Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism
It's that time once again, fellow Arkansanites, for the Arkansas Times' Best and Worst edition, our annual roundup of the year's dumbest, weirdest, oddest, strangest and all-around Arkansasiest. Up for your consideration this year: suicidal Sookie fans, why Boston hates Nate Bell, the black gold eruption in Mayflower pays off for some enterprising paintballers, a state treasurer gets her hand caught in the pie box, a dog bites more than the hand that fed him, Radio Shack pissery in Paragould, a volunteer pimp, a visit from Gangsta Claus in Magnolia, and a strong candidate for the most inopportune cellphone butt dial in the history of the technology. It's all here, friends. Read it and weep before striding boldly into 2014.
In early January, a federal appeals court tribunal in St. Louis dismissed a complaint filed by a Faulkner County Jail inmate who'd said that officials' refusal to give him more than one roll of toilet paper per week was a violation of his civil rights.
Deputies were dispatched to a rural home in the hamlet of Roland in January after a woman reportedly called 911 and cursed at dispatchers several times. When cops arrived, police said the woman looked out the window at them and then — as officers watched through the glass — went to the phone and called 911 again to curse at dispatchers for sending the police. She was charged with communicating a false alarm.
A video clip from a 2011 Tea Party rally in which state Sen. Jason Rapert railed against minority groups and President Obama went viral nationwide in February, with tens of thousands of Americans taking to Facebook and Twitter to excoriate Rapert for — among other things — his vow to "take this country back for the Lord" and saying that he "won't allow minorities to run roughshod over what you people believe in."
Alex Collins, a top-ranked running back from South Plantation, Fla., had his plans to sign with the Razorbacks put in jeopardy in February when his mother reportedly came to his high school, refused to sign his letter of intent to play for UA before it could be faxed, and went on the lam. Mom apparently wanted her baby to attend school closer to home. Collins got his dad's signature and went on to rush for more than 1,000 yards in his freshman season with the Hogs.
One of the brazen robbers who cleaned out the registers and forced employees and customers into a freezer at gunpoint during a robbery of a Little Rock Wendy's restaurant in early February was wearing a "Hello Kitty" sweatshirt.
In February, a Little Rock woman who was angry at her boyfriend for breaking up with her told officers who'd come to remove her from the apartment they'd shared that her former beau sold drugs. As proof, she reportedly directed them to her own purse, which police say contained 28 grams of marijuana and a scale. She was charged with maintaining a drug premises and possession with intent to deliver.
Worst love conquers all
Buried in media coverage of the February murder trial of a hit man who was convicted of shooting a Little Rock woman and killing her boyfriend in January 2012 was the news that Pulaski County prosecutors had to drop charges against the man they said they believe hired the killer because the female victim has since married him and refused to cooperate with investigators.
In February, a Texarkana man was charged with aggravated assault for allegedly beating his girlfriend's 2-year-old son with a belt, with the man telling detectives he hit the toddler because the boy wouldn't call him "daddy."
Second worst daddy
In July, a Bismarck man was arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a minor after police say he left his 5-year-old son in a car in the parking lot of Hot Springs' Oaklawn Gaming and Racing and went inside to gamble. Three hours later, just before 2 a.m., patrons saw the boy wandering around the parking lot, and alerted police.
A Jonesboro woman was placed under arrest in March after, police said, she drunkenly crashed her Pontiac into a mobile home, removed her pants, then attempted to flee the scene on a child's battery-operated "Power Wheels" car.
In late February, after signing a bill into law that exempts the list of concealed weapon permit holders from the state's Freedom of Information Act, Lt. Gov. Mark Darr — acting as governor while Mike Beebe was out of state — issued a statement in which he gave the full name of a permit holder from Carlisle who'd visited his office to personally thank him for keeping her information private, with Darr writing: "Her story is an example of why I felt the urgent need to sign this bill into law."
