Strangest State: October 2017

Weird news from far-flung Texas.

FORT WORTH // When he caught a thief in his walk-in freezer, a restaurant owner slammed the door and locked him in while waiting for cops to arrive. Francisco Islas, owner of Paco’s Mexican Cuisine, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the bandit was attempting to make off with a large bag of popsicles and meat. “He had a ribeye, some quail, a bunch of sausage links, some pork tenderloin,” Islas said. “I could hear him crying in there.”

Edward Dickard, 52  Gregg County Jail

LONGVIEW // Edward Dickard, 52, was doing a little shopping at Walmart when he heard the call of the open road. Astride a store scooter, he motored out the doors and onto U.S. Highway 259, where cops pulled him over just outside city limits. In a dashcam video later shared by Longview police, an officer can be heard saying, “He said, ‘Last I checked, Walmart said these were free.’” The Longview News-Journal reports that Dickard was “charged with theft of property measuring more than $2,500.”

CORPUS CHRISTI // Customers at a Bank of America ATM thought they were being pranked. Instead of cash, their withdrawals produced muffled sounds and a handwritten note reading “Please help.” Eventually, someone called the police, who were just as befuddled. “Sure enough, we can hear a little voice coming from the machine,” a visibly amused Officer Richard Olden told KRIS. “So we are thinking this is a joke. It’s got to be a joke.” An officer kicked down a door to free the repairman inside, who had accidentally trapped himself in the ATM while changing a lock.

HOUSTON // A sense of humor helped many Texans get through Hurricane Harvey — from evacuees downing vodka shots in a boat to the taxi driver who befriended a hawk that took refuge in his cab. One of our favorites: A video posted to YouTube shows a shirtless man in soaked jeans diving into the calf-deep water inside his home until he emerges with a wriggling fish in hand. A woman laughs uproariously in the background. “Man, for such a shitty situation they are in they seem pretty upbeat,” said a commenter on Reddit. “Not every day you catch a catfish in your living room.”

Heather Haskins, 23.  Taylor County Jail

ODESSA // A former Girl Scout troop leader made off with a large quantity of cookies. KTXS reports that Heather Haskins, 23, evaded police for two days after stealing $25,210 in cookies from Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest. “Haskins could possibly be selling Girl Scout cookies in Abilene,” Odessa police said in a statement, before they caught up with Haskins and charged her with theft.

TERRELL // It might seem like a good idea to stop off at Buc-ee’s with your pet monkey on your shoulder, but the experience of one East Texas man proves otherwise. After the monkey bit a child, police released grainy surveillance photos of man and simian. NBC DFW reports that officers eventually identified the owner and spoke with him, since they “wanted to be sure the monkey’s shots are up to date.”

KERRVILLE // A calf that looks like Gene Simmons was born on a Hill Country ranch, it’s coloring a perfect match for the rocker’s distinctive black- and-white stage makeup. “Genie,” who even has the requisite lolling pink tongue, is now the unofficial mascot of Kerrville’s Cowboy Steak House. “Now obviously we can’t serve this fine specimen,” wrote the folks at the Hill Country Visitor Facebook page. The photo eventually made its way to Genie’s namesake, who tweeted his approval: “This is real, folks!!!”

Gene Simmons, Where were you on our about November 25, 2016? This calf was born in Kerrville, Texas on the Ranch of a…

Posted by Hill Country Visitor on Saturday, July 29, 2017

Find more “Strangest State” and links to original stories here. Got a local oddity or some small-town news to share? Tips are welcome at [email protected].

Rose Cahalan is managing editor at the Observer and also edits the magazine’s arts and culture coverage.

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