Collins to work toward increasing visitation to Arkansas by groups and promoting the state's appeal
It beat a hacking cough, but not by very much.
As years of the 21st century have gone so far, it was pretty typical. A lot like Thanksgiving football. Hard to keep from nodding off.
We ran off the football coach, Houston Nutt, but here's a suggestion: If you have lunch with him anytime between now and 2020, let him pay. And have an extra lobster tail. And invite Momma and them. Tell them to load up.
We got a new governor and deeded the old one to the United States, which deserved better from us, given what it's had to put up with from this bunch that's been in office for about 75 years now, it seems like.
The legislature met but about all it accomplished was to promote animal cruelty and dis Thomas Paine.
Most of our bees died, nobody's sure why, one thought being that cell phones are killing them. Up around Huntsville, they're killing them with nail guns.
We brought forth more new Duggars this year than we did tomatoes fit to eat.
We had prizefights that were like minuets, ball games like gavottes.
Mayor pursued cross-country by Satanists; criminals ranging from moron to imbecile; sports editor dumber than an Acme brick, the official brick of the Dallas Cowboys. Gay Christian bikers. A PB alderman who lives in fear of seeing your crack.
Century 21 Arkie-typical, no? The best and the worst…
Worst man from Hope
Huckabee presidential campaign highlights included whooping Bush's handling of the Iraq War, proposing to scrap the federal income tax in favor of a flat national sales tax, declaring himself an anti-evolutionist, and dubbing himself, according to Falwell the Younger, as God's chosen candidate. In November, National Review, the conservative magazine, characterized Huckabee's campaign as one of "half-baked policies and ill-considered sloganeering," and Rolling Stone magazine concluded that he was "a Christian goofball of the highest order (who)believes the Earth may be only 6,000 years old, angrily rejects the evidence that human beings evolved from 'primates' and thinks America wouldn't need so much Mexican labor if we allowed every aborted fetus to grow up and enter the workforce." Richard Cohen, Washington Post, summed up in December: "The Republican presidential field has some feeble minds and some dangerous ones as well, but none has done as much damage as Huckabee has."
The mayor of Centerton (pop. 6,743) since 2001 resigned in November after disclosing that his life before coming to the Bentonville suburb more than 20 years ago had been one of multiple identities in which, starting out as a clergyman in New York state, he was relentlessly hounded across the country by a gang of evil Satanists intent on capturing and brainwashing him. He seems to have started and deserted several families along the way. The devil-worshippers caught him at least once, he said, forcing him into the back of a van and erasing five years from his memory with an electric torture device. And from there, the story gets really strange.
Best side of Janet Huckabee
Announcing in November that she really, really wanted to be the next First Lady of the U.S., Janet Huckabee said: "I'm very unique in the sense that I'm not afraid to show all sides: the fun side, the serious side, the elegant side, whatever I need to do." She was soon after showing that elegant side to a South Carolina ladies' group, demonstrating to them how she was a right smart of a good hand with a grenade launcher.
Worst class to attend if you're a raccoon
An agri/shop teacher killed a live, caged raccoon with a nail gun in November at the start of a Huntsville High School class on wildlife skinning. School authorities saw no need for a reprimand or anything, and in fact with all the attention the coon-killer teacher became something of a folk hero at Huntsville, one admirer showing support by killing and skinning a dog and hanging the carcass on the gatepost of another Huntsville teacher who was thought to have reported the original coon-killing to the Humane Society.
Michelle (Mrs. Jim Bob) Duggar of Springdale popped her 417th natural-born child, a girl, in early August. Only a slight exaggeration.
Ill-advised e-mailings and cell-phone calls apparently cost Houston Nutt, the 10-year head football coach at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, what he called the “dream job of a lifetime” as he was allowed to resign in November and lug away a hefty severance to coach the lowly Rebs at Ole Miss. The UA coaching melodrama played out over a year and it was so tacky, so trashy in so many respects, that it was finally sad, maybe pathetic, for what it said about everyone involved in it, the fans included.
This was the best one so far in Century 21. It was midweek, so no competition with football or church. No rain anywhere in Arkansas. Not cold and not so warm that it made a costume itch. Lots of parents dressed up too, making the Big Mooch a family affair. It was said some churches sent out Christmas carolers to counter the evil influences that are supposedly abroad on All Saints' Eve, but the singers didn't trick-or-treat, only treated, so that was OK too.
Worst seasoning for green beans
A Siloam Springs cannery offered $100 in October as a "goodwill gesture" to a Utah woman who found a severed mouse head in a can of the company's green beans that she'd bought at Wal-Mart. She saw the $100 as a hush-money offer, and declined it, and said she would continue to speak out for a mousehead-free canning process.
