BEE CAVE, Texas (KXAN) - At the intersection of Bee Cave Road and State Highway 71 inWestern Travis County, a huge shopping center dwarfs a 4.5-acrerural Texas farmstead.
Sixth generation Texan T. Boothe insisted on saving the parcel,along with its old house and outbuildings, when his family's380-acre ranch was sold to make room for the shopping center. Nowthe land is surrounded by an old wooden fence dotted with "NoTrespassing" signs. Once a week, it serves as the meeting place forthe "Benevolent Knights of the Raccoon."
"We've got real estate brokers; we've got stock brokers' we'vegot plumbers," said Boothe. "You know, we've got contractors; we'vegot every imaginable type of character."
Every imaginable character, that is, except political liberals.The Raccoons, you see, are by-and-large, of a conservative bent,though as Boothe is quick to point out, not "activists or militiatypes."
In other words, they're fun-loving conservatives. And onTuesday, Feb. 2, there was plenty of fun to be had.
"I'd always been, at first mildly irritated, that so muchattention was given to a groundhog in Pennsylvania, 1000-plus milesaway, suggesting that that would have any relevance, his forecastof the coming of spring would have any relevance to Texas orTexans," said Boothe.
Mild irritation gave way to mega indignation and this year,Booth decided to act. He and his fellow Raccoons secured theservices of an armadillo named, Bee Cave Bob. They stuck thecritter in a pipe in the ground and accompanied by trumpets, theyused a wooden plunger to gently nudge Bob onto a section of"highway," actually a sidewalk decorated with a yellow stripe inthe middle.
If the animal stayed out of his hole, spring would come sixweeks early. If he returned to his abode, we would be in for morewinter. Or was it the other way around? Actually, it doesn't muchmatter, because the "Raccoons" kept the plunger in the pipe and Bobcouldn't have returned if he wanted to.
There was, you see, another prediction at stake, one that wouldprognosticate the political climate in Texas for the coming year.If the armadillo veered to the left of the yellow line, the LoneStar State would move to the left politically. A veer to the rightwould foresee a more conservative stance. A stroll down the centerof the line would predict a moderate political climate and if the"diller" swerved back and forth, political anarchy wouldprevail.
As Bob emerged, the Raccoons rooted for a right hand turn, butBob made a hard left and then another and then another, winding upin the grass behind the sidewalk and leaving the judges perplexed.Perhaps taking a cue from the 2000 presidential election inFlorida, they finally announced the verdict.
"He went right!" they proclaimed.
In the audience, Jim Franklin, one of the only liberals in thecrowd grumbled. Franklin was the poster artist that started thearmadillo craze in Texas back in the 70s.
"Look at it, it's living on the left side of the road," he said."How can the Republicans say that that is not a liberal armadillo?All armadillos are liberals." he smiled.
Back on stage, the words of Raccoon Boothe still rang across theshopping center parking lot.
"God bless Texas!" he shouted. "Let's hear it!"
The crowd roared and in Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil slunkback into his hole.
Light snow flurries were reported early Saturday just north of the KXAN viewing area. Sub-freezing temperatures along with a slight chance of light snow, sleet and freezing rain will continue through Sunday morning.
Investigators are still trying to figure out who murdered an Austin teacher in Benghazi on Thursday.
Back in June, Governor Rick Perry signed a new law officially letting teachers and students use greetings such as "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hannukah" in school, all without getting in any trouble.
The Round Rock-based computer giant, Dell Inc., is offering some workers voluntary buyouts as it seeks to trim costs and boost productivity.
The Austin Humane Society reopened to the public Friday after closing its doors for six weeks.
Sub-freezing temperatures and an approaching upper level disturbance could combine to produce some patchy freezing drizzle or sleet Saturday and early Sunday morning.