The Cruel and Unusual Building of the Texas Horse Park

Dylan Hollingsworth
Kevin Woods wanted to work with the Texas Horse Park. He ended up getting stampeded by it.
Hunched over a table at a Jack in the Box, Kevin Woods doesn't look much like a cowboy. No hat, no belt buckle, no boots, not a horse in sight. Here, tucked between a cluster of warehouses and a bustling urban highway, is about as far from the open range as a Texan can be. With his plain red T-shirt lightly dusted with sheetrock, and his calloused hands entwined in front of him, he looks like the home-repair contractor that he is. But it's a cowboy's blood that runs through Woods. This is a man who's broken wild mustangs and wrestled half-ton steers to submission in soft dirt, who can rope a calf and shoe a horse, who's as comfortable in the saddle as behind the wheel of a truck.

Woods was born into farm life in Stamps, Arkansas, a hollowed-out agricultural town a few miles north of the Louisiana border. He left as fast as he could, fleeing for Toledo, Ohio at 14. He took with him his fondness for horses and livestock, but his passion lay fallow for several years as he clawed for survival. He slept on the streets and rummaged through garbage cans for scraps before he fell in with a gang, started dealing drugs and pulled himself out of homelessness.

"I was one of the drug dealers you didn't want to meet on the streets," he says. "I'm the one Momma warned you about. You know, like I said, I was taught in the school of hard knocks."

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Wallace Hall Was Right About UT All Along

Categories: Cover Story

Can Turkyilmaz
UT System Regent Wallace Hall, the man legislators wanted to impeach for asking too many questions.
Maybe the University of Texas at Austin and its many passionate defenders had reason to beware of Wallace Hall when Governor Rick Perry appointed him to the UT System board of regents in 2011. Perry was pushing some plan he got from a rich oilman to eliminate research as a criterion for granting professorial tenure, an idea scathingly denounced by detractors as tantamount to book-burning.

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Many New Moms Are Eating Their Placentas. Baylor Wants Them Off the Menu.

By Mark Graham
Brittany Wackowski says Baylor's hardball stance on releasing placentas to new mothers is putting a dent in her placenta-pill business.
She was recovering in a postpartum room at Baylor University Medical Center this spring, exhausted from giving birth, when her husband gave her the good news. "We got the placenta," he told her. "It's in the cooler."

Now she just had to get it off the hospital property without being caught. "We were petrified that they were going to realize that we had it," says the mother, who is still too nervous about the placenta-snatching to go on the record with her name, the date she gave birth or how her husband managed to get the placenta into the cooler in the first place.

That placenta was important to her. She wanted to eat it.

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Chasing The World: One Man's Crazy World Cup Quest

Categories: Cover Story

Catherine Downes
Mexico v Croatia, Ojos Locos

The roof of my car has sprung a leak in the middle of a tropical rainstorm, and the backseat is rapidly flooding. I'd pull over, but I've been stuck on an under-construction highway for the last half hour, and time is slipping away.

We're two weeks into the World Cup. At the behest of my editor, I have agreed to search Dallas for 32 people from the 32 countries competing in the tournament, in the spirit of North Texan multiculturalism. Moving here from Europe, I figured that right-wing, gun-toting Texas would be wall-to-wall with rich, angry white people. What I've found over the last two weeks is that it's far more diverse and interesting than England. I should have looked at Wikipedia.

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How Congress Offers the Worst Job in America, Starring Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Former Dallas Mayor and Others

Categories: Cover Story

Scott Anderson
Imagine, in a moment of suspended disbelief, that your job pays 174 grand a year. And comes with a $1.3 million expense account. And a staff of eighteen Ivy League yes-men whose sole duty is to bray loud and wide about the miracle that is you -- when they're not babysitting your kids or fetching your dry cleaning, that is.

You get free travel to anywhere on the globe. A private dining room and a private gym replete with swimming pool, sauna and steam bath.

Best of all, you're only required to show up for the equivalent of four months per year.

Former congressman Tom Tancredo had this life for a decade. By the time it was over, he'd caught that affliction known to anyone who hates his job: a fear of Monday mornings. "As I drove to work, I'd get a knot in my stomach, and it would just start to grow," Tancredo says.

Here's why:

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Adventures in a Car-Free Dallas: The Great Race to the Bar

Categories: Cover Story

You know how the Amazing Race works? Well, this is like that, but we could only get Observer staffers to do it if we promised alcohol at the end. Tracie, our art director, takes her car, Gavin, the web editor, takes a Yellow Cab, Catherine, our editorial assistant, takes Lyft, Eric, our fearless news blogger, cycles to Deep Ellum, Amy takes DART, and Marie will eventually take Uber if Warren ever shows up. Who will make it first? Will everyone like their beer? There's only one way to find out.

