Fast food restaurant destruction by woman brings back memories of some crazy stories in Brazoria County

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

The entire story took up only six paragraphs. It concerned a half-naked woman who smashed up a fast food restaurant because a clerk at the counter asked her to put her top back on.

Six brief paragraphs on the Reuters news wire, attributed to two writers and one editor. This story, it appears, was given a lot of attention.

The woman caused $10,000 in damage, smashing everything in sight. My guess is that she experienced low blood sugar and just needed some protein. I cannot explain the topless part, but the woman was arrested and taken to a hospital.

Two reporters and an editor made sure that the story was absolutely accurate.

It brought back memories of the crazy stuff I covered for the Houston Chronicle over the years right here in Brazoria County. But the characters in my story had their clothes on.

Well, almost all of them. The animals in the stories were not wearing anything.

The parrot inside the cage remained quiet. It was supposed to say some words to help Sheriff’s detective Steve Ricks determine who was the real owner, but the bird was silent.

The cage was in a narrow hallway at the sheriff’s department on the fourth floor of the courthouse in Angleton. That was before they moved out to the country.

The parrot was probably spooked with all the people wearing guns coming and going, but the point is that it kept whatever words it knows to itself.

Steve was nice enough to pose with the parrot, and the story got a lot of attention the next morning, when it ran in the Chronicle. It made all the wires, which made it a home run in my book.

That’s how we measured a story’s success back in those days. When the wires ran with it, the story was a home run. If it ran Page 1 and got picked up, it was a grand slam.

I ran into Steve recently in the supermarket, and we talked about that story. He still has a copy of it. I do too, somewhere deep inside a drawer.

And then there was the story about the dog in the then-newly opened county animal shelter that couldn’t figure out how to drink water from a fancy faucet.

The dog was supposed to nudge the contraption, and water would come out. Right next to the faucet was an old-fashioned bowl of water. That did the trick.

You know that, as a responsible journalist, I had to make a a big deal out of that unfortunate circumstance. Especially since that dog at the time was the only occupant in the entire shelter.

I bet it didn’t take long to fill it up with all the strays running around the county.

I got a Chronicle photographer to come out and shoot a dog (with a camera) who couldn’t operate the canine fountain. This story also made all the wires. Success.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that crazy stories like this play well. I started looking for them and hit a home run every time.

Of course, I wrote a lot more serious stories than crazy ones, but most of those don’t stand out as much.

I’m not going to reminisce here about all of them, but I’ll try to weave them somehow into other columns. All it takes is a transitional paragraph or phrase, and I’m off running and rambling.

Look here. A woman in Texas was arrested after she called police to report that her drug dealer sold her some bad pot.

Lady, where were you when I needed you? That’s an automatic grand slam, especially if you agree to an interview. That’s like two grand slams.

Here is how it may sound:

“I didn’t know what else to do. My dealer ripped me off.”

How do you feel about that?

“I still can’t believe it. Drug dealers today cannot be trusted. What’s this world coming to?”

If he is reading this, what would you like to tell him? How is your family taking all this?

The story would be everywhere. No Pulitzer quality, but so what? More reminiscing later. Have a good week.