A random scattering of crescent shapes from the leaves reflecting on a gray painted brick wall, with the leaves acting like pinhole cameras during the eclipse.

Strangest State: Eclipses and Flying Snakes

A young teen reporter covers the Ken Paxton impeachment on typewriter, serpents fall from the sky and more dispatches from far-flung Texas.


A version of this story ran in the November / December 2023 issue.

Above: The shadows of leaves on a brick wall in North Central Texas form into crescent shapes during the October 2024 “Ring of Fire” eclipse.


The Paxton impeachment trial was mostly covered by the usual Austin press corps. But one scribe with a notebook stood out: 13-year-old Vincent Mazzara, who came to cover the trial for his own newspaper. “It’s called the Grand Enclave Bugle. Not a lot of people know about it,” Mazzara explained to a Texas correspondent for NPR. He said the idea hit him while reading a book about a kid who did the very same. The twist: Young Mazzara is old-school. He uses a typewriter and has no website.


Duh. Some folks could only shake their heads when planners announced in September that they were scrapping 1998 plans for “a huge park with lakes that had solar-powered water taxis” and other amenities all inside the floodway of the mighty Trinity River. As D Magazine reported, the park will now be built on higher ground outside the levees. Tony Moore, CEO of the Trinity Park Conservancy, explained: “Quite frankly that changed just because the flooding cycles … will just really make that design problematic.”

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San Antonio

An illustration of the sun during an eclipse, a black circle surrounded by apparent fire.

Texas-based fans of the stars and of Johnny Cash had cause to celebrate when news broke from astronomers that a rare “burning ring of fire” solar eclipse in October 2024, visible along a 125-mile-wide swath from Oregon to Texas, could be best viewed from, say, a front porch in San Antonio or an innertube floating along a river in New Braunfels. Fortunately, those without eye protection or elsewhere on October 14 could opt for NASA’s free livestream. 


An illustration of a surprised or ornery looking bird carrying a snake in its beak.

Peggy Jones, 64, was atop a riding mower when “out of the clear blue sky, a snake fell … and landed on my arm,” she told CNN. That was weird enough. But then, as the snake wound itself around her arm, and the grandmother struggled to free herself, a hawk swooped down, striking again and again before finally flying off with the 4.5-foot-long snake. The experience left Peggy shaken, snakebitten, bloodied, and with an unbelievable story.