ABILENE, Texas (BigCountryHomepage.com) – Kind of like a proverbial train wreck, 2022 held lots of crazy incidents you just couldn’t take your eyes off of, as much as you wanted to. From a nightmare tenant to horrendous fires, here are the 10 stories with the most overall reads this year.
Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring and summer of 2022, an eviction moratorium was lifted, consequentially kicking people out of their Taylor County homes left and right for failure to pay rent.
One Abilene landowner said she let her grandson rent her home before the pandemic, then by this September, she hadn’t seen a dime in two years. After some serious contemplation, the woman said she came to the difficult decision to evict her grandson.
The woman said she was worried, so she sent her leasing agent and a Taylor County constable to do the evicting.
“She [leasing agent] calls me and goes, ‘We’re here with the house and he destroyed it.'”
Damages made to her home by her own grandson were assessed to be around $20,000.
Seeing the glimmer of a light at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic tunnel, safety remained at high priority for many Abilene officials at the start of 2022. In January, Abilene ISD reported that hundreds of employees were absent.
It was detailed that not all of those absences were caused by COVID-19.
Abilene ISD’s superintendent said, “What we would have to make a decision on — Do we have enough adults in our buildings to physically open the doors? If we were to close a campus or in worse case scenario, close the entire district, that would be our reason — we did not have the staff to do normal operations.”
During the Monday and Tuesday of that week for Abilene ISD, more than 300 employees were absent each day, and COVID-19 dashboard numbers from the district showed 400 students had COVID.
Come March, locals were abuzz after hearing the Food Network’s Restaurant: Impossible would film an episode at an Abilene restaurant.
In late March, the show’s host, Chef Robert Irvine, made his way to the Key City to help Texas Cowboy BBQ with a budget of only $10,000.
What really got the people going, though, was the opportunity to be a part of the fun. The show said it was looking for paid volunteers for the episode, to help Chef Irvine and his renovation team.
Possibly the 2022 truest definition of “viral” was posted to Facebook in July.
At an Abilene Long John Silvers, a customer posted a video of a dispute that escalated with an employee.
After an amount of arguing, the employee is seen throwing a cup of ice in customer’s vehicle.
BigCountryHomepage.com was able to speak with those involved in the incident, as well as Long John Silvers, to provide clarity.
Throughout the year, the advisory board of the Abilene Public Library heard a lot of requests to remove certain books from its shelves.
It was August when 60 people showed up to a meeting to express concerns over one book; Let’s Talk About It: The Teens Guide to Sex, Relationships, and Being a Human by Matthew Nolan and Erika Moen.
Let’s Talk About It was located in the library’s Young Adult section. Concerns lied with the book’s illustrations of nudity, depictions of various sex acts, and encouragement of self-exploration.
Some parents complained the book should be considered pornography. Others argued at that books like this one should be available for certain age groups, to foster a healthy view on sex as they mature.
A body being found at Kirby Lake in Abilene was huge news as is in January, then the deceased’s identity was released shortly after.
A 55-year-old woman was reported missing after voluntarily checking out of a local treatment facility. Her body was later found on the southwest side of the lake.
She was positively identified as Sharon Shipley, but a cause of death was not released.
4. 2022: Deadliest year on Abilene roads
2022 was a major year for horrible, and even fatal, crashes on Abilene roads.
In late February, two were killed on I-20 after a semi-truck ran into the structure of an underpass.
The two killed in the crash were the truck’s driver and passenger. Neither were able to escape.
Horrible wrecks like this one didn’t stop in February.
In June, a 17-year-old was reportedly riding an e-scooter in North Abilene one night when a pickup truck hit him. The teenager was quickly rushed to the hospital and survived.
Just two days later, four teens stole a vehicle from Clyde and crashed it in North Abilene. The crash killed one 13-year-old passenger, and the driver – also 13 years old – is facing murder charges.
Fast forward to October, 25 traffic-related deaths were recorded within Abilene city limits when a 97-year-old woman holding onto the door of a moving vehicle was injured and later died.
Almost directly after, a 27-year-old man was killed after crashing into a brick wall in a Rosa’s Café parking lot.
Tap here to learn more about the deadliest year on Abilene roads
After Halloween, BigCountryHomepage.com investigated a report of a ‘foreign object’ found in a candy bar.
We spoke with an adult who said she found a needle inside a Twix chocolate bar. She said the candy was given to a child trick-or-treating in the Lytle South area.
Police said the candy was processed, but no usable prints were found.
At a youth baseball game in April, a coach was caught on camera shoving an umpire. That shove would land the umpire in the hospital.
The coach said he took “full responsibility,” and said he shoved the umpire for making unfair calls.
1. Big Country fires
Over the course of two weeks, nearly 11,000 acres of Taylor County land was engulfed in flames not far from Abilene.
Dubbed the Mesquite Heat fire, more than 15 fire crews from within and outside of the area helped around the clock to save as much as they could.
The shuffle of the Mesquite Heat fire brought Eastland County residents to mind of the Eastland Complex – which took place only two months earlier.
On St. Patrick’s Day, news broke of multiple fires around Eastland County. The multiple fires made up the “Eastland Complex,” which would burn more than 55,000 acres of land and take the life of a beloved sheriff’s deputy who worked tirelessly to help others to safety in her last moments.
That is a wrap on top 10 year-end stories of Abilene and the Big Country. See you next year!