- - Sunday, October 21, 2012

DALLAS — Big Tex, the metal cowboy whose slow drawl of “Howdy, folks!” made him an icon of the State Fair of Texas for 60 years, was destroyed Friday when flames engulfed his 52-foot-tall frame.

Some material that made up Big Tex’s hands and sleeves could still be seen as firefighters gathered around the scorched area. This year’s fair, which closes Sunday and had been celebrating the towering structure’s birthday, went on despite the fire — just as Big Tex would want it.

“Big Tex is a symbol of everything the state fair stands for,” fair spokeswoman Sue Gooding said. “Big Tex is where my parents told me, ‘If you get lost, meet at Big Tex.”’

The cowboy always was easy to spot, with his 75-gallon hat and 50-pound belt buckle. Ms. Gooding said she didn’t know what caused the fire, but noted that electrical controls move Big Tex’s mouth and head.

CALIFORNIA

Voice software aids study of rare Yosemite owls

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK — Scientists working in Yosemite National Park are eavesdropping on forest creatures, hoping to gain a greater understanding of a rare subspecies of Great Gray Owls.

The raptors number fewer than 200 in and around the park, and even the slightest human intervention can disrupt their breeding and feeding cycles.

Scientists are using data-compression digital audio recorders to capture forests sounds. They developed software to discern the low-frequency owl calls from other noises in an effort to determine their numbers and rates of reproduction.

The raptors were cut off from their plentiful Canadian counterparts during the ice age 30,000 years ago. Since then, scientists have been looking for ways to protect them and better understand their habitat-specific evolution. Great Gray Owls are the largest in North America with 5-foot wingspans.

NEW JERSEY

Two adult women accused of anti-bullying attack

TOMS RIVER — A New Jersey mother and grandmother have been arrested on charges they attacked two fourth-grade boys they claim were bullying a 9-year-old girl.

Twenty-eight-year-old Rebecca Sardoni, of Toms River, and her mother, 51-year-old Stephanie Sardoni, of Beachwood, were arrested Friday.

Toms River police tell The Asbury Park Press that witnesses say the women boarded a school bus Friday bound for East Dover Elementary School and sought out boys they claimed had been harassing Rebecca’s daughter.

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