An alligator gar in a tank approaches the camera with its pointy, toothy mouth and beady eye gazing at the viewer.

Strangest State: Ken Paxton and Other Odd Creatures

Impeachments, record-breaking alligator gars, and other rarities from far-flung Texas.


A version of this story ran in the July / August 2023 issue.


This year’s regular session of the Texas Legislature ended with GOP lawmakers failing to pass a number of party-priorities bills, while passing some legislation targeting vulnerable Texans including transgender kids. It seemed like a new low even for the Lege. But then, out of the blue, a Texas miracle: Attorney General Ken Paxton was impeached in an overwhelming House vote.

A cartoon showing a hand emerging from the dome of the Texas Capitol, grabbing Ken Paxton upside down by one leg.
(Drue Wagner for the Texas Observer)


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State park officials asked for help via Facebook when a camera caught footage of a furry, potbellied creature with stubby legs. “We’re scratching our heads trying to identify this elusive creature. Is it a new species? An escapee from a nearby zoo? Or just a park ranger in disguise?” wrote officials at the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. Among the 400 responses was this winner: an American badger.

A cartoon badger creeps through the forest in a trenchcoat and fedora.
(Drue Wagner for the Texas Observer)

Trinity River

An angler reeled in what Texas newspapers described as an “absolute monster”—a 251-pound alligator gar that may set a world record. Art Weston, of Union, Kentucky, flew to the Trinity River specifically to fish with Texas alligator gar guide Captain Kirk Kirkland. The fish he caught (and released) in mid-April appears to beat the current International Game Association fishing world record (for an 80-pound line) by at least 50 pounds, the Houston Chronicle reported. The century-old fish was too big for the boat, so they had to land to reel it in.

A massive alligator Gar approaches from under a fishing vessel with two cartoon fishermen at sunset, looking like the shark in the famous poster for Jaws.
(Drue Wagner for the Texas Observer)