TEXARKANA, Texas — I’ve got a thing for borders.
I can’t explain it. I’ve always had a fascination with maps and geographical facts. I had to be the only 5-year-old who thumbed through the pages of the World Almanac. Yep, the geek blood has been a’runnin’ warm in my veins for decades.
I have pictures of me at the Canadian border in British Columbia and at various borders in Europe. Hey, don’t knock it: Some collect antiques or dolls or what have you. I live for borders. It’s my thing. Don’t judge.
On this recent Grand Tour of the American South, the path to Arkansas took me through Texarkana. I was giddy with glee to exit U.S. 59 and head for State Line Avenue to totally geek out for a bit.
State Line Avenue traces the Texas-Arkansas line for several miles through Texarkana. Save for some business names on either side that incorporate their respective states into their name and state flag banners hanging on every other light pole, it’s kind of unremarkable. The yellow median line is the border.
The highlight is the federal building, which marks the exact longitude with a marker, artwork inlaid in the sidewalk and a post. Fortunately, it’s a tourist draw so it’s good to know I’m not the only geek who finds this exhilarating.
This was about midday on a Sunday, so traffic was light. The federal building fills a traffic oval in the middle of the avenue. Looking south, a church was letting out on the right side in Texas. Motorcycles were gathering at the Arrow Sports Bar across the street in Arkansas. I had to chuckle a little.
As an aside, the bar had an interesting hustle going. One side of its façade was painted with “WOOO PIG, SOOIE” with the University of Arkansas’ razorback mascot. The other side, of course, had “HOOK ‘EM HORNS” and the University of Texas longhorn mascot. I guess when you’re doing business in a city bisected by a state border, you have to play to both loyalties to appeal to everyone.
Despite the stifling humidity, I strolled a bit, crossing the avenue a few times, you know, going back and forth between two states.
The Texarkana area’s cotton and oil fields produced one of America’s most acclaimed musicians, Scott Joplin. The “Father of Ragtime” grew up here and was tutored in piano by a German immigrant to the area, Julius Weiss. Joplin went on to compose hits at the height of the American ragtime music craze at the turn of the 20th Century.
Texarkana pays homage to Joplin with a bold, bright colorful mural featuring portraits and depictions of some of his major compositions such as the “Maple Leaf Rag.”
I made my way back to State Line Avenue and zipped northbound, on the Arkansas side, to Interstate 30 and on to Little Rock, my geeky geographical curiosity somewhat quenched.