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Academic Postmortem of Tornado that Killed Tim Samaras Is Chilling

Categories: Cover Story

Charity Head/KWTV News 9
Tim Samaras' Chevy Cobalt on Reuter Road, southwest of El Reno, Oklahoma.
The American Meteorological Society has released a preliminary version of its after-action report on the El Reno, Oklahoma, tornado, which killed noted storm chaser Tim Samaras, his son Paul and chase partner Carl Young. The result, even in dry, acronym-heavy academic language, manages to serve as both an enlightening and horrifying account of storm chasing's worst day.

See also: The Last Ride of Legendary Storm Chaser Tim Samaras).

A storm chaser who heeded the bad feeling in his gut and decided to hang back that day told me the tornado was "designed to kill storm chasers." This report indicates he's more right than he could have known. Doppler imaging pegged the tornado's width at 2.5 miles, the widest ever documented. But the main circulation was crawling with smaller tornadoes, some moving at speeds of 260 feet per second (177 mph), according to the report. The authors conclude, "it is likely that no clear direction to safety was apparent."

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National Weather Service Downgrades the Monster Tornado that Killed Tim Samaras

Categories: Cover Story

Charity Head/KWTV News 9
Tim Samaras' Chevy Cobalt on Reuter Road, southwest of El Reno, Oklahoma.
In this week's feature, we tell the story of Tim Samaras, one of the most respected tornado scientists in the country. On May 31, he, his son Paul and chase partner Carl Young navigated back roads southwest of El Reno, Oklahoma, beneath dark, circulating clouds. Just after 6 that evening, as they tracked parallel to a rain-shrouded tornado, it wheeled on them.

As fellow chaser Dan Robinson was pummeled by its outer circulation just a half mile or so ahead of them, he unwittingly captured their final moments with his rear dash cam. Samaras' white Chevy Cobalt was found later that evening, a compacted, unrecognizable hull. Samaras, his son and Young did not survive.

Initially, the National Weather Service classified the El Reno tornado as an EF-3 on a scale of one to five -- five being the most powerful and destructive. It received this designation because the tornado passed largely through the remote farm country. The Enhanced Fujita Scale is based entirely on damage, and with little of it for the survey team to observe, it received a middling rating.

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Hostess: Dead by Murder, Suicide, or Natural Causes? Uh ... Yes?

Categories: Cover Story

Catherine Downes
In this week's cover story, we examine the demise of Irving-based Hostess, purveyor of Wonder Bread, Ho Hos, Twinkies and Ding Dongs -- basically all the stuff you should never put in your body. These days, pretty much everything is political, even the fate of snack food.

Can blame for the company's ongoing liquidation following nearly a year in Chapter 11 proceedings be placed at the feet of the unions, which some say are grand, burdensome anachronisms in a contemporary marketplace? Others pin it on Wall Street. Like all the other companies that have been Bain Capital-ed by private equity barons, they say, Hostess got ransacked, and no wonder it went under. Look at all that debt. The company was completely upside-down!

Over the course of my reporting, however, I reached a different conclusion. There's nuance (shocker!) in the tale of the Twinkie's last, rattling gasps. Rest easy, everybody. There's plenty of blame to go around! Oh, and you probably won't be without you cream-filled sponge cake for long, if you actually eat that stuff. Like Jesus, Twinkie will almost assuredly rise from death.

In the meantime, take a look at this brief history of its storied life:

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The Bizarre Tale of Sam Lone Wolf, the "Spiritual Elder" in the Case of the White Buffalo

photo (4).JPG
Hunt County Sheriff's Office
Sam Lone Wolf, aka a bunch of other names
Earlier this month, I wrote a cover story so bizarre, I had to periodically check official documents just to be sure I had not wandered into the realm of magical realism. Yes, in fact, a sacred white buffalo was born to a Greenville rancher named Arby Little Soldier during a lightning storm in 2011. Indeed, Little Soldier, as far as I know, still maintains said white buffalo was slain as a result of a Cheyenne conspiracy.

See also:
- A White Buffalo's Death Breeds Suspicion and Lies

I'm not spoiling much by saying we may never know the whole truth, but the white buffalo was not mutilated by conspiratorial Native Americans wielding skinning knives, perhaps at the behest of Ted Nugent.

There was another character, though, who I found even more fascinating, but I couldn't plumb his strange background as much as I would have liked, primarily for the sake of column inches.

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