Best yegg eclecticism
Police reported these items stolen in a November residential burglary in Leawood: 1 chainsaw. 1 ice chest. 1 pie. 1 frozen deer.
Everybody's a coach, but there's not a one of us, even if we got the big bucks for it that the Arkansas coaches get, who could've made a worse mess of the Tennessee game than they did.
Best camera work
A vanilla female sandwich-shop employee in West Little Rock reported a robbery by two chocolate males in October. Apparently nobody told her that her workplace had a surveillance camera, a working one, which showed that it was her rather than thugs tapping the till. Or maybe she just wanted to be a star.
GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said in a debate in Florida in October that “most” of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were, like him, clergymen. A Florida newspaper looked it up: Of the 56 signers, one was a clergyman.
In a stunning academic performance, Anne Ye, a senior at Little Rock Central High School, made perfect scores on the SAT, ACT and PSAT tests in September.
For the first time in nearly 20 years, there are no Arkie Waltons among the 10 richest Americans, Forbes magazine contended in its September issue. The heirs slipped to 12th, 12th, and 15th, with only around $40 or $50 quadrillion apiece.
State Appeals Court Judge Wendell Griffen had to fight misconduct charges for nearly two years before the judges who judge the judges in Arkansas finally decided in September that judges have the same right to speak their minds that other Americans enjoy.
Worst worst (it just doesn't
get any worse than this)
In September, a Wynne anti-abortion activist asked that a dead-baby statue be put up at the state Capitol. Her proposal was for a life-size statuary grouping with a sandaled Jesus figure accepting a dead baby from a woman, presumably its mother. As a visual aid, the activist brought along a wooden box that she said contained a genuine fetus that was miscarried in 1993, and she invited state Capitol Arts and Grounds Commission members to open it up and have a gander if they were interested.
September 15. The most picture-perfect day in Arkansas since the edenic era when the whole place was literally covered up with ivory-billed woodpeckers.
November 6, brisk and cloudless, fall color at its peak, might have been even better, if that were possible.
Worst joint casing
A college student tried to rob a West Little Rock bank in September after having failed, while he was casing the joint, to notice that a Little Rock policeman was sitting in plain view just a few feet away, observing and readying cuffs.
The robber wasn't blind, the policeman wasn't invisible, and the most plausible explanation seemed to be that the robber had planned the thing so long and so diligently that he wasn't about to be deterred by one small unforeseen detail.
The race-track casinos at Hot Springs and West Memphis got state permission in August to serve free cocktails to high rollers playing their slot machines. An old Vegas trick, meant to loosen inhibitions.
Banditos v. Hell's Angels in a big knife fight at Eureka Springs in August. (But the following weekend a Christian riding club from Missouri and the local gay riding club confronted peaceably over competitive witnessing in the same locality. The Eureka gay paper headlined the latter faceoff as the Holy Rollers v. the Wholly Homos.)
Hooters at Fort Smith.
Janet Huckabee's elegant side.
Mike Coolbaugh, the first base coach for the Tulsa Drillers, was killed by a foul ball off the bat of one of the Drillers players in a game with the Arkansas Travelers at North Little Rock in July.
Best cool name
Dew Drop Snowball died at 93 at Sheridan in July, on the eve of the year's worst hot spell.
Worst flora-fauna combo
Police arrested a Mountain Home man in July with an 8-foot marijuana tree in his garden and three severed alligator heads in his freezer.
At home in bed, a 93-year-old El Dorado man awoke and shot a 24-year-old intruder who a few minutes earlier the same night in July had beat him unconscious with a soda-pop can in a robbery attempt.
A Fort Smith woman was charged in August with training her two children, ages 10 and 11, to help her snatch purses from women shoppers at local stores and shopping centers.
Best phone service
In June, two Little Rock restaurants announced cell-free dining. Staff were prohibited from incoming or outgoing, and customers were invited to take calls of either kind out to the curb. May their tribe increase.
Worst new game
Anti-abortion bingo. (Arkansas Right to Life Trust Fund was among the organizations that signed up to sponsor charity bingo operations that became legal in July.)
Best '07 Arkansas tourist destinations
If skateboarding without being roughed up by police was on your agenda, anywhere but Hot Springs.
If there was the remotest possibility that one of your undergarments might be briefly publicly glimpsed, which at least one alderman considered indecent exposure and pressed for legislation fining violators $200, anywhere but Pine Bluff.
