The Drawl

Hood Rats

Prepare to meet your mascot.

By Jeff Balke and Scott Vogel August 1, 2013 Published in the August 2013 issue of Houstonia Magazine

It has come to The Drawl’s attention that the Bridgeland community in Cypress is home to not only a planned development, manmade lakes, dozens of miles of hike-and-bike trails, and—soon—several themed villages, but also Bridgeland Bill, the official mascot of the subdivision-in-progress. That’s right. It’s not enough for the Rockets to have Clutch or the Rice Owls Sammy or Bob’s to have Big Boy. Now the residents of Galena Park need their own Larry the Dancing Lead Sulfide. Think we’re kidding? Then you obviously haven’t been to a neighborhood pep rally in a while.

Oak Forest’s Dacoma is an adorable raccoon single mother of three with an affinity for tract houses and townhomes of questionable aesthetic value. But don’t let those cute whiskers and bandit mask fool you. Like all mother racoons, Dacoma will defend her den to the death, here with the aid of a 20-gauge shotgun, thanks to a neighborhood initiative targeting the rising threat of driveway robberies from bobcats, coyotes, wolves and other creatures in white socks and flip-flops. To all who covet her IKEA futon with matching paper lantern, Dacoma has just one thing to say: Do you feel lucky, punk? 

Like all koalas and most residents of The Woodlands, Conroe rarely leaves his home in the trees, especially now that there’s a ready supply of bamboo courtesy of the Pier 1 on I-45. Fiercely on guard against annexation, and something of a control freak, right down to his master-planned khaki shorts and Augusta-ready golf spikes, Conroe has a love-hate relationship with Big Petroleum, whose growing presence threatens his habitat even as it consistently raises property values. For now, however, he and his cubs are safe from the many unspecified dangers lurking beyond their wooded kingdom’s borders. Besides, if he wants the little ones to witness the terrors of the wild, he can just take them to BuzzFest when it comes to the Pavilion.

He’s the same Alvin, but times have clearly changed for this mischievous critter. His days of chart-topping success in that high-pitched chipmunk trio now long behind him, Alvin is determined to be realistic about Alvin, which is to say a south Houston bedroom community struggling to remake its image even as its two claims to fame are the Nolan Ryan museum and endless episodes of Trick My What? on the CMT channel. Now living in an Airstream trailer and struggling to survive periodic rises in gang activity even as Alvin Jr. is arrested for vandalizing picnic tables at the skate park, he is a totem of transition, a chipmunk of change.

As Montrose’s favorite curmudgeon never tires of reminding residents, old Driscoll the squirrel was gathering nuts there long before the hipsters and bobos moved in. Now firmly established in codgerhood and retired from his job in hospice care, he is often seen walking his pet chihuahuas in faded jean shorts and espadrilles, sending a clear signal to predators: attacking this gasbag means submitting to endless tales of the ’Trose’s glory days. Still, even Driscoll would have to admit that things have changed for the better. After all, he can now safely stroll the streets with his partner, the former mascot for Humble Oil—that little yellow flame in a “Happy Motoring” T-shirt—who now only answers to the name of his drag alter ego, Humbrella

Sugar is a goose who long ago migrated (or was it emigrated?) from parts unknown to, yes, Sugar Land, seeking refuge, a McMansion, and low property taxes. Flash forward a few decades: she’s one of the smart set, oozing a glamour most fowl, which is to say Sugar thinks nothing of living next door to a Rockets guard or firing up the Mercedes for a trip to the Indian food market, her Jackie O sunglasses and colorful saris ever at the ready. Her husband has no idea what she is doing most days, of course, and while the town square is buzzing over a rumored affair with SWATSON (the giant green mosquito mascot of the minor-league Skeeters), you can bet that Sugar never kisses and tells.

Oxford is a long-familiar sycamore tree in The Heights who, not unlike the neighborhood’s residents, is stately, unstable, and over 120 years old. Despite the constant threat of developers, hurricanes, droughts, and lawsuits from area sympathizers whose pro-environmentalism does not extend to trees whose pollen damages their Nissan Leaf’s paint job, Oxford has continued to grow, albeit sideways. As such, he is an important touchstone of endurance in The Heights, having survived two world wars, the neighborhood’s many vagaries, and numerous readings of “The Lorax” beneath his branches. 

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