Strangest State: Bear With Us

Weird news from far-flung Texas.

A hacker, a gator, and a traveling bear walk into a bar...
A hacker, a gator, and a traveling bear walk into a bar... Drue Wagner

Weird news from far-flung Texas.

A hacker, a gator, and a traveling bear walk into a bar...
A hacker, a gator, and a traveling bear walk into a bar... Drue Wagner

SAN YGNACIO // One May night in Zapata County, a game camera at the SpinTech-Myers Ranch captured the image of a mysterious, four-legged figure. Ranch managers wondered if it was a humongous wild hog. The next day, when the camera was able to record the figure again in the daylight, they were surprised to learn that the creature was in fact a black bear traveling from Mexico to Texas. “I was shocked,” Dr. Gary Schwarz, a surgeon who owns a nearby ranch, told KRGV. It constituted a rare sighting for Zapata County ranchers, though black bears once thrived in the Valley, a biologist told the TV station.

SHENANDOAH // A “hacker” crashed a video-streamed city council meeting in Shenandoah, interrupting the proceedings with a wave of obscenities, the Houston Chronicle reported. It’s unknown why the interloper, who has not been identified but who sounded to be a “younger male,” chose to interrupt the Zoom meeting with a colorful diatribe. Embarrassed by the incident, city leaders secretly doctored the meeting’s video before they posted it on YouTube, deleting the offending portion. A local activist who had watched the original meeting noticed the discrepancy and alerted the press. Local leaders admitted to the Chronicle they scrubbed the video, but said they did it to “protect the public from hearing vulgar and profane comments.”

BRIDGE CITY // In Bridge City, a resident called police to say an unwanted visitor had taken up residence at their home and wouldn’t budge. When an Orange County game warden arrived, he found an 8-foot alligator sunning itself on the front porch, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Field Notes newsletter. The game warden had no time to wait for animal control officials, so he caught the reptile himself and relocated it to a nearby marsh.

GALVESTON // Scantily clad partygoers in roofless Jeeps went off-road on May 16, 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 the COVID-19 pandemic, this time was no different, the Associated Press reported. Before the weekend ended, more than 100 people were in jail, Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset said.

ABILENE // A day after the Abilene Zoo reopened on May 19, city officials announced their newest arrival: four of the world’s largest rodents. KTXS reported that the capybaras, aquatic members of the order Rodentia who are native to Central and South America, are adapting well to their new surroundings in West Central Texas. For now, Mario, Daisy, Rosalina, and Peach are still just pups, but they can grow to 150 pounds and 2 feet in height.

EL PASO // The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the cadence of the El Paso Opera’s in-person performances, but the show must go on. In late May, the group began a series of community concertos—that is, curbside performances from a truck bed. Residents may request a performance in their own neighborhood, KTSM reports. The tempo of the pop-up shows should increase this summer as the requests roll in. Bello spettacolo!

LUBBOCK // Retired flight attendant Leslie Fylling wanted to move to Lubbock. But when she found her dream house, COVID-19 had made traveling to the city to see it in person untenable. Instead, she arranged to view the house via FaceTime, purchasing it without ever going inside. “I’ve been in real estate over 35 years, and we didn’t have this opportunity when we first started, so this is very exciting,” Linda Day, the real estate agent who sold the home, told KLBK.

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].

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Christopher Collins is an Observer staff writer covering rural Texas. He can be reached on Twitter or at [email protected]


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