If you were the type who'd rather not have your every move scrutinized by authorities manning a 24-7 surveillance camera atop a 200-foot transmission tower, anywhere but Lowell.
If your idea of a landmark worth visiting wasn't a giant hole in the ground dug at taxpayer expense with money filched from schoolchildren, anywhere but Fayetteville.
If you're not particularly thrilled by the idea of going on a mysterious pilgrimage with a really big bunch of poisonous reptiles, anywhere but Yellville.
If your papers maybe weren't exactly 1,000 percent in order, with every “i” crossed and every “t” dotted, or even if they were, anywhere but Rogers.
If you planned to take any pets, livestock, or other living creatures along with you, and preferred that they not be killed with a nail gun and skint on the spot, anywhere but Huntsville.
Worst interstate congestion
Hard to believe, but a highway study published in June showed Arkansas with a higher rate of urban interstate traffic congestion than New York, Illinois, Massachusetts or Georgia, all with major metropolises. Those who wait daily during rush hour to get on I-30 from the Wilbur Mills will not be surprised.
Tony Snow, the White House press secretary, responded in July to criticism by Bill Clinton of the Scooter Libby pardon by asking, “What's Arkansan for chutzpah?” Answer: “Cram it, schmuck.”
John Daly, the Dardanelle native, showed up at the St. Jude Classic golf tournament at Memphis in June with his face slashed all to hell. His ex-con wife had taken a steak knife to him, he said, while he was passed out following a big marital spat. The wife told authorities he slashed himself in an attempt to cover up his having drunkenly assaulted her. Pretty typical day at the doublewide, it sounds like. They made up and dropped charges a few days later.
Best place to pahk your cah
An Associated Press crime story in January listed an East Arkansas perp's residence as being in the Mississippi County community of Harvard Yard.
A Little Rock bicycle rider was cited in May for shouting “Turn on your lights!” as two police cruisers sped past him on Seventh Street near the state Capitol. One of the policemen stopped and wrote the cyclist a ticket for expressing “dislike” of how the police were doing their jobs. Dismissed, of course. Is there such a thing as a ticket that an officer can give himself for being a prick?
Benton County's only Democrat — not only its only Democratic office-holder, its only Democrat, period — announced in May that because he aspired to higher elective office he would be switching parties.
A critter, probably a squirrel, gnawed at a utility wire until it shorted out, causing a power outage that left a dozen riders on the X-Coaster at the Magic Springs amusement park at Hot Springs hanging upside down 150 feet off the ground for half an hour one day in June.
Best brainstorm from the nitwit
The biggest nitwit op-ed columnist at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (no small honor) suggested in July that the reason Toyota and other big manufacturers resist locating plants in the Arkansas Delta is because there are just too effing many mosquitoes. This same Einstein, perhaps still annoyed by mosquitoes in September, argued that Rachel Carson's epochal “Silent Spring” was “bad science” and that we ought to bring back DDT and douse the environment with vast quantities of it. He wasn't kidding, either. Doesn't know how.
Billionaire DOG publisher Walter Hussman, already the city's all-time squelcher of viewpoint diversity, launched a free weekly newspaper in May in an attempt to run the poor little ol' gadfly Arkansas Times out of business. The new rag seemed targeted at young people who don't have much going on upstairs. Pretty lame to start with. Got lamer.
Every single day of March was a keeper.
Police arrested a Camden motorist in May and charged him with DWI when he fell asleep at the wheel after placing a to-go order in the drive-through lane at McDonald's.
Bright red or purple, the Kool-Aid flavored pickle found its way into Arkansas convenience stores in the spring. Maybe the best weird-food debut since the Fry Daddy Twinkie at the State Fair.
Middleweight champ Jermain Taylor of Little Rock chased Cory Spinks all over the Pyramid at Memphis in May and got close enough to land two or three soft punches in 12 rounds — just enough to win a split decision. Taylor lost the middleweight title to another fighter in September, however.
Best candidate for okra burn
Alan Leveritt, publisher of the Arkansas Times, disclosed in a column in June that he likes to garden naked.
From the New York Review of Books, in June: “Corporations paid a third of all taxes in Arkansas as recently as the 1970s; by 2002, the figure was 2 percent.”
• In a study published in August, Arkansas was deemed the 8th fattest state, with 28 per cent of its people classified as obese.
• A federal health study announced in November ranked Arkansas as the third sickliest state.
• You have a better chance in Arkansas than in 44 other states of wrecking your car by hitting a deer with it in the coming year. One of every 110 Arkansas vehicles will hit a deer in 2008, according to a New York Times article published this month.
