About 219 things we learned and loved about Texas in 2016

Personally, I’d rather take a whomping with a stout stick than spend much time looking back on 2016. But if you’re up for it, l’ll guide you through some of the Texas stuff we learned and loved in the last year …

If you’ve ever woken up hungover in a tent in Terlingua, we talked about how that probably happened.


Look back at the 50-year history of the Terlingua chili cookoff(s)

Love ’em or love to hate ’em, Texas A&M University hit 140 years old this year. And we honored them (albeit a day late).

Photo by Dave Thomas

Ten great Aggie things for Texas A&M’s 140th birthday

Our Oh, Texas Road Trip to the Brady Goat Cookoff had its moments, but we made a stop along the way to look for treasure.


Oh, Texas Road Trip: The battle of Calf Creek and Jim Bowie’s lost silver

This was one of our more popular lists about Texas. I reckon a lot of you are feeling guilty.


Top 10 Texas sins: Read this list and repent, Texans!

When you crest that rise on that Farm-to-Market road at 75 mph and there’s a buzzard congregation gathered ’round the remains of something that was easier to recognize before it wandered into traffic … what are you going to do? What are the buzzards going to do?

RBB need for speed 2

Watch out for the vultures: 8 tips for Texas road trips

What kind of Texan doesn’t love horny toads? In the future, sadly, it’ll probably be most of ’em, as the critters pass into legend and memory. Y’all better appreciate ’em while you can.

A Texas horned lizard basks in the sun at Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso. Photo by Pam LeBlanc.

An appreciation: Long live the Texas horny toad

To drink a cold beer in old bar is to give Darwin the finger — to celebrate that which demands the world evolve around it. You can say the same about an old dancehall. Or an old barbecue joint.

jwj Southside 0306.jpg

This is one for the aged: Five of Texas’ oldest icons

When we stumbled across his name on Texas State Historical Association’s website, we had no idea you could pack so much drama into one eccentric ornithologist.


The Cassowary died 31 years ago today: The genius life and sad death of an Austin ornithologist

And finally, the Texas blog that needs no explanation …


Happy birthday, Texas: Here’s 180 things we love about you

Thanks for reading, everyone. We’ll write more in 2017.

A look back at Lady Bird Johnson on her 104th birthday

Claudia Alta Taylor was born on Dec. 22, 1912, and her nursemaid quickly declared her as “pretty as a ladybird” — giving her a nickname for life. Born in Karnack, the future Mrs. Johnson would become “an author, a businesswoman, a champion of education and conservation efforts,” according to her American-Statesman obituary.

That obituary, written by Janet Wilson, begins:

Her marriage to a larger-than-life Texan thrust a shy, small-town girl named Lady Bird Johnson into the national spotlight. A love affair with the great outdoors kept her there.

And though nationally, she was best known as the wife of Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th president, Mrs. Johnson was very much a figure in her own right. She mixed Southern graciousness with a quiet, cast-iron fortitude that not only won admirers but allowed her to steer a large business enterprise and help forge a national environmental movement.

Here’s a look back in photos at a little of her remarkable life:

Lyndon B. Johnson

This 1934 photos shows newlyweds Lyndon B. Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson at the Floating Gardens in Xochimilco, Mexico. Mrs. Johnson was a graduate of the University of Texas and had studied art and journalism, thinking she would be become a reporter. Photo from the LBJ Library

Lady Bird with Camera 1941.jpg

Lady Bird Johnson holds a movie camera during her husband’s U.S. Senate campaign in Central Texas on June 19, 1941. Photo from the LBJ Library.


U.S. Sen. Lyndon Johnson, D-Texas, poses with his wife, Lady Bird, and waves farewell before flying to their home in Texas from Washington’s airport in this Aug. 25, 1955 file photo.  Associated Press photo.


President Lyndon B. Johnson takes the oath of office as the 36th President of the United States in Washington DC as Lady Bird Johnson holds the Bible and Chief Justice Earl Warren administers the oath. Photo from the LBJ Library.


Lady Bird Johnson at Big Bend National Park on April 2, 1966. Photo by Robert Knudsen/ LBJ Library.



Lady Bird Johnson, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and dog Yuki sit near the Pedernales River at the LBJ Ranch near Stonewall in September 1967. LBJ Library photo by Yoichi Okamoto.

Lady Bird Johnson, President Lyndon B. Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson and President Lyndon B. Johnson are shown during the signing ceremony for the Interior Department Appropriation Bill at the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC,  July 26, 1968. Associated Press photo by Yoichi Okamoto.

Lady Bird Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson in a 1987 photo from the LBJ Library. Photo by Frank Wolfe.

