Strangest State: April 2018

Weird news from far-flung Texas.

Illustration by Drue Wagner

TARZAN // Police traveled from California to arrest a “modern-day cattle rustler.” Justin Tyler Greer, 36, was charged with stealing 900 head of cattle, as well as embezzling funds and committing investment fraud, for a total loss valued at $1.5 million, the Fence Post reports. A former cattleman himself, Greer fled Tulare County, near Fresno, to hide out in the tiny town of Tarzan. “We, at the Sheriff’s Office, take it very seriously when one man steals another man’s cattle,” said Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux.

ROMA // A father and son on a fishing trip spotted more than half a million dollars’ worth of marijuana floating in the water. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Field Notes newsletter, the boy directed park police to suspicious bundles in the lake at Falcon State Park. Police collected 17 bundles weighing 705 pounds and valued at $564,208. Officers found two more bundles of weed in the same place the next day.

CARROLLTON // Thieves purloined a life-size dummy from a chicken restaurant, then had second thoughts. Affectionately called the Cowboy by the staff of Babe’s Chicken Dinner House, the gray-haired, denim-clad, strong-and-silent type — valued at $1,500 — was caught on surveillance tape as a group of men carried him off. Three days after Carrollton police posted about the crime on Facebook, the Cowboy was back in the saddle. “If only he could talk,” the cops wrote.

COMAL COUNTY // A state district judge told jurors that God said he should intervene. The Herald-Zeitung reports that Judge Jack Robison said, “When God tells me I gotta do something, I gotta do it,” as he urged jurors to find Gloria Romero-Perez not guilty of sex trafficking. Nevertheless, the jury returned a guilty verdict, and Robison is now under investigation by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct. His attorney said that the judge “acknowledged what he did was improper but said he was at peace with it because he was directed by God to deliver the message.”

BASTROP // Noisy residents of a chicken sanctuary are ruffling feathers. The population of the Farm Street Historic Chicken Sanctuary has boomed to more than 100 free-range birds. Their “constant clucking, cawing and feculence have driven many Bastrop residents to their wits’ end,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. Officials plan to trap some of the chickens and transfer them to the Capital of Texas Zoo. “It is extremely loud,” said neighbor Jennifer Leisure. “Furthermore, chicken poop is everywhere.”

BEAUMONT // A man escaped a federal prison only to be caught while sneaking back in with contraband food. Guards spotted Joshua Hansen, 25, who was serving time for a narcotics charge, picking up a bag from an empty field before running back toward the USP Beaumont prison. “The duffle bag contained 3 bottles of Brandy, 1 bottle of Whisky, multiple bags of Buglar [sic] tobacco, packaged snacks, fruit and a large amount of home cooked food,” wrote the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office on Facebook.

BROOKSHIRE // A retiree is building his dream home inside two renovated commercial airplanes. The Houston Chronicle reports that Joe Axline has been working on what he calls “Project Freedom” since his divorce in 2011. Axline’s planes, a McDonnell Douglas MD-80 and a DC-9-41, feature a renovated cockpit, bathroom, living room, two bedrooms and office. He’s planning to build a control tower next. “I got tired of being told what to do, when to do it and how to do it, it’s just that simple,” Axline said.

Visit texasobserver.org/strangest-state for more “Strangest State” and links to original stories. Got a local oddity or some small-town news to share? Tips are welcome at [email protected].

Rose Cahalan is managing editor at the Observer and also edits the magazine’s arts and culture coverage.

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