In the spirit of Keeping Austin Weird, we’re starting up a new monthly column called “#SoAustin News” to recap the weird stories that might have flown under your radar. If you love these recaps, check out our new Facebook page That’s #SoAustin for real-time weird straight from the heart of Texas.
Attack of the Serial Foot Stomper
Austin has fallen prey to several serial killers over the years — including one incredibly creepy slasher dude that many people suspect was actually Jack The Ripper. Luckily, the serial Foot Stomper who took to Austin’s streets last month isn’t quite as ambitious… Yet. This guy, for some reason, just wants to crush women’s feet beneath his heels and laugh before running away. Is he a raging misogynist or a scorned lover who had a meltdown as he thought about spending Valentine’s Day single? We may never know.
Dozens of victims reported assaults during the first week of February, but the attacks seemed to have stopped for now. APD hasn’t caught the guy yet, but after someone snapped a post-assault photo of the man riding away on a bike and uploaded it to Reddit, many locals have recognized him and hundreds have come forward with assault stories of varying degrees dating back at least five months, so chances are good.
Rock throwings continue
Speaking of assaults, we have to mention the I-35 Rock Throwers, who are still chunking large rocks at vehicles traveling on I-35. On February 2, KVUE reported that more than 50 drivers have suffered damages since the first incident in June 2014. APD, City officials, and TxDOT first thought that the vandals were dropping rocks from bridges, but they now suspect that oncoming drivers are the culprits and are advising drivers to use the middle and outside lanes.
This isn’t the first case of serial rock-throwing in the U.S. or even in Texas, but it’s certainly the longest streak, according to KXAN. So far, more than five travelers have incurred serious injuries after rocks broke through their windshields. Keep your fingers crossed that police apprehend the vandals soon, and stay safe out there!
Antics, digital chicanery, and David Bowie
Also in February, one guy apparently thought it would be a good idea to climb scaffolding near the Texas Capitol Building, according to The Washington Post. Then, a few weeks ago, hackers hijacked a digital traffic sign at Rio Grande and 24th Street to make fun of OU. That’s illegal, of course, just like the temporary David Bowie Street memorial from January… but no one’s really mad about it.
And then there’s this a**hole
Plenty of people are angry at the jerks who threw kittens from a car on MoPac, though. All in all, we think it’s safe to say that it was a pretty crazy month for APD.
Beware the lion, love the owls
Austinites had some pretty entertaining animal encounters last month. Two hikers reported a mountain lion sighting along Turkey Creek Trail near Emma Long Metropolitan Park — one of our favorite off-leash dog trails. People freaked, but park officials quickly located the big cat. False alarm! The apex predator was nothing but an archery target. But you really can see wildlife at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The pair of wild great horned owls who have been nesting on a ledge in the LBJWC courtyard for years are back for another season.
Look who is back! Who? Who? Who? It's owl time again! The great horned owl has joined us once again.
RIP Cash, the Death Metal Cat
Later in the month, UT researchers uncovered the fossilized skull of a new extinct species of “worm lizard” out in West Texas, which they’ve taken to calling “The Lone Star Lizard,” since it’s the only known worm lizard that’s native to Texas. And for pets, East Austin residents gave a beloved feral cat named Cash (formerly ‘Death Metal’) a beautiful memorial service and honorable burial after he died of apparent natural causes, and an Austin hunting dog named Brie won “Best of Breed” at Westminster, a ridiculously huge honor.
Speaking of esteemed accolades, mad props belong to Chandi Moore, a local long-distance runner who won the Austin Marathon on Valentine’s Day. She ran more than 26 miles in just 3 hours, 2 minutes, and 17 seconds, dominating her previous personal record by 30 minutes! And there’s no doubt that the Austin collector who recently purchased the first gold coin that was ever struck is feeling proud.
On February 2, Austin360 published a story begging readers to help them track down Thong Guy for an interview. He’s no Leslie or Crazy Carl, but this barely-clothed cyclist is definitely someone we’d all like to meet and thank for doing his part to keep Austin weird. We also found out about two more interesting characters: the Austin couple that got married while waiting in line for Franklin Barbecue. Talk about brand loyalty and efficient time management!
Two new public art pieces caught our eye last month. First: the polka dots that city officials had painted at the busy East Sixth and Waller Street intersection to help keep pedestrians safe. And second: the epic new Willie Nelson mural at East Seventh and Neches Street, which creators scrambled to finish before SXSW 2016.
The Taco Wars Rage On
And finally, we would be remiss not to mention The Great and Terrible Taco War between Austin and San Antonio. Eater Austin published an article about the history of the breakfast taco as it relates to Texas and Austin. In the piece, the writer essentially claimed that Austin is responsible for the rampant popularity of the breakfast taco. This seriously offended a bunch of passionate taco lovers in San Antonio who started a petition to have the writer thrown out of Texas “for taco negligence.” We love our neighbors and hope that we can all agree to disagree and go back to stuffing our faces with delicious tacos soon!
And so, there we have it, folks. These were some of February 2016’s oddest local events. Things are bound to get even crazier during SXSW this month, so check back in early April for a #SoAustin News recap of March’s happenings.
Stay weird, Austin!