A close-up of an emu's open-beaked face, so it seems to have a surprised expression.
Jon Hunter / Unsplash

Strangest State: Heat Waves, Emus, and Prairie Dogs

Dog weddings, record-breaking temperatures, and creepy dolls on the beach: notes from far-flung Texas.


A version of this story ran in the September / October 2022 issue.


An illustration of a cartoon emu running past a McDonald's, holding a Happy Meal box in its beak.

Conventional wisdom among ranchers holds that the prairie dog is a nuisance to be eradicated. The rascally varmints compete with cattle for grass and create potentially hazardous subterranean towns that can cause a cow to break a leg. But new research conducted at the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University shows prairie dogs deserve more credit, the Texas Standard reported. Turns out that all of their rooting around encourages different weeds to sprout, which can provide more nutrients for cattle.


A pet emu on the loose ended up running into Houston traffic, making its way down streets toward a McDonald’s and turning into a social media star. A video of the bird’s antics posted on YouTube went viral. The Houston Chronicle reported a happy ending to the flightless bird’s caper: it was captured and safely returned to its owners.


A cartoon illustration of the state of Texas, sweating under a hot sun while sitting in front of a fan.

Heat records continued to be broken all across Texas in summer 2022, but this West Texas desert town still holds the record for the state’s hottest temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. That high temp has only ever been recorded in two Texas cities, Monahans in June 1994 and Seymour in August 1936. But with global warming, some Central Texas cities are playing catch up: Somerville hit 113 degrees, College Station made it to 111 degrees, and Dallas hit 109 all in mid-July 2022.


A cartoon image of a white and pink wedding cake, decorated with red roses and a bride and groom wedding topper that are shaped like dogs dressed in a tuxedo and wedding dress.

Creepy dolls keep washing up on South Texas beaches this summer. Some doll babies lack their eyes; others wash up with mouths full of sand. Still, some bold Texan beachgoers have begun collecting them. The source of the dolly flotsam is so far unknown, KEN5 TV reported.

San Antonio

Weddings seem to be going to the dogs. In San Antonio, shelter volunteers recently arranged for two chihuahuas to get hitched. Nine-year-old Peanut and 3-year-old Cashew, apparently already inseparable, tied the knot at the San Antonio Humane Society in Bexar County. The two were photographed decked out in finery beside a wedding “chapel” built by a volunteer. Peanut and Cashew were both available individually for adoption at the SAHS, but staff hoped they could continue to honeymoon together.

Illustrations by Drue Wagner