Sen. Hillary Clinton raised more money for her presidential campaign in a one-day visit to Arkansas in August than former Gov. Mike Huckabee had raised for his in nearly a year of campaigning nationwide.
Worst flea-ridden city
A national study for a pet-supply firm (Hartz Mountain) determined in May that Hot Springs was the “most flea-ridden city” in the country. Whatever the hell that means.
The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville announced in May that it will go totally smoke-free starting in July 2008. No smoking, chewing or dipping on university property indoors or out. Applies to all students, faculty, staff, visitors. Applies to vehicles. Applies to all athletic events. Applies to any event using university facilities. If they catch you smoking, it damn well better be marijuana.
A cold snap the first week of April destroyed the grape crop at the state's wineries and most of the peach crop statewide, most of the blueberry crop, and half the state's tomato crop, and cut short the flowering of much of the spring foliage, including dogwoods, azaleas, and the crimson clover that normally beautifies the state's highways in April.
A soft rain that lasted nearly all day on Sept. 5 closed the door on both a miserably hot summer and a two-month drought.
David Huckabee, son of the erstwhile governor, was arrested in April when Little Rock National Airport authorities found a loaded pistol in his luggage as he attempted to board a plane. He said he forgot it was in there.
Best legislative performance
The state legislature halved the sales tax on groceries (noticed the giant difference in your grocery bill?) but otherwise the biennial legislative session was notable for voting down bad bills, of which more than a million were submitted.
Worst gas prices
As usual, pump prices for gasoline soared in the spring — from below $2 a gallon at the winter solstice to around $2.75 a gallon by the vernal equinox. They zoomed past $3 in May, boldly going where no gas prices in this country had gone before. Biggest 24-hour jump was 34 cents a gallon on May 17 at the cluster of stations where we gas up — from $2.91 to $3.25 in one day! Note record oil-industry profits if you're looking for someone to blame.
Best news for sadists
In opposing a legislative measure in March to prevent the torture of household pets and horses, the outdoor editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette warned homeowners that if the bill passed they could be arrested if their pussycat hassled birds at a yard feeder. Such nonsense, fanned by the Farm Bureau, frightened legislators into voting to let the sicko torturers, abusers, and starvers of Arkansas animals proceed with their fun.
The state House of Representatives in February voted down a resolution to honor Thomas Paine, the Founding Father who was head cheerleader and chief support-rallier for the American Revolution. The rap on Paine among the local-yokel solons wasn't that he was one of them lyin' journalists; he was deemed rather to have been insufficiently sanctimonious.
Best op to eat some Dick lead
Vice President Dick Cheney made a whirlwind duck-hunting trip into Arkansas County earlier this month. In case you were wondering about that ricochet.
House Speaker Benny Petrus of Stuttgart muscled some pretty toothy ethics legislation through the state House of Representatives in March, but a group of state senators, led by the unctuous Bobby Glover of Carlisle, killed it, unable to bear the thought of giving up any of cushy benefits they derive from association with their good buds of the lobbying fraternity.
Best Wally ride
In one of his sports columns in March, Wally Hall wrote of a traffic accident involving a Jeep Jerokee.
Best Wally bet
In one of his sports columns in May, Wally announced his patriotic support for “the war being wagered in Iraq.”
A state appeals court in March upheld a lower court's ruling that an 85-year-old Hot Springs psychologist should pay about $1,000 a month in alimony to his estranged wife, a psychiatrist, age 52. The court said the man squandered the couple's marital assets (earned mostly by the wife), using the money to buy cars and expensive lingerie for young Chinese women and to give them large sums of cash, instead of using it to pay bills. Last straw was said to be a box with a snake inside that turned up on the wife's driveway, with a note inside saying, “Die, Bitch.” From guess who.
Jockey Calvin Borel, a fixture at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs for many years, won the Kentucky Derby with a characteristic rail-skimming ride aboard a horse named Street Sense at Churchill Downs in May. Borel, 40, whose career had seemed in decline in recent years, was so excited as he crossed the finish line that he appeared to want to jump off the horse and carry it on his back for a furlong or two.
Curlin, 3, a chestnut colt up from Florida, won the Arkansas Derby in April in astonishing fashion. He was favored in the Kentucky Derby, but had a troubled trip from an inside post and finished third, but came back in May to blow away the field at the Preakness in Maryland. Then in October he won thoroughbred racing's biggest race, the $5 million Breeders Cup Classic, at Monmouth Park, N.J., virtually assuring his selection as Horse of the Year.
