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Houston in the summer is lush and buzzing, sweat soaked and full of life. The terra-cotta pots assembled on the front porch of the last house on Ishmeal Street overflow with flowers and escaping vines. In the front yard, an old well—a round brick cylinder covered by a corrugated steel roof—brims with zinnias. Heavy purple hydrangeas lean over a cinder-block planter. Sunk into the grass in front of a hedgerow, a bright red yard sign reads, “Freeway—No Way!”Molly Cook pulls up in her chrome minivan—the only car that will fit her harp, which she still plays—and gets out carrying clipboards and a stack of postcards. She greets Elda and Jesus Reyes, the couple who live in this house next to the highway. On the eastern…

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