Web Exclusives: Raising Kate

a PAW web exclusive column by Kate Swearengen '04 (kswearen@princeton.edu)

June 5, 2002:

Illustration by Henry Martin ’48

Being from Texas is no laughing matter
The right smile can open even the hardest heart

It was 5:45 am, and Amanda and I were standing outside Dillon Gymnasium, waiting for a ride to a cycling race at West Point. Peter was 15 minutes late, and Amanda said that it was probably because he's Flemish. The joke goes that if there's a nuclear holocaust, the place to be is Belgium, because everything happens there 10 years later.

Amanda is from Texas. There's no shortage of jokes about that part of the world, and Amanda has heard most of them. On the outside of her laptop computer is a bumper sticker that reads: "Someone in Texas Loves Me."

"Someone in Texas does love me," she told me when I asked about it.

Peter pulled into the parking lot. He's a graduate student with a kind demeanor and a black Miata, two factors which make him the ideal taxi service for his opportunistic teammates.


It was early, and the sky didn't begin to lighten until we were heading north on the Garden State Parkway. The little car hummed along. I was sure that it got excellent gas mileage, just I was sure of Amanda's disdain for the vehicle. Amanda is contemptuous of small cars. On the last cycling trip, she cheered every time a pickup truck passed.

"Look," she said. "There's a pickup truck. And the man driving it is wearing a cowboy hat. That makes me very happy."

Or, as the case often was:

"That guy's driving a Toyota. Why doesn't he get a real truck?"


It took about two hours to drive from Princeton to West Point, and another 10 minutes to get through the checkpoint. Security at West Point is tight. As soon as Peter pulled up to the gate, two guards descended on the car. Both were wearing camouflage fatigues and black Military Police armbands, and both were carrying rifles. Both were noticeably gratified — excessively gratified — to have been entrusted with their duty. They had been waiting for us all morning.

Peter rolled his eyes.

"Pop the trunk," one shouted, bounding toward the rear of the car. I wondered whose idea it had been to let him walk around with a loaded gun.

"I hope you don't have any hash in there, Peter," I said.

Peter didn't laugh.

The other guard came around by the window.

"I'm going to need to see some identification," he said. "Passport, Green Card, visa..."

I asked if our Princeton University I.D.s would be adequate. They were.

"Don't you want to see my I.D., too?" Amanda asked. She smiled winningly at the guard — a big smile, a Texas smile. He melted. Dudley Doright. At your service, ma'am.

"No, you're fine," the guard said. "Just the two in the front."


I asked Peter what he thought of West Point.

"It's like a fortress," he said.

It was true. Like Princeton, West Point is Gothic, but on a larger scale. The buildings are immense, somber, and crowned with battlements. Low-slung walls of gray stone flank the road. The only thing missing is the moat.

Amanda piped up from the back, wanting to know if we had seen any cute Army boys. Peter told her that we were completely lost, and to keep her eyes open for anyone who looked as if he might be able to provide directions. Amanda spotted a white-haired man jogging on the opposite side of the road, and Peter called out to him.

"We're looking for Shea Stadium," Peter said. "Do you know where that is?"


"Shea Stadium. There's a bike race there."

"Hell, I have no idea. The only Shea Stadium I know is in Queens."

Peter laughed.

"That's the one I know, too," he said.

Fifteen minutes later, we found Shea Stadium. Peter pulled into the parking lot, then ran off to change clothes. Amanda struck up a conversation with the two cyclists in the car next to us. One of them remembered her from a race earlier in the spring.

"Hey, you're the girl from Texas," he said. "Are you a Longhorn or an Aggie?"

"Well, I like maroon better than burnt orange," Amanda said.

"Yeah, burnt orange is not your color."

Amanda looked down at her Princeton jersey and smiled.

"No, it's really not," she said.


You can reach Kate at kswearen@princeton.edu