Arkansas has obsessed on national rankings — and not just in football — since Gov. Charles Brough traveled the country making his "Wonders of Arkansas" chautauqua speech nearly 100 years ago.
His list of Arkansas wonders, compiled by the rah-rah Arkansas Advancement Assn., had Arkansas at No. 3 among the states in the production of cow peanuts, and No. 1 at turning out #2-grade knotty yellow pine planks.
This was supposed to make us all proud. It was supposed to cure us of the enduring trauma from the hillbilly jokes, the barefoot jokes, and the old slanders in "On a Slow Train Through Arkansaw."
The Arkansas attention to national rankings in high-falutin categories — No 2 in punching out garment buttons from fresh-water mussel shells! — continued right up to the election of Bill Clinton as president in 1992. Once you get a president from your state, unless it turns out to be a Harding, a Carter, or a George W. Bush, your boosteristic worries are over. So we haven't been the Inferiority Complex State for a good while now.
But just out of nostalgia I've been going through some of the most recent of the national-rankings lists and thought I'd pass along a few up-to-date wondrous Arkie accomplishments.
Arkansas ranks No. 24 in young people who don't have any sense.
Arkansas ranks No. 21 in toilet paper in public bathrooms that's unusable for one disgusting reason or another.
Arkansas ranks No. 4 in the incidence of dog-peter gnats. (It isn't known where we rank in deadly tsetse flies masquerading as harmless dog-peter gnats, so be careful.)
Arkansas ranks No. 12 in counterfeit archeological artifacts sold to collectors as the real McCoy.
Arkansas ranks No. 1 in needle-nose gar suicides from depression over their lower front teeth having been ruined by addiction to meth.
Arkansas ranks No. 3 in crappie and bream fishermen who bang around on their boats sufficiently to run off fish that might've otherwise been inclined to bite.
Arkansas ranks No. 49 in wags.
Arkansas ranks No. 10 in kooks.
Arkansas ranks No. 32 in inhabitants so fat they're obliged to eat out of troughs.
Arkansas ranks No. 15 in getting all dressed up like a lightning-rod salesman.
Arkansas ranks first in bonehead ex-governors who turn hardened criminals loose to commit even more heinous felonies. (Mississippi is closing the gap here, however.)
Arkansas ranks No. 9 in the purpleness of the adjectives used by its tourism officials to describe the state's natural beauty to zombie potential retirees who spent 35 years or more driving ugly haz-mat trucks across drab Midwestern landscapes.
Arkansas ranks 14th in beauty-pageant contestants who are barely old enough to walk.
Arkansas ranks No. 3 in trailer parks with occupants who were once propositioned by a future president of the United States.
Arkansas ranks No. 1 in state legislators who own and operate public-funded schools that teach the three R's and a blatantly unconstitutional semi-retarded version of Christianity.
Arkansas ranks No. 10 in production of red, cellophane-skinned, mushy, tasteless tomatoes whose only virtue is a long shelf-life.
Arkansas ranks No. 6 in rock-crystal therapy.
Arkansas ranks No. 4 in sock-monkeys made at home by grandma.
Arkansas ranks No. 9 in shade-tree mechanics.
Arkansas ranks No. 1 in giant concrete mountaintop Jesuses who have the physiognomy and bearing of 20th Century German field marshals.
Arkansas ranks No. 16 in per-capita fracking.
Arkansas ranks No. 5 in shooting the rapids. With shotguns.
Arkansas ranks No. 2 in rodeo-themed weddings — everybody on horseback and after troths are plighted the preacher says, "You may now bulldog the bride."
Arkansas has a congressional delegation that is ranked fourth dumbest overall. (Georgia, Texas, and Oklahoma trail, though that seems impossible.)
Arkansas is only No. 20 in old bald-headed sanctimonious white men who think it ought to be their business what comes out of all the state's human vaginas and when.
Arkansas is only No. 40 in bedbugs but is an impressive No. 4 in redbugs, or chiggers.
Arkansas is No. 1 in having five towns named Smackover, Standard-Umpstead, Barling, Oil Trough, and Judsonia.
Arkansas ranks No. 12 in those who think you can cure the catarrh with moonstones.
Arkansas ranks No. 12 in letters-to-the-editor writers who think they're being clever when they conclude their missives with "'Nuff said."
Arkansas ranks No. 6 in funerals with altar calls.
Arkansas ranks No. 9 in the number of children per average household, and vaults ahead to No. 3 if you count Duggars.
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.
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