Strangest State: Dognapping, Fire Ant Queso and One Lucky Reindeer


A version of this story ran in the February 2017 issue.

Drue Wagner

DALLAS // After spotting a stolen dog she recognized from a stranger’s Facebook post, Alyssa Sanderford chased the thief on foot for more than a half hour, running barefoot when her flip-flops slowed her down. She enlisted the help of strangers along the way and eventually succeeded in wrangling Wiley, a 95-pound Lab/Chesapeake Bay retriever mix, away from the dognapper. When Wiley arrived home after 24 hours away, he recovered by drinking a large amount of water and sleeping for more than a day. “It sounds a little silly, but it restores your faith in humanity,” Wiley’s owner, Angela Ream, told the Dallas Observer.

WHITE SETTLEMENT // A months-long battle between a city council member and a cat ended in the feline’s favor. In June, the White Settlement City Council voted 2-1 to remove Browser, the local public library’s resident cat, after Council Member Elzie Clements spoke up. “City Hall and city businesses are no place for animals,” Clements said at the time. Browser’s fans protested, citing “his pest control abilities, his ability to draw children to the library and the fact that he is loved by the people of the city,” as the Grizzly Detail reported, and he was reinstated. But in December, at Clements’ final meeting as a council member, he put Browser’s removal on the agenda again — and this time, the council voted to let the cat stay. “My view hasn’t changed,” Clements told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

NOLAN COUNTY // A reindeer escaped a car crash rattled but uninjured in December. His handler, Robert O’Neil, told KATB that he hit a patch of ice en route from Burleson to Eunice, New Mexico, with Dasher, who makes appearances at holiday parties. “Yeah, I’m an elf,” he added. “Most people don’t believe that.” Sweetwater police responded and helped change a tire so Dasher could continue his journey.

SAN ANTONIO // Fire ant queso, toasted mealworm salsa and waxworm guacamole were on the menu at the debut Insecta Fiesta dinner hosted by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Billed as a “night of gourmet entomophagy,” the event was designed to promote insects as a sustainable, healthy meal option. “I have succeeded in eating a waxworm,” guest Julia Jonas told KSAT. “It was, surprisingly enough, not bad. A little crunchy.”

COLLEGE STATION // College applicants are always looking for a way to stand out from the crowd, and that’s what one prospective Texas A&M University student achieved by adding a colorful string of battery-powered lights to his or her application. The admissions office employee who opened the package was startled to see wires and a note instructing the recipient to flip a switch, and soon university police had evacuated the building and issued a campus-wide emergency “Code Maroon.” A bomb squad robot took the suspicious package outside, where, The Eagle reported, “it was rendered safe with a water cannon.”

EL PASO // A city council member lost his temper when he found out he hadn’t been invited to the grand opening of a steakhouse. After learning that county commissioners and the mayor had made the guest list, but council members hadn’t, Jim Tolbert fired off an email with the subject line “Very Disappointed” to the manager of El Paso’s new Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. “You slapped Council in the face,” he wrote, adding, “As this news spreads to other city council representatives, it is hard to find anyone too supportive of Ruth’s Chris.” Tolbert later told the El Paso Times that sending the message was “not the brightest thing I’ve ever done.”

AUSTIN // In December, the city of Austin’s health department tried a festive new tactic to encourage safe sex: decorating the trees of a city park with condoms. Staffers hung baggies containing condoms, lube and safe-sex pamphlets in tree branches at Walnut Creek Park — an area known as a hookup hotspot. Akeshia Johnson-Smothers, a program manager for the department, told KXAN that the effort came from the desire to try “something creative, something unique.” The city soon backpedaled, with a spokesperson replying to a comment on social media site Reddit with the statement, “We are no longer engaged in this particular type of outreach.”

This article appears in the February 2017 issue of the Texas Observer. Read more from the issue or subscribe now.