A wild horse chase, an alligator with a big appetite, and a cloned cat made this year a little stranger—in a good way.
As we near the end of 2020, we can only hope this cursed year has no more curve balls to throw our way. After all, we’ve weathered a global pandemic that has killed more than 1.5 million people worldwide; in the United States, we’ve endured a president who refuses to recognize the results of a democratic election, and unrelenting, racist police violence that’s sparked international uprisings and protests. To put it mildly, this has been a weird year. That’s certainly the case in Texas, which was a strange place to begin with.
Throughout 2020, we’ve gathered off-the-beaten-path news items to take your mind off your miseries—if just for a moment. Among them are a porch pirate puppy, a topless party gone wrong, and lots more. Below are our 10 favorites. While this won’t undo the shittiness of 2020, we hope these moments will help you enter 2021 with a tiny bit of levity.
GALVESTON // Scantily-clad partygoers in roofless Jeeps went off-road in May, crowding Galveston’s Bolivar Peninsula for the annual Go Topless Jeep Weekend. The raucous gathering, known for its boozing and cruising, usually leads to a tsunami of arrests for criminal charges ranging from public intoxication to drunk driving. Despite social distancing orders due to COVID-19, this time was no different, the Associated Press reported. When the weekend ended, nearly 200 people were in jail.
DRIPPING SPRINGS // When people started using Tito’s Vodka as hand sanitizer in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, the company took to social media to tell them to stop. Tito’s Vodka, which is produced 30 minutes west of Austin, is 40 percent alcohol, and hand sanitizer must be at least 60 percent, the company warned its customers on Twitter. But soon Tito’s tweaked its recipe. By August, the distillery had manufactured 700 tons of sanitizer and distributed it to 30 states.
COLLEGE STATION // The world’s first cloned cat died at age 18 in March. Copy Cat, or “CC,” was the pet of Duane Kraemer, a senior professor at Texas A&M University’s Reproduction Sciences Laboratory. Kraemer helped bring Copy Cat into being in 2001, when animal cloning was in its early days. According to a news release, Copy Cat lived a long, happy life with her mate, Smokey, and their three kittens in a two-story, custom-built cat house in Kraemer’s backyard. Nowadays, cat lovers can pay $35,000 to have a beloved pet cloned by a private company based in Cedar Park.
LUBBOCK // A wild horse led police on an hours-long chase through North Lubbock in July. The mare was adopted as part of a longstanding federal initiative to give wild horses and burros a new home, but the animal apparently wasn’t ready to settle down on the range. It hurdled over concrete barriers and galloped down highways, drawing a crowd of cheering onlookers. One woman who observed the chase told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that her children begged her to let them feed it a carrot. Eventually, the wild romp came to an end when the horse was corralled into a trailer.
FLORESVILLE // A woman in Floresville was implicated in the theft of a donkey in July, KSAT reports. Alena Berlanga, a board member of the Floresville Independent School District, was charged with several misdemeanor crimes for allegedly stealing the farm animal from a pasture. Berlanga, who is also president of a local animal shelter, was attempting to rescue the animal because it was having problems giving birth, her attorney told the TV station.
ARANSAS PASS // A small alligator with a big appetite sauntered into an Aransas Pass Whataburger in August, expecting a late-night meal, KRIS 6 News reported. The ravenous reptile was not served, however—employees called the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which sent game wardens to handle the gator. They were able to rassle it into submission and tape its mouth shut. Later, Aransas Pass police wrote on Facebook, “I guess it goes to show, Whataburger really is the choice of late night snacks for just about everyone, human and animal!”
SLATON // In an attempt to beat the lockdown blues, a woman in the West Texas town of Slaton has taken up a new hobby: pinata-making. KLBK reports that 78-year-old Hilda Rivera started with the usual, making unicorns and characters from the video game Angry Birds. Then, in commemoration of the coronavirus pandemic, she made a pinata of a COVID-19 molecule. Rivera named it Covy. “I hope that somebody buys it and knocks the heck out of it for all it’s been doing, you know, and maybe they’ll feel better,” she said.
MCALLEN // When packages started disappearing from doorsteps in a McAllen neighborhood in March, homeowners suspected thieves. Surveillance footage soon identified the culprit: a stray dog. A video posted by KRGV shows the pup waiting until the mailman had driven away, then trotting up to a door and carrying a package away in his teeth. “It’s kind of funny, ’cause nobody would ever expect a dog to steal a package,” said 10-year-old Abby Garza. The dog, who Garza nicknamed Cody, made off with her Easter basket. She eventually got it back after another neighbor retrieved it.
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Musician Anjimile on Leaving Texas, Getting Sober, and Blowing Up: The Richardson-born singer-songwriter released his debut album in September.