Cindy, the Peace Train and the Little Ditch that Could


Two months ago while exhausted from a Summer Soulstice peace festival, and while looking with dismay into a long hot summer of war, Louisiana attorney Buddy Spell, his spouse Annie, and their guest of honor Cindy Sheehan decided they needed to do something, but not something too high energy. So they browsed through the train schedule and designated an Amtrak Crescent as their Peace Train.

Come September they’d board the train in New Orleans and put out word to folks along the way to hop on for a ride to the big peace march in Washington D.C. That would be enough to keep their peace hopes on track. Of course, that was then. “We had about 60 people signed up before Cindy went to Crawford,” says Buddy, “but that has tripled.”

With a pre-boarding rally in Covington, Louisiana the night before Cindy and friends depart, the little town of Covington may soon be feeling like next month’s Crawford. And when the train hits Union Station, Buddy says ‘old fart’ activists will be greeted by the Campus Action Network, and wherever they go for the weekend, they will be marching 500 strong. And that’s how you go in just a couple of months from a little ol, z-net zap to a global headliner by way of the little ditch that could.

Of course internet aficionados of the Crawford Peace House will know Buddy best as the daddy of Smudge kitty, who got semi-famous when somebody wrote about the little critter pouncing among the Rosemary branches last week. But Buddy’s not bitter about that at all. “No, I’ve just been practicing law for the past 20 years, working my ass off. And Smudge kitty, all she does is show up! Now somebody wants to sell pictures of her on EBay to raise money for Gold Star Families. And a New York publishing attorney is working on a children’s book.” As you can tell, when it comes to Smudge, Buddy is proud as he can be.

As organizers of the Louisiana Action Network, Buddy and Annie have been acting as their own lawyers and law enforcement liaisons for years. They are driving back to Crawford Wednesday night because the McClennan County Sheriff’s Department wants them there. There is a big move coming up, and believe it or not, the movement did not peak out last weekend as expected, so the complexities of keeping all things smoothly flowing are growing by the hour. Buddy and Annie made a good deal of headway with the local cops last week, so they need to get back to work.

As Buddy talks about organizing peacekeepers for last week’s events, I tell him that no peacekeepers were apparent to me when I was there. “When this is all over with,” he assures me. “I’ll tell you how that works. And I won’t mind giving up all my secrets when this is over, because this ain’t never going to happen again. It’s a perfect storm.”

In language and tone, Buddy is slipping into his courthouse drawl, the kind of talking that gets things done among jurors and judges across the South. Buddy started out his law practice in 1989, representing clients like Halliburton, Brown and Root. In 1993 he switched to criminal law and finds that he likes his new clients better. For one thing, they are human clients, not corporate. For another thing, he gets to represent some innocent clients these days, whereas with corporate clients, “that was never a possibility!”

In 1996 he became law partners with his spouse Annie, otherwise known as mommy to Smudge. And they have been keeping the faith in the peace movement with no idea that the dog days this year would prove to be so cool. “In two days Cindy did through pure moxie what a lot of us in the peace movement haven’t been able to do in two years,” says Buddy. “It’s going to galvanize the movement. Lots of old problems have been forgotten.”

There is no more talk, for example, that the ANSWER coalition and United for Peace and Justice will hold separate rallies and then stage feeder marches. Thanks to Cindy’s action in Crawford, the seemingly impossible knots within the movement have disappeared, “and everyone is focusing on the central issue: the dead and those who might die.”

No one as active as Buddy and Annie has much time to take in the news coverage, but Buddy did catch the Hardball interview, and he thinks Cindy held up well. “She did an excellent job,” he says. “And so did her sister.”

Something about the land and weather at Camp Casey strips away all your poses. What’s left is something like raw core. After two weeks of heat and activity, Cindy’s image is not only suitless, it’s anti-suit. We can look at Cindy the way we look at ourselves in the mirror before and after the styles have been applied. No way for the networks to outdo that. To watch a television reporter carrying the obligatory blazer in that heat is to watch a metaphor for all the silly posing that the deadly messages of war have wrapped themselves in for the past few years.

“We show up to Crawford exhausted to begin with (because of the travel) and then the weather really does wear you down. Yet Cindy holds up well. I’m 48 years old, too, and the days I spent at Camp Casey beat the hell out of me. I was glad to go home and get some bed rest.” Yet he’s rushing back into action with high energy this week, because the pilgrims just keep coming.

Note: Peace Train info at

GREG MOSES is editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review and author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. His chapter on civil rights under Clinton and Bush appears in Dime’s Worth of Difference, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. He can be reached at:


















Greg Moses writes about peace and Texas, but not always at the same time. He is author of Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence. As editor of the Texas Civil Rights Review he has written about racism faced by Black agriculturalists in Texas. Moses is a member of the Texas Civil Rights Collaborative. He can be reached at