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Former first lady Lady Bird Johnson sits in a field of wild flowers in the Texas Hill Country on May 10, 1990. Photo by Frank Wolfe.


Lady Bird Johnson, accompanied by her daughters, Lynda Johnson Robb, left, and Luci Baines Johnson, right, and her Secret Service detail, is wheeled to a reception following a memorial service for retired U.S. Rep. J.J. “Jake” Pickle in this  Wednesday, June 22, 2005 file photo, in Austin, Texas. American-Statesman photo by Ralph Barrera.

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Lady Bird Johnson died on July 11, 2007. Among the many dignitaries to attend her memorial service were, left to right, Nancy Reagan, Rosalynn Carter, former President Jimmy Carter, First Lady Laura Bush, former President Bill Clinton, and Sen. Hillary Clinton.

LBJ Wildflower Center

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is among the ways Mrs. Johnson is remembered today in Austin.

rbz Lady Bird Lake Runner

Also honoring Lady Bird Johnson is the former Town Lake, which was renamed Lady Bird Lake shortly after her death in 2007. American-Statesman photo by Ralph Barrera.





Home for the holidays: What students are most looking forward to during winter break

At the end of the fall semester, as studying for finals consumes both day and night, there is one thing college students cannot wait for — winter break. We went to Mozart’s Coffee Roasters and asked some what they are looking forward to the most during the weeks off for the holiday.

— Photos and text by Mackenzie Palmer/American-Statesman

University of Texas international relations and global studies junior Samantha Gorny, 20, said she is looking forward to hanging out with her parents and dogs during the break in Houston, her hometown, as well as watching TV, riding bikes and ice skating. She also will be going to New Jersey for a week to visit her father’s side of the family.


Seamus Hawley, 19, is from Minneapolis, Minn., and said he can’t wait to get back to the cold weather. “I only really like winter for about a month, so that is the perfect amount of time to go back,” Hawley said. He said finals burned him out and he is ready to relax.


Sophomore Jessica Plasters, 19, said that after attending the Day for Night festival in Houston, she can’t wait to hang out with her cats and listen to rap music with her friends at home in San Antonio.


Business marketing major Jared Malik Royal, 22, said he is ready to sleep in and wake up to a big breakfast once he gets home to Keller. In the spirit of the holiday, he said he loves giving presents to his friends and family.


Kassidy Knight, 21, is a University of Texas senior computer engineering major from Haslet, outside Fort Worth. She said she is ready to nap a lot and eat a lot but is going to miss her teammates from Texas 4000, a UT biking group, during break.


UT freshman Chris Uvalle, 19, said he is excited to head back home to Edinburg to hang with old friends and family. And after a semesterlong break, Uvalle said he can’t wait to be reunited with his piano at home.


Austin Community College student Danny Fraser, 25, said he is ready to catch up with old friends in Williamsport, Md. Fraser said he’ll spend his time walking his parents’ dogs, visiting his favorite childhood spots and hiking.


UT student Krissa Martin, 20, from Houston, said she can’t wait to mountain bike, play volleyball and see her 16-year-old sister, Wendy.


Cameron Osmond, 20, a UT liberal arts honors program sophomore, said he loves to eat his parents’ cooking (especially the two dishes above). While back in Flower Mound, Osmond said he’ll dedicate his time to writing the second draft of his screenplay.


Cade Stone, 20, said he is excited to return home, even though home is Austin. “It’s a 25-minute drive, but I’m still excited and looking forward to it,” Stone said.

Does Ted Cruz look like this Imperial officer from ‘Return of the Jedi’?

Ted Cruz’s favorite movie is reportedly “The Princess Bride,” but he has a connection to another beloved ’80s movie.

USE THIS PHOTO  A1 CENTERPIECE U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, marks the start of his presidential campaign by giving the convocation address at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., on Monday, March 23, 2015. By kicking off his campaign at the Virginia Christian college founded by the late evangelist Jerry Falwell, rather than a venue in his home state, Cruz is signaling he’ll court religious conservatives as well as small-government tea-party activists as he competes to become the lead anti-establishment candidate in the party contest. Photographer: Jay Paul/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Ted Cruz
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, marks the start of his presidential campaign by giving the convocation address at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S., on Monday, March 23, 2015. Photographer: Jay Paul/Bloomberg

An observant Twitter user spotted the Texas senator’s doppelganger in the opening scene of “Return of the Jedi,” as Imperial officers await the arrival of Darth Vader.

Cruz’s lookalike can be spotted at the 1:37 mark in the clip below. The man is decidedly not Ted Cruz  (especially since Cruz said he waited in line for two hours for “Empire Strikes Back” as a child), but the actor shares some of the Texas senator’s trademark facial features.

