A man takes a picture of a large snake.
Drue Wagner

Strangest State: No, You Can’t Bring Your Missile Launcher on the Plane

Plus: Weirdness abounds at Wichita Falls Walmarts.


A version of this story ran in the September / October 2019 issue.

HOOD COUNTY // A man was surprisingly calm upon realizing that a rattlesnake was crawling out of his pickup’s air vent. Instead of crashing in a panic, as this reporter surely would have, Bob Crowell silently filmed a video of the rattler and posted it to Facebook, commenting, “You never have a dull moment with me.” Crowell told the Houston Chronicle that he used “a tool” to “secure the snake, remove it from his car, and toss it back into the wild.”

LUFKIN // After hearing glass shatter in the early hours of the morning, a terrified homeowner took shelter in a closet and called 911 to report a break-in. Police arrived to find that the intruder was a befuddled white-tailed deer, the Lufkin Daily News reports. “We’ve got the house surrounded. Come on out!” orders an officer in the highly entertaining bodycam video, before entering and shouting, “It’s a deer, it’s a deer! Stand down.” The doe scampered wildly across the living room before officers eventually shooed it out the front door with a folding chair.

KILGORE // A cop succeeded in trying to catch a loose dog, though things didn’t go exactly as planned. CBS19 reports that a Kilgore Police Department officer was responding to a call about an “aggressive pit bull” when he opened the cruiser’s back door, hoping the animal would jump into the caged back seat. Instead, the pup hopped into the driver’s seat and ate the officer’s beef jerky. After a stint at the Longview Animal Care and Adoption Center, where he was humiliatingly photographed in a taco costume, the dog is now back home with his family.

SAN ANTONIO // A pair of hikers in Government Canyon State Natural Area called 911 to report that “an animal had been following and growling at [them], so [they] had taken refuge by climbing a tree.” A park police officer arrived and, according to the Texas Game Wardens’ Field Notes newsletter, found the couple flinching at the source of the threatening noise—the sound of cars passing over rumble strips on a nearby road. “The lost hikers were reassured by the officer that the unknown can be scary,” the newsletter concluded.

When a police officer arrived at the store around 9 a.m., employees said the lone ranger had been riding in the parking lot since 6:30.  Drue Wagner

WICHITA FALLS // Walmart banned a woman from the store after she allegedly ate half a cake while roaming the aisles, then refused to pay. The woman reportedly said she’d found the dessert already half-eaten. Loyal readers of “Strangest State” will recall that in January, a woman was arrested at a different Wichita Falls Walmart for drinking wine from a Pringles can while riding a scooter.

SUGAR LAND // During a morning walk around her neighborhood lake, a woman saw an alligator with a knife lodged in its head. “He kind of turned and came right towards me and … it looked like a steak knife, sticking out of his head,” she told Houston’s NBC affiliate, KPRC. The woman snapped a Hitchcockian photo, which made the rounds after she posted it on a community Facebook page. The Fort Bend County Game Warden’s Office mounted a search and offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to a suspect. Game wardens eventually found the alligator and said they were monitoring it closely.

JACKSONVILLE // When going through airport security, always remember to take off your shoes, pack travel-size liquids, and… leave your missile launcher behind. TSA agents detained a Jacksonville man after he’d packed the weapon in his checked baggage. CBS DFW reports that the traveler was returning home to East Texas when he was stopped at the Baltimore airport. When questioned, he said he had picked up the missile launcher as a souvenir while doing military service in Kuwait. After officials confiscated the inert weapon, the man was still able to catch his flight. “Perhaps he should have picked up a keychain instead!” a TSA spokesperson tweeted.

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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