2008's Oddest Texas News Stories

Here's a look back at some of the odder stories of 2008.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing from tv series "Dallas."

    A state as big as Texas is bound to have a few wacky stories, and 2008 didn't disappoint.

    J.R. returned to Dallas. Hollywood set up shop in West Texas. And teachers started packing heat in the classroom.

    Throw in some UFO sightings and a goofy lawsuit against a famous preacher's wife, and you have another strange year of Texas news. Here's a look back at some of the odder stories:

    TOWN'S VEGAS VACATION:
    Las Vegas tourism officials scoured the country and found the town most in need of a Vegas vacation: Cranfills Gap. Tourism officials flew nearly half of the town's 350 residents for a five-day getaway and publicity stunt. Airfare, food and shows were included in the deal, but no gambling money. The only catch: they were followed the entire time by video cameras for tourism commercials to air next year.

    ELEPHANT FIGHT:
    Keke the Elephant died at the Dallas Zoo in May, leaving her pal Jenny alone in the zoo's elephant exhibit. Zoo officials decided to ship Jenny to a wildlife park in Mexico so she wouldn't be lonely. But a group calling itself Concerned Citizens for Jenny, joined by actress Lily Tomlin, opposed the move and lobbied for Jenny to go to an elephant sanctuary in Tennessee. Now zoo officials have decided to keep Jenny, expand her exhibit and bring in another pachyderm pal.

    OSTEEN'S WIFE-LAWSUIT:
    It was a serious charge: a flight attendant claimed that the wife of famous preacher Joel Osteen, angered by a spilled drink, shoved her against a bathroom door and elbowed her breast. The inevitable lawsuit from flight attendant Sharon Brown said she wanted an apology and 10 percent of the Osteen's millions. A jury, however, didn't swallow the tale, vindicating Victoria Osteen.

    GUN-TOTING TEACHERS:
    It was a story tailor-made for Texas. A rural school board near the Oklahoma border quietly approved a policy allowing teachers to tote concealed firearms while in school. While it might make students think twice about throwing spitballs, it also made a few uncomfortable. "It was kind of awkward knowing that some teachers were carrying guns," one student said.

    UFO SIGHTING:
    The Mutual UFO Network is convinced that something strange streaked across Texas dairy country in January. After an analysis of radar data, the network concluded that the object was between 524 feet and 1,000 feet long and traveled up to 2,100 miles per hour. "This shows ample evidence of UFO activity," the Texas director of MUFON said.

    DALLAS REUNION:
    Who saw J.R.? Turns out some who paid for the privilege and some who didn't. An event organized to celebrate the 30th anniversary of "Dallas" became a soap opera after angry fans complained they didn't get the access to cast members they paid for -- while others got close to the stars without paying for it.

    HOLLYWOOD, TEXAS:
    Forget Tinseltown. Directors looking to make Oscar-worthy films were all about Marfa, a West Texas town with about 2,100 residents and no movie theaters. Two Best Picture-nominated movies, "There Will Be Blood" and "No Country For Old Men," were partially filmed in Marfa, primarily because its wide-open views evoked Western desolation.

    DEWHURST'S HIDDEN WEALTH:
    The richest man in Texas politics is Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. His financial disclosure forms reveal that he has a trust valued at "more than $25,000." What it doesn't mention is the former CIA agent is a major shareholder in a Houston energy and investment company and owns far-flung cattle ranches and luxury condo. His total wealth could be as high as $200 million.

    SEX TOYS BAN:
    Good news this year -- if you're into that sort of thing. A federal appeals court overturned a Texas statute outlawing the sales of sex toys, saying it violated the Constitution's 14th Amendment on the right to privacy. That leaves those prudes in Alabama with the nation's strictest ban on sex toy sales.

    LAWMAKERS' LOUNGE:
    Gov. Rick Perry asked state agencies to "dial back their spending." That didn't stop the Texas House from a $140,000 upgrade of their members-only lounge. The cash paid for new cabinets, light fixtures, carpet, big-screen TVs and kitchen appliances. The custom wood cabinets and granite countertops cost $61,200, an air-cooled flake ice maker cost $3,425 and two antique chandeliers were $14,500 apiece.

    POLICE-TAINTED TREATS:
    A Fort Worth-area teenager was trying to make good on a community service obligation when he baked chocolate chip cookies for some police officers. But police smelled marijuana and preliminary tests on the baked goods detected LSD. The teen was charged with tampering with a consumer product, until subsequent tests showed no traces of drugs. The cookies were clean, and the charges were dropped.