In March, Jarvis "J.T." Terry, a 19-year-old Little Rock man, was arrested on criminal mischief and theft by receiving charges related to an attempted ATM machine heist. Police began investigating Terry as a suspect in several robberies after, investigators said, a cell-phone that had been stolen during a mugging began automatically uploading self-shot, high-resolution photos of a shirtless Terry to the owner's online cloud storage service, leading the owner to alert the police.
Worst gun nut
During the hunt for the Boston Marathon bombers in April, Republican state Rep. Nate Bell stirred up a hornet's nest after he posted on Twitter: "I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a hi-capacity magazine?" After the quip was widely reported online, it brought down an avalanche of derision, ridicule and calls for Bell's resignation from all over the nation and the world. Sadly for Arkansas, Bell didn't heed those calls.
2nd worst gun nut
The Benton County Republican newsletter published a letter from Chris Nogy in April in which he railed against Arkansas Republicans who supported Medicaid expansion before writing: "The 2nd amendment means nothing unless those in power believe you would have no problem simply walking up and shooting them if they got too far out of line and stopped responding as representatives."
Worst black gold
A rupture in a 20-inch ExxonMobil pipeline that funnels sticky Canadian crude to Gulf Coast refineries sent a river of black sludge coursing through a neighborhood in Mayflower in late March, spoiling yards and streets, filling a sensitive wetland area with crude and raising a stink so noxious that one resident likened it to burning trash mixed with gasoline. Clean up of the mess is ongoing, and likely will be for years.
Best bought and paid for
The week after the pipeline rupture — a week in which journalists resorted to filming the blackened neighborhood from private planes and helicopters after being mostly barred from entering the area by local law enforcement and ExxonMobil officials — the Federal Aviation Administration imposed a five-mile no-fly zone around the spill, citing "hazards." The no-fly zone was later lifted.
After a Eureka Springs woman called police several times in April to report that an unknown vandal was dumping water into her car, cops responded and found that her sunroof was stuck open, with the most recent water-dumping incident corresponding with a thunderstorm.
When Arkansas got the okay on a new approach to Medicaid expansion – using Medicaid dollars to buy private health insurance for low-income Arkansans – many Republicans who planned to vote NO flipped to YES. The new policy (with a new name: "private option") passed the legislature with a supermajority and will give coverage to more than 200,000 people in the state.
Best stuck in her thumb and pulled out a plum
In the criminal complaint against Arkansas State Treasurer Martha Shoffner released in May, the FBI alleged that her preferred method for receiving $6,000 kickbacks from a broker to whom she'd been funneling much of the state's bond business was to have the broker deliver the cash secreted in an apple pie box. Shoffner later resigned and was indicted on bribery charges.
A cold snap on May 3 saw temperatures fall into the lower 30s in some parts of the state, and light snow in Northwest Arkansas — the latest-recorded snowfall in the state since records started being kept.
Best ass out of "u" and "me"
Some students at a White County high school weren't allowed to receive diplomas in May after it was revealed they hadn't completed the coursework in a concurrent enrollment program they'd been attending at a nearby college. Seems that when their high school courses ended for seniors on April 18, many of them assumed that meant they could also stop going to their university classes, which still had almost a month of classroom discussions and exams to go.
The Wall Street Journal reported in May that after Arkansas-born vampire novelist Charlaine Harris announced she would end her Sookie Stackhouse series with a 13th book, some fans sent death threats to Harris, along with one reader threatening to kill herself if Sookie didn't end up with the reader's favorite male character.
Second worst priorities
In May, two years after the tiny Mineral Springs-Saratoga School District installed a state-of-the-art artificial turf football field at a reported cost of more than $700,000, the district was taken over by the state due to budget shortfalls. At the time of the state takeover, the district website showed that the school — which has around 500 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, making it the smallest district in the state to field a football team — employed a head football coach/athletic director and seven assistant football coaches.
First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge won the race to Asshatville in June, when it became the first religious organization in the state to revoke the charter of the Boy Scout troop there because of the decision by the Boy Scouts of America to begin accepting openly gay scouts.
