Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Of Purple Fenceposts and Passing Lanes

When you leave the familiar
And cross the line to everywhere else
Your soul leaps to a higher plane and gives your body
A free ride without so much as a ticket or a hand stamp
-Joe Ely, Bonfire of Roadmaps

Half of the fun of being an itinerant bird hunter is in the getting there -- seeing the places, meeting the people, and sampling the ways of the locals.  In fact, for me at least, it's a sure-fire antidote from the homogenous Wal-Mart culture of 21st-Century America.

Purple fenceposts, for example.  I don't remember when I saw my first one, but it was shortly after moving to Kansas after stints in Texas, Georgia, and Nebraska -- and never once do I recall seeing one prior to that day.  I assumed -- and I've since learned that I'm not the only one -- that a purple fencepost indicated allegiance to the Kansas State University Wildcats, whose color is the somewhat off-putting purple.

Somewhere along the way, I came to learn that these purple splashes mean "No Trespassing."  Kind of a unique way to express sovereignty -- and much easier to erect than a barbed wire fence and harder to remove than a plastic sign.  I was surprised though that growing up just one state to the north, I had never heard of such a practice.  The always-reliable internet research indicates that "purple laws" are on the books in Arkansas, Missouri, and Texas -- though I've never actually seen purple postings anywhere but the Sunflower State.

Anyhow, it's one of those customs you'd never learn about by traveling I-70 at 80 miles an hour.

And speaking of roadways, here's another custom that I think ought to be emulated nationwide.  Down in the Lone Star State, Texans driving at highway speeds on a two-lane road readily pull over on the shoulder to let faster-moving vehicles pass (with a friendly wave as thanks, mind you). 

And why the hell not?  The shoulders are wide, smooth, and often extensions of the road themselves.  I've always thought it was courteous and (in most cases) the safest way to keep traffic moving and not stacked up.  No Texan that I've asked can tell me whether or not it's entirely legal, but no one really seems to care.

Two examples of practical necessity, conceived by real people in the real world.  In this day and age, we need more of that, don't we?


  1. A great post. On a recent road trip, we came upon purple posts in the Vanderpool, Utopia Texas area. Now I know what it means!

  2. Purple fence posts (and trees, and 55-gallon drums, and old cars) are quite common in Arkansas, much to the chagrin of the wandering college student that I was when living there.

    And I agree, the nation would not regret taking after the Texans' two lane courtesies.