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BUSH seeks relaxation at Texas ranch

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WACO, Texas (AP) _ Ready to take it easy, President Bush is settling in for a three-day weekend at his Texas ranch.

``I can't wait to get home,'' Bush told an audience at a political fund-raising dinner in Birmingham, Ala., on Thursday evening.

``Washington is a great place to work but Texas is a great place to relax,'' he said.

This is Bush's second visit to his 1,200 acre spread near Crawford, Texas, this month. His wife, first lady Laura Bush, has been there since Monday.

But since Bush's first ranch visit he's spent a week in Europe, countering skepticism among U.S. allies about his proposed missile defense system and defending his administration's evolving position on global warming.

Bush seemed in a lighthearted mood and ready for a slower pace as he toured a children's lakeside day camp at Oak Mountain State Park near Birmingham.

He even wondered if the box turtle he posed with was named ``George.''

``Watch where you throw that ball, you might get beaned,'' he told a 10-year-old who tossed a ball for him to catch.

Inspecting the turtle, he encouraged a group of young girls to touch it even as it stretched its neck and made pedaling motions with its feet.

``Hurry up,'' the president said. ``It's going to crawl out of my hand.''

Moving over to the arts and crafts table he followed a camp counselor's instructions and wound colored wool string around a pair of sticks, then proudly exhibited his creation.

``Not bad,'' someone said.

``I was hoping somebody would notice,'' the president said.

All of that was prelude to an open air speech in which Bush promoted his conservation agenda and warned Congress that it will face his ``veto pen'' if it overspends his budget.

He then drove back to downtown Birmingham where he helped raise $1.6 million for the re-election campaign of a congressional ally, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

Sessions called the $1,000 a plate affair ``the single most successful fund-raising event in Alabama's history.''
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