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  • Ann and I left town in June for our summer outings to the Gulf Coast, the Rocky Mountains, and the Sandwich Islands. Clarendon still seemed like a peaceful little town, where folks watched their kids play baseball on a summer day, had picnics at the lake, celebrated the 4th of July and went to church on Sunday. Pretty normal, small town America, land of the free and the home of the brave, where people still come to escape religious, racial and cultural persecution and prejudice.

    Discussion at Draper’s RV park (kind of like the local barbershop) has always drifted to Clarendon as “Saints Roost”, when there is a pilgrim among us. The town was founded in 1878 by Methodist clergyman L.H. Carhart as a “sobriety settlement” It was a community for good Christians, not your typical saloon and cowboy infested railroad boom town.

    Over the years people have settled in Clarendon (population 2026 in 2010) and established their own church groups. Today we have 18 churches in the city limits (2 miles east to west, 2 miles north to south), one Roman Catholic (the priest visits from another parish) and 17 Protestant. The cowboys even have their own church. It seems that if you do not like what the preacher is saying at the (*&^#_ church you start your own.

    We drove back into town mid July, exhausted from our travels, especially the airport security, and the strange routing patterns of the airlines, and we began to notice that there were a lot of doomsday signs and eight foot pvc pipe crosses dotting the landscape just off the U.S. Highway right-of-way. Too tired to absorb it all we went home, unpacked and got back to work on projects and Summer school.

    We don’t nomally drive the length of town on US 287, we take the city streets to the College, the post office - you get the picture. We live on the west side of town and normally only see about half-a-mile of highway in town, as we leave for Amarillo, to take care of Jim. Week after week, the images of these sewer pipe crosses just stuck in my head. Sunday, August 12, I drove Ann to the Amarillo airport for a trip to Houston and I returned quickly to Clarendon. I was on a mission, “How many crosses were there? Who’s property were they on? How many signs were there? WHY? Camera ready, I started west of town and drove east until I did not see any more signs or crosses on 287. I turned around and drove from the cemetery south of town to the storage facilities one mile north on 70.

    When I had finished counting and shooting, there were 42-eight foot sewer pipe crosses (many on prominent retail and agricultural business property) and an equal amount of 3 x 6 ft black metal signs with bold white text, (warning the end is near, and believe in my god or be damned. One sign shared the uprights of an old windmill supporting the Chamber of Commerce whose message was “History is Still Happening Here, Destination Donley County Tourism”, and directly under it was a menacing sign stating, “ Think about it! When you DIE where will you spend ETERNITY? Repent: - - - - THE END IS NEAR” right next to a Thai and Chinese Restaurant) all on US 287 (this is the primary route of highway traffic from the western United States to/from the Dallas-Fort Worth area) from 3 miles east of town to 1 mile west of town, and from the city limits to the south and 1 mile north of Clarendon on State Hwy 70. I was angry, ashamed and scared.

    I am angry because this Krusade is not just for the benefit of local sinners, it is really intended for the car, the truck, minivan, the RV with a family in it, simply driving through our town. What if you are Jewish, Muslin, Sikh, Jain, Hindu, Buddhist, Bahai, Parsi, Taoist, Shinto, or even Atheist, Agnostic, Humanist, and the list goes on. This message has been interpreted by both longtime resident and passing stranger as one of religious, cultural and ethnic intolerance. It says, “Just keep going, don’t bother to stop, unless you believe the same as me.”

    I am ashamed because I live and work here, and despite the seemingly harmonious picturesque rural setting, the community does not think anything is wrong with having everybody running this religious gauntlet. The local newspaper owner wrote an editorial expressing his discomfort (he is born and raised here) with the doomsday message. Read Roger’s Editorial in the Clarendon Live website at

    I am scared because despite the negative press, and a number of locals complaining to the businesses where the symbols are displayed and anchored in concrete, the crosses and the signs remain today, as a reminder to all, that if you don’t like it, get out. Take your business somewhere else, we don’t want you.

    Did they plant these icons of doom to protect themselves from the rest of the world, or to help them keep the ancient religious war bloody and profitable, or because they do not want to know or care what anyone else thinks, feels or believes?

    Welcome to the Dark Ages.
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