Can Denton get weird and kooky? Oh heck yeah. Just recently, we’ve written about the hit-and-run death of UNT’s lucky albino squirrel, the eco-friendly hippie haven settlement Whitehawk, and a new card game involving Denton and Profanity. We even have four prior volumes of Denton Oddities, but here’s even more proof that there’s still plenty to gander at slackjawed whist urban adventuring around our Denton area.
Libraries are a reliable source of hidden treasures, but UNT’s Willis Library is home to a very impressive special collection of Miniature Books. Not just miniature, mind you, but super-duper freaking tiny!! The Miniature Book Collection at UNT began with a group of miniature children's books donated in the 1930's by Mrs. Gustine Courson Weaver as part of her children's book collection. The oldest in UNT's collection is a tiny cuneiform clay tablet from 2033 B.C.E.! The next oldest miniature is a single original leaf from an early 15th century Parisian illuminated Book of Hours, and the collection also contains miniature works by Shakespeare and the 1-inch sheet music to a Mozart Serenade. But their oldest printed miniature book is a copy of the works of Roman statesman Cicero, published in 1521. Heck, they have books so tiny that one was almost accidently inhaled by a librarian! You’ll need to make an appointment to check ‘em out, but these are worth a looksee!
UNT also apparently has some secret Sweaterbomb Club that knits sweaters for the statues around the University of North Texas Campus during the winter. The origins of this practice are murky, but since 2014 our pals at People of Denton have encouraged Instagrammers to document and share their #Sweaterbomb sightings. No word yet on 2017 stylings, but this is one offbeat tradition that we sure hope continues on over the years!
Speaking of statuary, another wacky Denton icon is the restored Statue of Legendary Horse Cutter Bill, the championship Palomino Stallion of infamous rancher Rex Cauble. The stuff of legend in North Texas Horse County, Cutter Bill earned numerous World Champion titles as a cutting horse, won thousands in prize money, and sired many famous offspring before he died in 1982 and was buried on the property of Rex Cauble’s Ranch. It was here just north of Denton that Cauble commissioned a life-size fiberglass statue covered with 1,500 24-karat gold leafs to stand atop the gargantuan sign at the entrance to his ranch, but during the subsequent years of disgrace it disappeared. Recovered and restored, this statue of Cutter Bill can now be seen on a visit to Lawn Land over on Dallas Drive.
The offbeat wildlife educator, Denton’s Critterman, is really David Kleven, a mild-mannered Texas transplant who has a 5.5-acre Denton County facility that is home to more than 50 different breeds of exotic animals. Using these rescues to offer special programs to schools, libraries, and animal shelters, Critterman is on a mission to preserve our natural habitats that has earned him a ‘Best in Dallas’ recognition. “I try to balance the science-based information with the fun and entertainment,” Kleven told the NT Daily; “You need a mix of both. I can give all the facts I want, but if I can’t inspire them then I feel like my job isn’t completely done.” The beloved wildlife educator now has his own blog with the Denton CVB called “Critterman’s Corner,” so definitely check that out.
What weird stuff are you sighting out in the Denton wilds? Be sure to tag #WDDI on Instagram or Twitter during your Denton walkabouts or urban exploring, and share some of your favorite offbeat sights in the comments!
Shaun Treat is a former professor at the University of North Texas and founder of the Denton Haunts historical ghost tour. Doc has written about numerous local places and personalities at his Denton Haunts blog, and is forever indebted to the great work of our local keepers of history like Mike Cochran and Laura Douglas at the Emily Fowler Library for their tireless work in helping preserve Denton’s intriguing past. Be sure to check out our local museums curated by the fine folks at the Denton County Office of History & Culture, and follow @Dentonaut on Twitter for local happenings.