The state Parks and Tourism Commission announced in June a promotional campaign to persuade British fishermen to come to Arkansas to fish for carp. It's a mystery why anyone would go anywhere to fish for carp — recall the old Arkansas joke about cooking carp on a board, throwing away the carp and eating the board — but if they've got tourist-type moolah to throw around, bring 'em on.
Best draft pick
Jamaal Anderson of Little Rock, a Razorback defensive end (6-5, 288), was the eighth overall pick in the first round of the National Football League draft in April. The Atlanta Falcons took him.
It was so hot in mid-August — the state's hottest-ever month — that the bullets in Dog Boy's confiscated sidearm reportedly melted. September was better, but it was still uncomfortably warm in mid-October. Our AC kicked on to fight hot, muggy weather on Dec. 2.
Worst constitutional monkeying
State Sen. Steve Faris of Malvern proposed legislation in March to make huntin' and fishin' in Arkansas constitutional rights. How about a bill to constitutionalize keepin' wimmin pregnant and barefoot?
A sheriff's deputy lunched at the International House of Pancakes at Benton in March, then went into the men's room and blew a hole in the ceiling with his service revolver, then exited to explain to customers and employees that the bang they'd heard wasn't a gunshot but rather the sound of a commode lid falling. Then he made a rather hasty departure. The Benton Courier ran a big picture of the hole.
Dr. Jay P. Greene of the University of Arkansas School of Education Reform at Fayetteville, pulling down $160,000 a year of pub ed money to advance a blowhard conservative political agenda, argued in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece in January that public school teachers, few of whom make half as much as he does, are paid too much.
Best way to say somebody died
A newspaper obituary in October began: "Neal Gaston, 56, of Cabot was called to fish with the Lord on Sunday... ."
Two big-bellied local guys in ball caps and pick-up trucks bought the first beer sold legally in Marion County in 60 years at the Exxon convenience store at Flippin in January.
Worst trunk surprise
Police found a missing car and returned it to its owner, a North Little Rock woman, in February, without bothering to check out the smell coming from the trunk, which the woman found to contain the body of her slain husband, who had also been reported missing.
The town of Tyronza in Poinsett County launched a beautification program in January in the hope of attracting some tourists.
Best wish list
A civic survey in January asked Green Forest residents what they'd like to see in the way of development in their home town. The local paper summarized their wish list: “A small-town atmosphere that is safe and friendly, good jobs, nice restaurants, big box stores like Wal-Mart or Target, and a major community center…” Otherwise they were pretty much satisfied with the place the way it is.
The town of Marion in northeast Arkansas was a finalist, but Toyota decided in February to build a big new automotive assembly plant in Tupelo, Miss.
In February, Frank Broyles, 82, was pressured into “early” retirement at year's end as University of Arkansas athletic director, but he'll draw his full salary approximately till Hell freezes over.
Worst nader one-two punch
One tornado following another by just a few minutes tore great swaths through the town of Dumas in late February, injuring a dozen people and causing millions in damage. Federal disaster relief was denied, big surprise, and FEMA's doofuses first refused to send over any of the $3 billion worth of Katrina trailers rusting away at the Hope airport to house dazed survivors of the storm but relented finally and sent a few.
Mark Martin, the celebrity NASCAR driver from Batesville, was screwed out of winning the Daytona 500 in February because of a weird on-track caution-flag ruling, and wound up taking second money (a cool mil) when he finished about six inches out of the lead.
Worst support of the troops
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette editorial page in January gave outgoing Gov. Mike Huckabee prime Sunday editorial-section space to smear reporters for the paper who had revealed details of Huckabee's costly trashing of state computers and other leaving-office malicious mischief.
Best corporate gesture
Murphy Oil of El Dorado in January committed $50 million to pay for college scholarships for every El Dorado High School graduate over the next 20 years who wants one. Henderson State University at Arkadelphia soon after announced it would match the scholarship grants dollar for dollar to pay for the students' room and board, and Southern Arkansas University at Magnolia and El Dorado made a similar proposal.
John White's “golden handcuffs.”
Best running back
C'mon, quit kidding around.
Best thing about the Easter freeze
Hardly any gumballs this year.
Torii Hunter of Pine Bluff: $90 million to play center field for five years for the Los Angeles Angels.
Worst bird hunt
Still not a peep (or a grawk, or whatever) from those ivorybills.
An Arkansas Children's Hospital report in December showed 500 major injuries over a decade to children driving or riding on all-terrain vehicles, including gruesome maimings, amputated limbs, lost eyes, and many other horrors, and this says nothing of the fatalities.
Worst worrier about losing the breeding war to blacks
Sen. Denny Altes.