More: All the people Ted Cruz looks like (but probably isn’t)

The tweet was in response to a thumbnail image Uproxx used in a tweet promoting its review of “Rogue One.” The review argues that the latest installment in the “Star Wars” franchise reiterates that the series has always been political, no matter what Disney’s CEO or Trump supporters who are boycotting the film might say.

Most of the responses to the find centered on jokes about the conspiracy theories surrounding Cruz, namely, the Zodiac Killer meme that just won’t go away.


Those conspiracy theories have no evidence to support them, but Cruz has said in the past that “The Force Awakens” made him cry, so maybe he’ll get a kick out of this Internet theory.

“Rogue One” opens tomorrow in select theaters and goes in wide release Friday. Read our Statesman review of the film here.

Cabinet positions Kanye West is best suited to hold

If this morning you woke up to the news that Kanye West visited Trump Tower to meet with the president-elect and then tried to wake up again: This isn’t a God dream. This is 2016.

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 13: (L to R) President-elect Donald Trump and Kanye West stand together in the lobby at Trump Tower, December 13, 2016 in New York City. President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and other high level positions for the new administration. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
President-elect Donald Trump and Kanye West stand together in the lobby at Trump Tower, December 13, 2016 in New York City. President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team are in the process of filling cabinet and other high level positions for the new administration. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Because the nature of Trump’s meeting with West wasn’t immediately disclosed, and because most public figures who have made recent trips to the Tower have done so to discuss possible cabinet appointments, West’s appearance stirred speculation that America might not have to wait till 2020 to peek a Kanye West-Wing.

In a world where West wasn’t planning his inauguration performance (as rumored), or just catching up with a longtime “friend,” as Trump asserts, here are some cabinet positions we think ‘Ye might be best suited to hold:

  • Secretary of Energy: Sure, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is the man expected to get the post. But no one man should have all that power, and if one must, why not someone who is “doing it better than anybody you ever seen do it”?
  • Trade Representative: West, who “shops so much he can speak Italian,” is not unfamiliar with foreign goods. He also sells his very beige, very lukewarmly-received clothing line Yeezy in countries around the world. And being Trade Representative is probably about shopping, right? (No.)
  • Secretary of Education: West didn’t so much as graduate from college as he “decided he was finished.” A successful rap career later, he’s living proof that sometimes the concept of school only “seems so securrr.” Exactly what one looks for in a Secretary of Education.
  • Secretary of Defense: For obvious reasons.

No longer the “abomination of Obama’s nation,” it remains to be seen what role a newly-blonde Kanye, fresh out of the hospital, will play in Trump’s presidency. Stay tuned.

The Factory Cafe on Burnet Road goes laptop-free

In a unique move, Austin’s The Factory Cafe decided this week to ban customers from using laptops in the space.

Image via The Factory Cafe
Image via The Factory Cafe

The cafe, which calls itself a “creative sanctuary,” announced the decision on its social media channels on Tuesday with a graphic saying, “No laptops! Talk to each other” and the caption, “Starting tomorrow, Dec 7th [sic], we are going laptop-free! Make new friends, be inspired, find your muse.”

The Factory Cafe, which opened in the former Saladworks space on Burnet Road earlier this year, is one of Austin’s few coffee shops that doesn’t have a WiFi connection (Cuvee Coffee is another, and Radio Coffee and Beer turns its WiFi off at 5 p.m. when the happy hour crowd begins to show up).

The decision is an interesting one for a coffee shop in a city brimming with bloggers, freelancers, creatives and technology workers. U.S. News and World Report ranked Austin as the top metro area for working remotely, with 6.77 percent of the city’s nearly 1 million workers telecommuting at least half the time they are working. Austin is also home to four universities, a community college and various other institutes of higher education, with more than 70,000 total students who use spaces like Factory Cafe to study and work.

The cafe is open from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. and serves beer and wine, as well as a variety of decked-out waffles and snacks.

We’ve reached out to Factory Cafe for comment on their decision to go laptop-free.


John Glenn’s death: What people are saying

Former astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn died on Thursday in Ohio. He was 95 years old.

 John Glenn in Cape Canaveral, Fla., before his flight into space on Feb. 20, 1962. Glenn, who was hailed as a national hero and a symbol of the space age as the first American to orbit Earth, then became a national political figure for 24 years in the Senate, died on Dec. 8, 2016. He was 95. (NASA via The New York Times)
John Glenn in Cape Canaveral, Fla., before his flight into space on Feb. 20, 1962. Glenn, who was hailed as a national hero and a symbol of the space age as the first American to orbit Earth, then became a national political figure for 24 years in the Senate, died on Dec. 8, 2016. He was 95. (NASA via The New York Times)

Glenn became the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the earth in 1962. Upon his return and retirement from space exploration, he represented Ohio in the U.S. Senate from 1974 to 1999.