Best name for a barricader
Rainbow Kilo Rasphoumy barricaded himself in a van in the parking lot of a Walmart in Springdale after cops say he pulled a gun on officers in June. The gun turned out to be a toy.
After Rasphoumy surrendered, cops reportedly found three parakeets, three chickens and two ducks inside his van.
For a June story on efforts to pass a law in Pine Bluff to stamp out the fad of sagging pants that allow others to see the fashion victim's underpants, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette headliners hitched up their britches and wrote: "Saggy Pants, Seeing France Targeted."
An alleged murder-for-hire plot came to light in Northwest Arkansas in June, with cops saying a woman there tried to hire another woman to kill her husband, suggesting that she slip LSD into his drink at a Fayetteville bowling alley and then convince him to kill himself. If you're going to try to convince someone to kill himself, a bowling alley in Fayetteville would probably be a damn fine place to try.
In March, a homeowner in an exclusive subdivision in Lonoke County baffled neighbors when he installed a pair of bright-red toilets at the top of two 20-foot poles on his property, along with a sign that said "Trailer Park Coming Soon," as part of what was reportedly a protest over a property line dispute with the developer. Police said that because the sign and mile-high crappers were on the man's property, he didn't have to remove them until he was good and ready.
Two days after the verdict in July in the Trayvon Martin shooting case, a fatal police shooting involving a fleeing suspect near 12th and Jefferson in Little Rock coalesced into an angry protest that looked on the verge of boiling into a riot. Of the hundreds of citizens who turned out to scream at a wall of Little Rock Police officers in the heat, however, only two were arrested.
Worst biting the hand that feeds you
In late July, a Trumann man who is paralyzed and has no feeling from the waist down awoke one morning to find that a stray dog he'd taken in a few weeks earlier had eaten one of his testicles.
Worst insult added to injury
After discovering what the pooch had done, the man in the above item was reportedly treated at St. Bernards Medical Center in Jonesboro.
In July, thanks to quick action by Arkansas Children's Hospital doctors and perhaps an experimental drug provided by the Centers for Disease Control, 12-year-old Kali Hardig became one of only a handful of people in known medical history to survive an infection by the parasite Naegleria fowleri, a rare, brain-devouring amoeba that Kali apparently contracted after getting water up her nose while swimming.
Worst social networking
In August, a Craighead County 18-year-old posted a prank photo on Facebook that depicted him pointing a pistol at the head of a bound and gagged 13-year-old girl. Turns out the prankster's social network included an Oklahoma sheriff's deputy, who alerted cops in Arkansas, leading to charges of communicating a false alarm and endangering the welfare of a minor.
Best teaching the teacher
After a substitute teacher at Little Rock's Baker Elementary went off on a rant against gays and lesbians in front of a fifth-grade class in August, students in the class challenged her contention that gays have "the devil" inside them, and later reported the incident to parents and school administrators. The substitute was subsequently banned from working for the Pulaski County Special School District.
Best Saturday night/worst Sunday morning
On Aug. 3, a man and woman who had spent several hours stuffing their faces at a Little Rock chicken wing restaurant allegedly dashed on a check before speeding away with an employee of the restaurant — who had been trying to stop them — clinging to the hood of their car. The employee received minor injuries when he was thrown off some distance away. The couple was subsequently arrested.
Best return on investment
www.underthedome.com — the domain name former Sen. Steve Harrelson bought in 2007 for $100 for his political blog — sold for $7,800 in January to a firm that told Harrelson they planned to start a new blog covering New York politics. Turns out the buyer was a front for CBS, who instead used the site to promote the new Stephen King miniseries "Under the Dome," which debuted in June.
In August, an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette story about state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson's interest in helping school districts arm their employees as a defense against school shootings revealed that after being invited to participate in a training exercise that simulated an armed response to an "active shooter" on a school campus, Hutchinson inadvertently shot his instructor with a handgun loaded with rubber bullets. While the accidental shooting of his teacher gave him some pause, Hutchinson told the paper, he still supports allowing schools to arm their employees if they wish.
