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Keep Your Leaves Off My Side — A Kansas City Cartoonist's Take On The Border Wars

Charlie Podrebarac

Local cartoonist Charlie Podrebarac is familiar with the tensions that sometimes arise over the Kansas-Missouri state line.

He lives on the Kansas side, but has often highlighted the border conflict in his Cowtown Cartoons. He’s been penning Cowtown since 1984 for the Kansas City Star.

In his series, “soldiers” take the battlefield on State Line Road armed with leaf blowers and rakes in an ironic statement about the “border war” between Missouri and Kansas. It’s part of a series of cartoons about metropolitan Kansas City that use a leaf motif.

I interviewed Podrebarac as part of our ongoing series, Beyond Our Borders.

Credit Courtesy photo / KCUR
KCUR's Beyond Our Borders project will examine the Missouri-Kansas state line through the end of 2014.

You ended up doing several cartoons using leaves as symbols of competition. Where did the idea for the leaf theme come from?

“State line is a nice big target for me to mine every once in a while. I picked a leaf motif for some of my cartoons - where the leaves go, (that) they don’t know the boundaries - they just blow across the state line.  People have deep lawn concerns and (think about) ‘What’s the origin of my leaf or his leaf.'  I think the idea came from my neighbor’s yard.  The leaves goes back and forth, much like the debate over state line in Kansas and Missouri.”

You seem to suggest leaves represent something bigger. Is that right? 

"(We’ve) got a border war where people are actually ... like neighbor against neighbor. I married a lady from Kansas City, Missouri so we have a fun debate about this and it's mostly friendly. I think its somewhat silly, but it becomes un-silly when people are poaching businesses back and forth and there’s no gain. Really ... the taxpayers lose.”

So do you hope these cartoons will help us to see things that we might not see, to understand how the border war isn't in our collective best interest?

"Exactly, and laugh about the situation. I think its fun to kid each other, but to take it too seriously is nonsense. I think it’s best just to say I’m from Kansas City, cause we should be proud of that.”

You can see more of Charlie Podrebarac's artwork at his website.

Community Engagement intern Lisa Rodriguez contributed to this report.

This look at the Missouri-Kansas state line is part of KCUR's months-long examination of how geographic borders affect our daily lives in Kansas City. KCUR will go Beyond Our Borders  and spark a community conversation through social outreach and innovative journalism.

We will share the history of these lines, how the borders affect the current Kansas City experience and what’s being done to bridge or dissolve them. Be a source for Beyond Our Borders: Share your perspective and experiences on the state line with KCUR.

I partner with communities to uncover the ignored or misrepresented stories by listening and letting communities help identify and shape a narrative. My work brings new voices, sounds, and an authentic sense of place to our coverage of the Kansas City region. My goal is to tell stories on the radio, online, on social media and through face to face conversations that enhance civic dialogue and provide solutions.
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