Vernon Howell’s besieged Mount Carmel compound continues to draw curious onlookers, even a month after the shootout that led to the standoff.
Area residents say their neighborhood has become a sort of carnival, where many visitors come to gawk and others — merchandise in hand — come to hawk.
“It’s destroying the serenity out here,” said Julie Sanford, whose mother lives on Old Mexia Road. “That’s why we moved out here.”
With the recent surge in traffic, though, Sanford and her family realized the time was ripe for something they’d wanted to do for awhile.
They had a garage sale.
“We’ve probably made $500 so far,” she said Saturday.
Dozens of cars lined the road all day long, including one converted motorboat whose skipper came from Austin to see if he could help end the siege.
“I’ve been watching this circus for three weeks on TV,” said the man, who identified himself as Bob.
“The man says he’s not coming out until he gets a message from God.”
The name of his boat? The U.S.S. Message from God.
Bob, whose passion is tinkering with Volkswagens, said he coaxed his boat into road-worthiness about two years ago. It no longer floats, he said.
A woman who took three young children out made it clear she was not a curiosity seeker.
“The only reason we’re here is to look for a lens we lost last night,” the woman said. “The only reason we came last night was to listen to music.”
She was referring to the music the federal agents have been playing to unnerve those inside the compound.
Friday night’s “program” was an extended performance of a telephone busy signal.
For area residents, the busy signal was just one more hassle.
“That busy signal was irritating,” Sanford said. “We’re waiting for them to get call waiting.”
But for one day, at least, Sanford’s family could find solace in the neighborhood carnival.
“The highlight came when the guys in the boat-car stopped, and we tried to sell them some scuba equipment,” Sanford said. “They didn’t buy it.”