Later, he became the oldest man in space when he traveled on the Space Shuttle Discovery as a payload specialist in 1998.

Glenn had been in declining health for some years. In June, The Associated Press reported he said he lost some of his eyesight from macular degeneration and a small stroke.

He was hospitalized Wednesday, but the reason for said hospitalization was not clear.

Glenn is survived by his wife of 73 years, Anna, and their children Lyn and David.

An Ohio native, Glenn died at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. Shortly after his death, remembrances and tributes to his legacy appeared on Twitter from Ohio representatives and politicians and others.

Here’s a sampling of what people had to say about the passing of John Glenn:

Ohio Gov. John Kasich called Glenn “Ohio’s ultimate hometown hero.”

Texas politicians also offered their memories and tributes to the late senator and astronaut.

Ohio State University president Michael Drake said in a statement that Glenn “leaves an undiminished legacy as one of the great people of our time.”

Ohio politicians in particular had fond memories of Glenn.

And everyone else simply marveled at all that Glenn accomplished in his life.

Still time to share your favorite Christmas ornament

The holiday season can be stressful. I worry about how to afford the gifts, how to make sure everyone gets along at family gatherings, how to keep the kitten from eating all the decorations and just how much chocolate I can eat before I need to borrow Santa’s pants.

But as readers began to send me their most treasured Christmas ornaments, their stories and photos warmed my Grinchy heart.

Here’s one from Jill McCauley Bone of Georgetown:

“Back in about 1947, when I was less than 1, one of my aunts sent me this Santa for Christmas.  It has been in my Christmas tree every year since then.  I see it is getting a little raggedy, but when you are kissing up to 70, raggedy happens.  I love this old Santa and my whole family loves it.  ‘Twoundn’t be Christmas without him in the tree.”

I’d love to see your favorite ornament, too. Please email a high-resolution photo and a brief description of what the ornament means to you to equigley@statesman.com by noon Dec. 12. We’ll run all the photos in an online gallery, and a selection of our favorites will publish in print on Christmas Day.


Selena’s dad sues late singer’s husband over TV series

** FILE ** Selena performs at Hemisfair Plaza in San Antonio, TX, April 24, 1994.  Photo by Sung Park / The Austin American-Statesman.
Selena performs at Hemisfair Plaza in San Antonio, TX, April 24, 1994. Photo by Sung Park / The Austin American-Statesman.

The father of Tejano superstar Selena Quintinilla has filed a lawsuit against the singer’s widower, Chris Perez, and the production company behind upcoming TV series “To Selena, With Love,” the Caller Times report.

Perez announced plans for the series, which is to be based on his best-selling book of the same name, in November. However, Abraham Quintanilla Jr. contends that the show doesn’t have the right to use the “name, voice, signature, photograph and likeness of Selena,” according to the Caller Times. This is not the first time the two have butted heads. Quintanilla also asserts that Perez did not have the right to write his book.

READ: Selena influenced style and beauty

The show and lawsuit come at the end of a year, 20 years after her death, filled with recognition for Selena. The singer was inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame. MAC cosmetics released, and nearly immediately sold out, of a line of makeup modeled after her.  Next year, the singer will be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

A Texas Lowe’s hired a veteran and his service dog and now they’re internet famous

A Lowe’s in Abilene is attracting attention for one of its employees. She’s not a normal employee; in fact, she has four legs and doesn’t speak.


Charlotte is a 10-year-old golden retriever and started her work at the Lowe’s a few months ago. Her owner, Clay Luthy, got hired at the home improvement store after he realized Lowe’s welcomes service dogs, according to the Abilene Reporter-News.

Luthy, an Air Force veteran originally from California, can’t bend his left knee. Charlotte is trained to help Luthy back up should he ever fall. But Charlotte proved adept at something else: she entertains customers while wearing a dog-fitted Lowe’s “vest” when Luthy is on the job.

“Everybody loves Charlotte. This definitely was not part of the job description,” Luthy told the Reporter-News.

Luthy, who has a wife and three kids, was a C-130 loadmaster, and told the Reporter-News he feels right at home at his job.

“I can do pretty much everything. We grew up with nothing, so we fixed things and did it ourselves.”

Since news of Luthy’s hiring, photos of Charlotte and him have earned them quite a following. Lowe’s spokeswoman Karen Cobb told the San Antonio Express-News the store was “flooded” with calls and customers after a Facebook photo of the two was posted.

See photos of Charlotte and Luthy here.