A photo of a person's legs and feet wearing a white dress, stocking and ruby slippers, with a picnic basket holding a dog plush (meant to be Toto) rests nearby.

Strangest State: There’s No Place Like … Texas

What's weirder than K-Pax? Not much, but here's a couple of other Lone Star oddities.


A version of this story ran in the May / June 2023 issue.


The antics of Attorney General Ken “I’m still under indictment” Paxton could often earn a mention here doing his part to retain Texas’s tile as the “Strangest State.” But things got weirder than usual when Paxton asked lawmakers to fork over $3.3 million for a settlement with four ex-employees who are SUING him for firing them after they reported his illegal activities to the FBI. But legislators balked. Even weirder, the Texas Legislature wrote the law that makes the state liable for damages and granted officials like Paxton immunity from paying for their own misbehavior.

Cartoon: A contritely smiling Ken Paxton in a suit, holding a cowboy hat in his hands, with the Texas Attorney General's seal behind him.
Drue Wagner for the Texas Observer


Firefighters are used to rescuing pets from blazes, but members of the East Montgomery County Fire Department weren’t prepared for the menagerie trapped inside a Houston home in March 2023. “Albino pythons, milk snakes, chicken snakes, alligators. … I don’t know all the different types of lizards, I just know there were iguanas, bearded dragons—you name it, she had it,” Captain Kyle Foster told FOX 26. The department published a photo on Facebook of one firefighter holding a rescued snake coiled around his muscular arm. “Not what you are expecting to hear but we will rescue your animals too if possible,” the department wrote.

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Cartoon: A mustached firefighter in uniform clutching a crocodile and a snake amid smoke.
Drue Wagner for the Texas Observer


Since 1976, the Museum of East Texas has offered exhibits of art and sculpture in a historic building that once housed an Episcopal church. Museum officials often host inventive fundraisers, but after two long years of quarantine, they renamed their 2022 event the “Odd Ball,” inviting locals to don costumes and hats and act as weird as they wanted. For 2023, organizers prepared for lions, tigers, bears (and witches) since this year’s Odd Ball was set in Oz. Weeks in advance, tickets were already sold out. 

Cartoon: The Tin Woodsman dips Dorothy as they dance on a Yellow Brick Road leading into a glass, a-frame building labeled "Museum".
Drue Wagner for the Texas Observer