These ducks caused a "quackmire" in Pearland.
Drue Wagner

A Real Quackmire: This Month in Weird Texas News

From Muscovy ducks in Pearland to a detective agency devoted to cooking grease theft in Irving, it's been another weird month, y'all.


A version of this story ran in the January / February 2020 issue.

PEARLAND // An abundance of invasive ducks is ruffling feathers in this Houston suburb. Flocks of Muscovy ducks roam the streets, waddling in front of cars, tearing open trash bags, and leaving feathers and droppings in their wake. In what the Houston Chronicle describes as a “quackmire,” some residents adore them and others want them gone. Martha Larson, a 78-year-old duck devotee, said she “swelled up like a frog” when animal control staff warned her she’d be fined if she didn’t stop feeding the birds. “I never thought I’d live to see this day,” she added.

COLLEGE STATION // Chaos ensued after a university bigwig bought office parakeets for his employees. Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp released about five birds in an office building atrium, hoping they would boost employee morale. Instead, the parakeets were soon “flying around like crazy,” according to emails published by the Texas Tribune. “Four birds landed on Cliff’s computer last night,” one staffer wrote. Another complained that the animals frequently “tried to land on people.” The most ornery birds were rehomed, and those that remain have calmed down. “They’re in bird heaven,” spokesperson Laylan Copelin said.

WICHITA FALLS // Realtors employ all kinds of tricks to sell a home: staging it with shiny new decor, sprucing up the landscaping, even wooing buyers to an open house with freshly baked cookies. But none, perhaps, have matched the creativity of Melissa O’Brien. O’Brien’s listing for 4711 Balboa Drive features photos of someone in a large inflatable T. rex costume lounging in the living room, taking a bath, and posing on the front lawn with a sign reading “I’m gorgeous inside.” At press time, the four-bedroom home was still available for the very reasonable asking price of $169,000—dinosaur not included.

ARLINGTON // Everyone knows the frustration of realizing that your phone is about to die just when you need to make an important call, but one North Texas man was particularly desperate. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that Walied Taha, 27, alarmed neighbors as he went door to door wearing “a jacket, tennis shoes, and no pants,” asking to borrow a charger. Taha was later charged with driving while intoxicated.

IRVING // Cooking grease theft is increasing in Texas, but worry not: The Grease Police are on the case. A handful of retired cops make up this private investigation unit run by Darling Ingredients, an Irving-based company that rents out grease storage tanks to restaurants. Thieves use suction pumps to siphon large quantities of grease out of the tanks, then sell it on the black market; the stuff is eventually used to make biofuel. On a recent ride-along with investigator Frank Scoggins, NBC DFW recorded him catching a thief in the act. “There’s an old saying in these circles: Grease gets in you,” Scoggins said. “It’s like heroin to ’em.”

LUBBOCK // A gas station’s dinosaur statue was stolen, mutilated, and dumped. Nabbed from the parking lot of a Sinclair gas station, the big green brontosaurus “had no known enemies,” KLBK reports. Vandals cut off the statue’s feet, slit its throat, and even painted its eyes red. Sheriff’s deputies found the statue in a lakebed about 12 hours after it disappeared. “I’m taking him home now, putting him to rest,” said owner Kerry Thomason.

RED LICK // Little Man the miniature horse is home safe after two days on the lam. Members of the Bowie County Sheriff’s Office combed the woods looking for the 11-year-old therapy pony, who bolted during a photo shoot. “This is uncharacteristic for him,” owner Annette Mugno told the Texarkana Gazette. “I don’t know if something in the woods scared him or he wandered off for greener pastures.” The search party included several people on horseback, in the hopes the other horses would “call to him.” Little Man—who was located 2 miles from where he disappeared—is now back at work cheering up the residents of local nursing homes.

We have plenty more stories from the “Strangest State.” Got a local oddity or some small-town news to share? Tips are welcome at [email protected].

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