Breaking Through Concrete: Hoxie’d

| June 25, 2010

“Charles T … HOXIE. Well, I’ll be damned!”

Officer Parnell has our licenses and he’s standing below the brightly lit sign that reads, “Hoxie City Hall.” Next to that sign on the same 50-foot roofline of the small brick building, another brightly lit sign, “Hoxie Police.” Silhouetted against the sky, the water tower ball spells “Hoxie” in the early night.

We had left Kansas City this morning with our sights on Hoxie, Arkansas, 360 miles away. Despite no known relations to the city’s founding fathers, Charlie wants to see if he can get anything free there via the surname on his license. Lewis Lewis burns soybean oil as he barrels between the massive square patches of soybeans and corn in central Missouri. We eat fresh arugula and cheese sandwiches and we float on our backs in the cool, muddy water at a South Grand River fishing access spot.

At the magic sunset hour we hit the Missouri and Arkansas border where the two states seem to be battling it out, bumping into each other to create a folded topography of light green meadows, dark forests, and spring-fed creeks. We drop back onto flat farmland again above Hoxie and pull into town just as the light fades to dark blue.

As my dad would say, “Blink and you’ll miss it.” Hoxie is one of those towns. I love those towns. Wouldn’t want to live in one, but I’ve had great experiences traveling through them.

Charlie is fired up. His name is everywhere – the green town marker signs, the school signs (mascot “Mustangs”), and, right here, on the City Hall and Police Station. We park Lewis Lewis along the side of the building and walk in. Charlie shows the young women behind the counter his license and they think it’s funny. We talk about our trip and they think it’s cool. I use a Flip Video to record the silliness. We leave and walk back to Lewis to cook dinner in the gravel lot.

We eat well, almost entirely sourced from greater Kansas City soil: seasoned pork sausage from Benedict Builders Farms sauteed with garlic shoots and kale from Bad Seed Farm, and spinach from New Roots for Refugees Farm. (Over quinoa from the Andes, and slapped on the backside with some brown water from Kentucky.)

Halfway through dinner, sitting quietly beside Lewis Lewis, nothing moving, Office Blake Lipscomb approaches. He’s got his Mag Light and he asks what we’re doing. Says this isn’t a campground. I can understand that and we apologize. He takes our licenses and asks us to clean up. We meet him in front of the building two minutes later and he’s called in back-up.

Here we go. We just walked into a caricature – the small-town cop who’s a bit on the Young, Dumb, and Excited (YDE) side of life and three guys cooking food beside their big, greasy short bus. I wonder, does Officer Lipscomb see this as a classic cartoon unfolding, complete with all the characters? Or are Michael, Charlie, and I the only ones watching this like a Mystery Science Theater 3000 clip?

He runs our licenses and returns double fired up. He’s got a live one, that’s what his tone and puffed-up body language say. He makes me delete the Charlie video, says we need a “news pass” to video someone.

He asks if I’ve been arrested. No. You sure. Yes. Sure about that. Well, I get where you’re going with this – you have reason to believe otherwise – but I’m fairly certain.

He asks about the Grand Theft Auto. Was that me? Yes it was, in a sense. It was someone with my same name and birthdate who has a laundry list of offenses longer than Lucky Luciano. This has happened before at border crossings. There is some minor factual difference between us, aside from the felonies and such. It’s something like he was born on my birthday but in ’77 rather than ’78. I forget and I wish I knew so I could pinpoint this when it happens again (David Scott Hanson, the legally troubled one, if you’re following the blog, send a comment and include the inconsistent detail we don’t share, please.)

So Officer Lipscomb runs it again and claims it comes up the same. Well, what can I do, it’s not me. Somehow he drops it and moves deeper into the cartoon.

“So you guys are just traaav’lin’ around, huh,” he asks in a failed attempt at accusatory condescension.

I often get annoyed and offended by the blanket characterization of small-town southern cops in Hollywood films. But this guy pulled off the bit better than any LA director could have imagined. It’s always fascinating and kind of sad when people hit their own stereotype right on the head.

We’ve explained what we’re doing already, but I give it another go. Office Lipscomb tells us that the clerk girls who had been laughing with and at us twenty minutes before had been “really freaked out by you guys. Somebody here was really freaked out by whatever was going on in there. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have driven nine miles in three minutes to get here,” Lipscomb almost cries.

Finally, Lipscomb disappears into the station, unable to uncover any offenses from the cleanest veggie short bus to ever cross the country. Office Parnell, the good cop, emerges with our licenses. He’s amused by our project and suggests we go to the truck park area behind the Exxon to spend the night.

We do not hesitate at the Exxon, and red line (58-62 mph) Lewis Lewis outta Hoxie.

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