A venture to this state park is on the must-do list for many, the park being the only spot in North America where you can dig for diamonds and other gemstones and keep your finds.
OK, it's time for a report card.
Around the first of the year, I saw the president awarding himself a B+ for his first-year job performance, but in this space you don't get to grade your own work. I do the grading. You take the report card home and get it signed and bring it back. And don't try signing it yourself, or getting one of your pals with good penmanship to do it. I've got one of those foolproof junior G-man forgery-spotting kits.
This spring gets an A-minus. It would've got the full A except for the heavy pollen crop and a bad batch of early strawberries.
Polish airplanes and Chinese paint both get Fs.
Zenyatta gets an A+. Gliding along effortlessly in the Apple Blossom last week, she looked like a dream horse. Maybe she is. A Pegasus for our time. I first left off the plus because she hardly had to exert herself, but I put it back on because the exacta paid $18. A surprise gift.
Toyota gets an F+. I don't know why the plus. Maybe because, as Curly Howard used to say, they're at least partly victims of coicumstance. In another time, the entire disgraced management team would've simultaneously fallen on their swords. Real swords.
John Pelphrey gets a C-minus. With this box checked in the Teacher Comments section: “Needs improvement.” Yeah. Soon.
Charles Portis gets an A for “True Grit.” The remake promises to be much better than the make. The trick will be getting the narrator's “voice” right. I've always thought the narrator's voice in the novel is that of the author's mother, Alice Portis, a really swell “feature writer” of the type that gave small-town middle-America hebdomadal journalism much of its character a couple of generations ago. On this report card, Alice Portis gets an A too, and sorry it has to be a posthumous one.
Betsey Wright gets a D in prison-yard art. You don't do felon haggery any favors by getting caught smuggling in tattoo needles. A hacksaw blade in a cake is always good for a C, but tattoo needles? There's too much in that of what the old rasslers used to call going down for gum wrappers. And weird, and weird not in a good way. In sort of a gnarly way.
The Confederate veterans' descendants' organizations get a C in history. (Let them think it stands for Confederates.) The grade would've been lower but at least they generally know which century the Civil War was fought in, and who wore the butternut and who wore the blue, and that puts them ahead of most of the class.
Sam Cooke flunks across the board. A shame because he could've got a D-minus in math just for knowing what a slide rule is fuh. He did know that 1 + 1 = 2, and that indeed probably jumps him up past, say, either of Alabama's U.S. senators, or Oklahoma's, but Jeez, Sam, Trigger knew more math than that.
Huckabee gets a D in biology. He doesn't believe in evolution. Is from the school that has us starting out in Eden 6,000 years ago already free, white, and 21. I prayed about what grade to give him, and it was either God's voice or Charles Darwin's that got back to me with instructions to give him a D. Charitable.
General Larry Platt gets an A for “Lookin' Like a Fool With Your Pants on the Ground.” There are some of us who can get the job done with our pants up around our armpits.
Ludacris gets a D in spelling.
Maple baseball bats get an F, although they've proved coincidentally effective at staking vampires hidden among box-seat spectators along the foul lines.
The 21st century so far gets a D-minus. And darker clouds gather.
Big Fronie and Little Fronie get an A for popping up out of long obscurity into a recent dream that remembered their little main-drag cafe where soup was a dime and beef stew 15 cents and nobody could afford anything else on the menu if in fact there even was a menu.
George Will gets a LOL in climatology.
Pine Bluff gets a B just for hanging on.
Rick Lee gets a D in statistics. It's bad enough losing your own genuine legal tender betting on stupid horse races, but how about spending the entire Oaklawn spring meet slowly bleeding away 1,000 pretend dollars that your employer pretended to advance to you so you could show your skill at picking winners by “betting” on them? You're bound to end up looking foolish whether you “win” “money,” “lose” “money,” or “break even.” I guess there've been dopier sports-page promotions. Then again I don't understand fantasy baseball, either.
The Pope gets a D-minus in sheep-tending. At best, his first interest, when the wolves got in, wasn't the welfare of the lambs. Consider this part of the “smear campaign” against him if you must.
Jim Bailey gets an A in language arts.
Francis McBeth gets an A in band.
And lots of familiar names don't get a grade, because even a failing grade would dignify behavior that should remain beneath common decency's notice. I reckon you know most of the ones I mean.
Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.