Worst idiot-on-idiot showdown
In August, Little Rock police said, a confrontation was sparked after a man coming out of a Taco Bell shouted "black power!" and a man in the parking lot yelled back "white power!" A fight ensued in which police said the white power advocate was severely beaten by at least two assailants, requiring hospitalization.
Best proof that pimpin' ain't easy
Fayetteville police were surprised in September when a 33-year-old man contacted them through a bait ad they'd placed on a social networking site advertising escorts and allegedly offered his services as a pimp. Police set up a meeting to talk logistics, and the man was arrested on a charge of third degree promotion of prostitution.
Worst cannon-related injury
In September, a marketing intern at the University of Arkansas had to be carried from the field during the Razorbacks' season opener against the University of Louisiana-Lafayette after the T-shirt-firing cannon he was using exploded.
After several days of crawling through ceilings, crapping in the stairwell, stealing snacks, and uprooting potted plants in the Little River County Courthouse in Ashdown in September, a large possum that courthouse workers had nicknamed "Juror No. 13" was finally brought to justice after a jail administrator cornered and captured the beast near a judge's chambers. The animal was later released outside of town.
Worst criminal mastermind
A 21-year-old man being taken into custody after an August court appearance in Jonesboro racked up a few more charges when deputies collecting his personal effects before taking him to jail reportedly discovered that he had brought a stash of methamphetamines and a set of digital scales to court with him.
Worst repeat customer
The Pulaski County Sheriff's Office announced in August that David Allen Crow, 32, had confessed to burglarizing Fred's Store in Little Rock on Aug. 25, with a police spokesman adding that it was the fifth time Crow has been charged with burglarizing the same store.
Best way to ruin Casual Friday
In August, the Little Rock School District announced plans for a dress code that will require all teachers to wear undergarments. Also prohibited for teachers: clothing that promotes alcohol, drugs or gangs, or which features sexual themes or language.
Worst blaze of glory
Monroe Isadore, age 107, was killed during a September shootout with the Pine Bluff SWAT team after a lengthy standoff.
A naked man was arrested in Little Rock in September after his friends reported he was demon-possessed. When police arrived, he informed them that he was, in fact, an "Angel of God," with the Emissary of the Almighty reportedly yelling "Y'all are wasting God's time!" before he could be cuffed and stuffed.
Best missing the point
After the Sheridan School District scheduled a Sept. 11 talk by an Islamic speaker who planned to tell kids about tolerance and how all Muslims aren't terrorists, parental outcry was so great that the talk had to be canceled.
In September, the Pea Ridge Public School District — in an apparently violation of federal law — banned three siblings from attending classes until they could prove to the school through testing that they didn't have HIV.
Eleven students were cited for breaking into Trumann High School and trashing the place in October after an employee at a Walmart only a few miles from the school called police to report that the teens, dressed all in black, had come into the store as a group and bought "multiple items which could be used for mischief," including toilet paper, silly string and plastic wrap. After the school was vandalized, police simply looked at the store surveillance tape and collared the not-so-stealthy crew.
Best almost justifiable
In October, police said, a Centerton man ordered three Jehovah's Witnesses off his property and then fired at least 19 handgun rounds at them for good measure as they drove away. He was booked and faces multiple charges.
A former valet at Little Rock's Capital Hotel filed suit in October against a Canadian businessman, alleging that during the businessman's October 2010 stay at the hotel, the man injured the valet during a "drunken escapade" in which, an exhibit continued in the lawsuit alleges, the neighbor from the north also licked both the shoe and bare foot of a female guest, invited three men he'd met at a liquor store to meet with him in a hotel bathroom, wrestled with a companion in a hallway, and depantsed himself in the swanky hotel's lobby and bar.
During an October incident in which a mentally-unstable driver was shot by police after trying to ram the gates of the White House, Arkansas Congressman Tim Griffin tweeted: "Stop the violent rhetoric President Obama, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. #disgusting." Griffin's tweet soon went viral, with folks piling on to berate Griffin for trying to link the incident to politics. Griffin later apologized, saying he'd "tweeted out of emotion."
