Originally posted by the New York Times.
Special Thanks to Traces of Texas
This is "Jalapeno Sam" Lewis, the inventor of the jalapeno lollipop and a man who made a fortune staging armadillo races around the world. He passed away in San Angelo in 2003. He was a true Texas character and his obituary is quite interesting. I apologize for any weird formatting:
Sam Lewis, 80, Tireless Armadillo Promoter
Sam Lewis, who made himself a Texas legend by staging armadillo races around the world, not to mention inventing the jalapeño lollipop, died on Jan. 10, 2003 at his home in San Angelo, Tex. He was 80.
The cause was cancer, his daughter, Kathleen Maxwell, said.
Mr. Lewis was representative of an exuberant breed of Texan who likes to push the boundaries of convention, whether at fight-to-the-death chili cook-offs, ersatz cowboy re-enactments or society balls attended both by people in formal address and by longhorn cattle. He was a nonstop Stetson-wearing promoter whose biggest brag was that he never did an honest day's work in his life.
Mr. Lewis's inspiration was to capitalize on the armadillo, an armored prehistoric-looking animal whose corpses have long been as common along Texas highways as mesquite trees and empty Lone Star beer cans. Not only did he race them, he rented them: to movie producers (one played opposite Kevin Costner in ''Tin Cup''); to the Rolling Stones, who used armadillos for an opening act; and to medical researchers who used them to study leprosy.
''We will send an armadillo to anyone who has a legitimate need for one, a legitimate need,'' he said. ''We won't send them to nuts.''
As owner and chief executive of the World Armadillo Breeding and Racing Association and president of the International Armadillo Appreciation Society, he maintained an armadillo ranch and an armadillo rental agency. He caught armadillos by hand and sent them to zoos around the world. He advised James Michener on armadillos for Mr. Michener's two-volume work, ''Texas.''
As the armadillo became central to the Texas chic that blossomed in the 1970's, Mr. Lewis led the charge. He created San Angelo Sam, an armadillo that was the West Texas answer to Pennsylvania's groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil. In 1995, Texas finally heeded his lobbying and made the armadillo its official state small mammal.
Meanwhile Mr. Lewis had sold rights to his idea of jalapeño products, including olives stuffed with the peppers. He remained as a pitchman, never traveling without an armadillo and always driving because, he said, armadillos did not like to fly.
Samuel Thomas Howze Lewis was born in Mississippi, though family members are not sure which town. He ran away from home at 14 and ended up in San Angelo. He saw his first armadillo at 15 while raccoon hunting and was completely charmed. In World War II, he was a tail gunner on a B-29 and later managed a pizza parlor. In 1951, he came up with the idea of racing an armadillo against a horned toad. A bet had something to do with it, though nobody recollects which animal won. When Mr. Lewis later entered a high-stakes duck race, his armadillo was definitely not up to the challenge.
But armadillo against armadillo was something else. Humans are not allowed to touch the contestants but they can blow on their backsides. This excites the hair on the back of the armadillos' legs and they jump like crazy. Mr. Lewis said the speed record for an armadillo was 40 feet in three seconds.
His wife, the former Betty June Meek, died in 1999. In addition to his daughter, who lives in Irving, Tex., he is survived by his son, Samuel Jr., two grandsons, two brothers and four sisters. The family intends to keep raising armadillos.
''Why did the chicken cross the road?'' Mr. Lewis would joke. ''To show the armadillo it can be done.''
New York Times
Editors Note: I'm a Texas history buff. I enjoy stories of colorful Texans. Judge Roy Bean was another colorful Texan who never really hung anybody. I hope ya'll enjoy my occasional articles about Texas folks who's stories are entertaining and besides any man that can rent armadillos in Texas can do anything.
That's the way I see it.