Lines in the Land: Stories about Lines that Define Life in West Texas

This month, we brought you a week-long news series called “Lines in the Land” that explored the visible – and invisible – lines that define life in West Texas.

Our part of the state is chock full of physical – borders, railroads, highways, fences that draw the boundaries of sprawling ranches.

But there are also less-obvious lines that shape life in our region – racial, cultural and generational lines, among others.

We began our series with a look at the intersection of race and generational lines, with a story that stretches back to the Civil War.

In 1867, two regiments of black soldiers were stationed in West Texas. They were called the Buffalo Soldiers by the Native American tribes they fought. Many of those soldiers were former slaves, and their descendants still live in the area. But today, not all are willing to acknowledge their mixed heritage.

For Part II of our series, we looked at a pesky plant that’s invaded the banks of the Rio Grande. The Carrizo Cane problem has grown from a regional ecological concern to, for some at least, a national security issue.

The plant was yet again a central topic of discussion at an Annual Sister Park Summit at Big Bend National Park between American and Mexican park officials from the other side of the river, and it’s muscled major control of the banks of the Rio Grande on both sides.

Part III of our series focused on an all-too-familiar line for many West Texans – the long stretch of highway between home and the doctor.

When you live in rural West Texas, you do it with the understanding that you can’t always have access to everything you might want or need, especially when it comes to healthcare.

If you get sick, sometimes you just have to drive for an hour or more to get the doctor.

But for people with kidney failure – people on dialysis – the reality of living in our far flung corner of the state means getting onto a bus three days a week for a 14-hour trip, every week.

In Part IV, we turned to a simple line in Marfa that’s loaded with symbolism – the fence between the U.S. Border Patrol’s Big Bend Sector headquarters and the “hippie campground” El Cosmico.

To close our series, we considered an invisible line that’s really more of a concept.

It’s the idea of security in the borderlands. With talk of drug and human trafficking dominating the headlines, how do define what part of our region is “secure” and what part isn’t?

And where do we draw the line for how “secure” is secure enough?

Lawmakers, law enforcement and everyday citizens wrestle with those questions every day, and occasionally we’re presented with unique challenges that make us re-consider what we know or think we know about border security.

One of those challenges recently came to light here in West Texas.

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