In October, two men waiting in a pickup in the parking lot of the Faulkner County Jail before heading inside to begin weekend sentences were arrested after deputies reportedly found them drunk, one so inebriated that he had urinated in his pants. Both were cited for public intoxication before being escorted a few short steps to the jail.
A woman sued a police officer from the Saline County town of Haskell in October, saying in her lawsuit that the officer had chased her through her workplace with his department-issued Taser because she wouldn't show him her breasts.
Even though veteran Mount St. Mary Academy English teacher Tippi McCullough had previously been warned that officials at the Catholic girl's school planned to fire her if she went through with marrying her long-time partner, Barbara Mariani, in New Mexico in October, McCullough went ahead with the ceremony anyway, choosing the woman she'd been with for 14 years over her job.
Worst grasp of the word "morality"
Less than an hour after Mariani and McCullough were legally wed, McCullough's boss called to say McCullough was being fired for violating her contract's "morality clause."
Just before Halloween, a Conway paintball playground hosted a "zombie hunt," promoting the event on their website by saying: "Recently there have been news reports of an environmental exposure due to an underground pipe leak in Mayflower, Arkansas. ... The truth is the media has not been honest with you. Those that have come into contact with the bio-hazardous material have been reported experiencing neurological dysfunctions, genetic mutations, and changes in physical appearance. This can only mean one thing: ZOMBIES!"
Best chicken fight
Two managers of a KFC chicken restaurant in North Little Rock were arrested in November after police responded to a call about an altercation and found the two women fist fighting in the store.
Best John Wayne impersonation
In November, doctors at a Little Rock hospital found that a woman had, unbeknownst to her, been shot in the leg, with an X-ray revealing a bullet lodged in her calf. The woman told police that the night before, she'd been taking out the trash and heard a gunshot, but thought nothing of it. Only when she woke up the next morning to find blood in her bed, she told them, did she realize something was wrong.
Worst eau de toilette
A Lepanto woman was charged in November with trying to steal a bottle of Ed Hardy perfume from a Jonesboro Walmart by, police said, concealing the bottle in her buttocks. Following the woman's arrest, police asked the manager of the store if he wanted the perfume returned and he — to his credit — told them to just throw it away.
Best butt dial
In November, police in Jonesboro arrested a car dealer in what investigators say was a murder-for-hire plot that came to light after the suspect accidentally called the target, an ex-employee, on his cellphone while allegedly discussing details of the crime with a hit man. After secretly listening in while his former boss gave out his address and expressed a desire that the crime should look like an accident, the would-be victim told investigators, he went to police.
Best response to "Black Friday"
During the "Black Friday" shopping weekend after Thanksgiving, a 64-year-old man was arrested at a Paragould Radio Shack after whipping it out and peeing on the carpet, a television set, a microphone mixer and other merchandise.
When police asked the Radio Shack pisser why he didn't just use the store's restroom, the man reportedly told them: "Stores usually won't let you, so I didn't ask."
Worst pit stop
In December, the fire chief of Grassy Knob Volunteer Fire Department in Northwest Arkansas was taking the department's 10-wheel, 3,000-gallon Mack tanker truck in for repairs when he pulled over to use the restroom near Beaver Lake and the truck rolled away, falling into a 600-foot ravine. After tumbling all the way to the bottom, the $40,000 truck was a total loss.
Worst St. Nick
In December, an uproar boiled over like scalded eggnog after the Magnolia High School drama class performed a skit called "Gangsta Claus," which reportedly featured Old St. Nick trading in his sleigh for a Cadillac Escalade and being gunned down by gang members in an inner-city convenience store.
The return of a group of Arkansas National Guard soldiers to North Little Rock's Camp Robinson in mid-December marked the first time in more than 10 years that every member of the Arkansas National Guard was undeployed and in the United States.
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