Drue Wagner

Strangest State: This Month in Gator News…

Plus: a matchmaking scam, a thief’s Beto O’Rourke cover story, and a footlong shrimp.


A version of this story ran in the July / August 2019 issue.

POLK COUNTY // An alligator stopped traffic while it lounged on a highway near Lake Livingston. KFDM reports that the gator was so comfortable, Texas Parks and Wildlife officials resorted to using “large towing straps” to remove it from the middle of the Farm to Market Road 3126. Game wardens also called in a private animal control specialist for backup. Together, they loaded the creature onto a trailer and released it in an area “far away from civilization.”

DALLAS // A former University of Dallas president settled a lawsuit after getting scammed by a matchmaking service. The Dallas Morning News reports that Thomas Keefe, who led the University of Dallas from 2010 until he was fired in 2018, paid the Dallas Dating Company more than $9,000 and got zilch. Sales representatives promised Keefe attractive photos, a carefully crafted dating profile and “personal, extensive, face to face” time to help him meet a woman. But the profiles he’d been shown disappeared after he paid the $9,409.88 fee, and the photos from his shoot were “unattractive and unprofessional,” according to the suit.

BROWNSVILLE // A Texas fisherman caught a foot-long shrimp. The Valley Morning Star reports that Captain Seth Sanders was trawling the Atchafalaya channel off the coast of Louisiana when he caught a 12.5-inch Asian tiger shrimp. Tony Reisinger, a Texas Sea Grant agent who posted a photo of the catch on Facebook, described the invasive species as a “really voracious” cannibal. He then offered some culinary advice: “You peel it, leave the tail on like you usually do, then you split it open and lay in some cream cheese and jalapeno and then wrap it with bacon and put it on the grill.”

BEAUMONT // A man reported to police that several African lions had attacked his horse. “The next day he called back wanting to make a complaint,” wrote Newton County Sheriff Billy Rowles in his weekly dispatch in the Beaumont Enterprise. “He gave us the name of a man who sold him some bad dope!” The unspecified drugs apparently caused hallucinations, as the man also reported seeing “tigers with gray stripes and other things.” Rowles added, “Job security!”

CORPUS CHRISTI // Hundreds of dogs gathered for the Corpus Christi Corgi Convention. Dog lover Alissa Bowman, 20, organized the June 15 beach playdate at J.P. Luby Surf Park. Bowman—owner of Askker, Whyatt and Colby—told the Corpus Christi Caller-Times that she was inspired to start the event after hearing about San Francisco’s Corgi Con. Nearly 3,000 people RSVP’d on a Facebook event page for the gathering, billed as “the first annual celebration of our short, stumpy dogs.” Bobby Butters, who owns Pig and Bacon, told the Caller-Times that he planned to travel all the way from North Dakota, adding, “I promised Pig a beach day.”

AUSTIN // A man posed as a Beto O’Rourke campaign volunteer in order to break into a house and steal a Popsicle. The Austin American-Statesman reports that a neighbor questioned James Bradford Gibbon II, 28, when she saw the man loitering on a porch. Gibbon, who was wearing a black Beto T-shirt, replied that he was “campaigning for Beto for president.” A few minutes later, another woman arrived home to find Gibbon in her kitchen, holding the wrapper of a frozen treat he’d just filched from the freezer. Gibbon, who was charged with burglary, also admitted to rifling through a wallet and attempting to hack an iPad.

LUMBERTON // The Texas Education Agency issued an apology after giving fifth-graders a test that included the F-word. A student alerted his teacher that the STAAR reading comprehension exam had two photos of a graffiti park with art featuring the F-bomb. When the Houston Chronicle looked into it, the state wouldn’t say how many students had taken that version of the test, and issued a statement emphasizing that the obscenity appeared in “very small lettering.”

Illustration by Drue Wagner.

We have plenty more stories from the “Strangest State.” Got a local oddity or some small-town news to share? Tips are welcome at [email protected].