aug. 6 about two miles from Bush's Prairie Chapel Ranch, to another spot even closer to the ranch.
"It makes it easier on the neighbors," acknowledged one organizer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the tense relationship between the community's 705 permanent inhabitants and what may be approaching an equal number of temporary residents.
The activists said they had made arrangements to move the camp to private property.
They said they would continue their vigil until Bush either met with Cindy Sheehan, the Californian whose son Casey was killed in Iraq last year, or returned to Washington at the end of his vacation early next month.
Sheehan and her supporters tried to play down the friction.
"We are trying to be really good neighbors," Sheehan said. "We have cooperated with everybody. The neighbors here don't have any issues with our right to be here. They just have an issue with our physical presence."
In a sign that even a tight-knit community like Crawford has its dissenters, the new Camp Casey site was being provided by the third cousin of the irate sheep rancher, the activists said.
Yet as the standoff passed the 10-day mark, it appeared that the confrontation was beginning to grate on some citizens who initially expressed support for Sheehan's decision to pitch her tent near the Bush spread.
"They're just tired of all the hustle and bustle of the thing," said Joe Cuff, who operates the Main Street Place gift shop with his wife, Shirley.
Sharon Nelson, who has lived in Crawford for 34 years, said her husband, Keith, got exasperated when he was in a hurry to drive to his cattle pen on the other side of town and was slowed down by the presidential traffic. But that's a minor inconvenience, she said, and the Nelsons are pleased that the proximity of the Bush ranch has revitalized what was once a dying farm town.
As long as the out-of-towners know their boundaries, everyone will get along fine, Nelson said. "People just don't like other people on their property, infringing on their rights," she said.
Kathryn Bost, who placed her age somewhere north of 80, counted herself among a minority of residents who sometimes found fault with the president.
"Most of the people in Crawford think he's next to God," Bost said. "I'm just not one of them."
When Sheehan's supporters began arriving in town, Bost and a friend drove by the Camp Casey site to take a closer look.
"I'd say they look about as good as our bunch," Bost said. "People don't dress up much anymore. I told them I was glad they were here. But I would say the majority of people here wish they would go away."
That was clearly the case with Larry Mattlage, the 62-year-old rancher who drove his pickup truck within a few hundred feet of Camp Casey early Sunday and began firing his shotgun into the air. He said he was aiming at birds, and the county sheriff said he had broken no law.
"It's like company," Mattlage later told reporters. "If you had your brother-in-law in your house for five days, wouldn't it start stinking up the place?"
Mattlage said most of his neighbors were upset by the presence of the protesters, and he was just the first to speak up.
"I don't want nobody to get hurt," Mattlage said.
"I just want them to pack their damn tents and go where they came from."
About half a mile away from Mattlage's place, Harrison let the protesters have their news conference on her circle drive a week ago because she thought they should have an opportunity to present their views.
But by Tuesday, she said that she, too, was ready for them to leave. Her parents, Pete and Linda Martinka, had fled their adjacent Lazy Czech Ranch and planned to spend several days on the road to get away from the Camp Casey scene.
Harrison's husband, Vernon, said he would be glad to see the camp residents go.
"Property rights is what I'm having a big problem with," Vernon Harrison said. "I've got these guys up here beating and banging on drums and guitars and making noise all hours of the night. There's nothing I can do."