Jackalopes have been a fixture of Texas mythos for as long as I can remember. So too have monsters such as El Chupacabra and unexplained phenomena such as the Marfa Lights. I had to know if the tales of my childhood were real, so in honor of All Hallow’s Eve when things go bump in the night, I went in search of Texas cryptids.
The jackalope is a giant jackrabbit with antlers. It is said to roam free in the Texas wilderness, in search of what, I don’t know, but I’m guessing it’s looking for giant carrots or to settle a score with Elmer Fudd.
I did an Internet search of jackalopes and learned that rabbits occasionally suffer from something called Shope’s papilloma virus, which causes horned tumors around their skulls and faces. It is believed that rabbits with Shope’s might have been the catalyst for the jackalope legend.
I don’t recommend you do an image search. The photos I found were enough to gag a buzzard off a gut wagon.
The jackalope is real. Sort of. In a round-about, weird, disease-pathology kind of way. They aren’t the large, lumbering, wild-eyed killer beasts of Texas lore. But they’re certainly something to behold. And the jackrabbit that lives near the III Corps headquarters at Fort Hood is worth writing about based on his sheer size. I have seen him hopping across the lawn outside the newsroom window and, from what I can see, he’s not somebody to mess with in the parking lot after dark.
El Chupacabra has been around as long as I can remember. We don’t really know what it is, but we know what it does, based on the bloodless remains of goats and other farm animals the thing allegedly has attacked. “Chupacabra” literally translates from Spanish to English as “goat sucker.”
I think it’s more likely to be a mix between a pit bull terrier and a Texas divorce lawyer, but then that combination is less crossbreeding than it is inbreeding.
There have been reports that El Chupacabra has been discovered; that it is indeed the hybrid offspring of a canid creature and…something. There’s photographic evidence of something that looks more like a giant shaved rat. But is it the real thing? I’m not gonna sit out on a South Texas pasture to find out, that’s for sure.
When I lived in Dallas, there was the legend of the Goat Man of White Rock Lake.
Supposedly, the Goat Man is 7-feet tall, hairy, stands upright and sports the horns and hooves of a goat. He likes to throw things at people to drive them off his feeding grounds. No one has ever said on what the Goat Man feeds. I’m guessing fish, since White Rock Lake is known for its crappie and bass.
From the description, he sounds more like a University of North Texas art major. At any rate, I never saw him the entire decade I lived there, but apparently he got over to Lake Worth a time or two, since a similar monster has been seen there. At any rate, he might want to watch out for El Chupacabra.
Of the natural phenomena in Texas, the Marfa Lights, or Marfa Ghost Lights, are the most famous.
For more than 100 years, folks have seen something strange about nine miles east of Marfa. The lights have been described as fireworks without the smoke or sound.
Scientists have tried to explain them. Some folks believe they’re UFOs. Others think they’re the spirits of the Apaches wandering the Chinati Mountains. The city of Marfa simply acknowledges the lights with a festival every Labor Day weekend. I guess if you can’t explain it, celebrate it.
Cryptids and little green men notwithstanding, some folks are more concerned with the native Texas critters that have been documented as real.
Tim Swaggerty, an acquaintance of mine, was a park ranger at Lake Arrowhead State Park near Wichita Falls for a time. While there, he was quizzed by some visitors from Scotland about prairie dogs.
“Are they dangerous?” one of the tourists asked in a thick Scots brogue.
“Umm…well, they’ve been known to carry plague because they’re rodents, essentially. But immediately dangerous? Not really,” Swaggerty said.
“Rodents, ye say?” the other tourist responded. “Oh! Glad tae hear that! We envisioned packs of ravenous dogs roaming the Texas prairie! We were fearin’ frae our lives!”
Swaggerty assured the Scottish visitors the most they had to worry about with regard to prairie dogs was stepping in a hole and wrenching an ankle.
Texas also is known for its bats. Austin is home to Mexican free-tailed bats, particularly at the Congress Street Bridge. The best time to see them is in the spring and summer. If you go to see the bats, you’ll want to stand back a bit from their flight path. The bats aren’t particular where they relieve themselves and you might come home with a souvenir you really didn’t want.
Real or myth, cryptids capture our imaginations, and I, too, have personally witnessed the existence of a hitherto myth right here in Central Texas. Last June, my air conditioning died. I called a repairman who actually showed up when he said he would and fixed my A/C correctly the first time for the price originally quoted to me.
I know. I couldn’t believe it, either.