Illustration: An alligator thinks of a hamburger while looking at the Whataburger sign.
Drue Wagner

Strangest State: Everybody Loves Whataburger

Weird news from far-flung Texas.


Above: “...Whataburger really is the choice of late night snacks for just about everyone, human and animal!”

ARANSAS PASS // A small alligator with a big appetite sauntered into an Aransas Pass Whataburger expecting a late-night meal, KRIS 6 News reports. 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!”

AUSTIN // A boat parade held on Lake Travis by Trump supporters did not go swimmingly, KUT reports. As a litany of boats launched into the lake for the campaign event in early September, a large wake capsized five of the boats. The five boats sank; three were able to be towed to shore before sinking to the bottom of the lake. The Travis County Sheriff’s Office responded to a total of 15 calls for help. No one was injured.

TYLER // CBS19 reports that an East Texas woman has put a decidedly 2020 spin on the mum, a gussied-up floral gift exchanged by homecoming dates each year. This year, Shay Mueller, who’s been designing mum arrangements since she was in high school, created a new design to be worn on masks. The masks take about three days to paint, dry, and decorate, she says. So far, they’ve been a hit. “I’ve gotten orders from all over the United States now,” Mueller said.

SAN ANTONIO // Andy Warhol would be proud. A graphic designer in San Antonio is using food packages in supermarkets as a canvas for promoting social change. The unnamed artist altered the label of a bottle of Jif peanut butter to read “BLM”; a can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce was changed to read “San Antonio City just added $8.1 million to the police budget.” The surprisingly realistic-looking labels appeared to be placed at an area H-E-B, the San Antonio Current reports.

SLATON // In an attempt to beat the lockdown blues, a woman in the West Texas town of Slaton has taken up a new hobby: piñata-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 piñata of a COVID-19 molecule. Rivera named it Covie. “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.

SAN MARCOS // Roughhouse Brewing is now part of the Hill Country craft beer underground—literally. KXAN reports that the San Marcos-based company is aiming to brew its first beer, fermented from natural yeast, in one of the limestone caverns underlying much of the Texas Hill Country. The cave, about 18 feet in height and 20 feet in width, will produce its first batch next year. Until then, you can tide yourself over with another unusual Roughhouse product: cave-fermented hot sauce.

WACO // Calling all soda fanatics: This property listing in Waco is just what the doctor ordered. The home Dr Pepper built was on the market for $1.39 million, ABC13 reports. The 4,724-square-foot, Victorian-style mansion was built in 1885 by Wade Morrison, owner of the Waco pharmacy that first served the soft drink and the co-founder of the company that first bottled it. The home features four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a grand spiral staircase, and, one would hope, a soda fountain.

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].

Read more from the Observer:

  • Bringing the Dead Home: Thirty years after Congress passed the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, only a fraction of human remains held by Texas’ museums and universities have been returned.

  • How We Got Here: Texas’ health system has been underfunded, understaffed, and unprepared for years. Here, COVID-19 found the perfect place to spread.

  • Quilts of Color: Laverne Brackens and her family carry on the interwoven legacy of Black quiltmakers in East Texas.