Drue Wagner

Strangest State: May 2019

Weird news from far-flung Texas.


A version of this story ran in the May / June 2019 issue.

ATASCOCITA // A man tested the limits of Petco’s “all leashed pets allowed” policy by walking his 1,600-pound steer into the store. A Facebook video shows Shelly Lumpkin leading Oliver, a 14-year-old Ankole-Watusi, through the sliding doors as the steer carefully tilts his 9-foot horns to fit. Inside, shoppers and employees lined up to pet him and snap photos. Petco associate Chrystal Armour told the Houston Chronicle that Lumpkin cleared the visit with her ahead of time. “We love all of our guests’ animals and the wonderful bond they share,” Armour said.

GERMANY // A woman hid beneath a pile of dirty laundry while a game warden inspected her property for illegally hunted deer. After receiving a tip about a resident hunting without a license, the warden arrived on the land to see the woman run into her house and shut the door. He found two deer heads before police dogs sniffed out the woman “hiding underneath a pile of dirty laundry wedged between a washer and dryer,” the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Field Notes newsletter recounted. She was arrested for two outstanding warrants.

JUNCTION // Holy guacamole! Some 42,000 pounds of avocados were waterlogged when a tractor-trailer plunged into the South Llano River. The Junction Eagle livestreamed the 40-minute effort to recover the truck from the water next to Highway 377 South, noting that the driver was uninjured. No word on the fate of the avocados.

TEXARKANA // The lights are out along Interstate 30 in Texarkana, thanks to rats that chewed through the wiring. Public Works Director Tyler Richards told the Texarkana Gazette that the critters have created “a massive electrical problem,” causing most of the streetlights to go out completely and a few to flicker on and off. Richards continued, “Sometimes there’s absolutely nothing you can do to keep them out, because those dadgum rats, they’ll chew through anything pretty much.”

SHACKELFORD COUNTY // A homeowner got a nasty surprise when he looked under his house to see why the cable had gone out. More than 45 rattlesnakes greeted him, and he “quickly crawled out,” according to a Facebook post by Big Country Snake Removal. “We run into this scenario often, and people don’t think it can happen to them,” the company cautioned.

ABILENE // Going to extreme lengths to get a Thin Mints fix, a man used a counterfeit $100 bill to purloin $16 worth of Girl Scout cookies outside a Walmart. He absconded with the $84 in change and is still at large, police told KFDM. After news reports about the theft aired, viewers called in to ask how to help, and a second story aired on KTXS encouraging donations to Troop 7029. The troop leader, whose name wasn’t given, said Walmart also made a donation.

AUSTIN // A Kansas man created a 2-acre likeness of Beto O’Rourke in a field near the Austin airport. Earth artist Stan Herd used grass, clay, rocks and sand to make the portrait, which cost more than $10,000 and took two weeks to complete. “We’re trying to tell the story of this amazing man from Texas making a difference in the national climate,” the artist told KVUE, adding that he chose pecan shells to give O’Rourke’s eyes a “nice brown color.”

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].