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Best and worst 2017 

All the news that was fit to print, and some that probably wasn't.

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Christmas has finally rolled around, which means it's time once again for the Arkansas Times' Best and Worst issue, our annual salute to all the weird, wacky, wonderful things in Arkansas that managed to briefly make it on the public radar in the past year. It's been a hard 12 months, especially for folks dismayed to live under the addled, increasingly erratic gaze of President Twittler, but we're muddling through as best we can, knowing that every second of the ticking clock is another whole second closer to the day all of us can turn to another old codger in the nursing home and say the magical words: "Remember when Donald Trump was president? Did I dream that, or did that bullshit really happen?" So keep on keeping on, citizen, and keep on reading below for the skinny on two-faced snakes of the nonpolitical variety, a bye-bye for Razorback football Coach Bret Bielema (and just when we'd finally started spelling his name right on the first try!), pissed off women on the march, tragedy somehow averted during the shootout at the OK Ultra Lounge and Corral, and goatly heroism of the first order. It's all here, friends. Read it and weep, and may 2018 be kind to you and yours.

Worst beef

In March, former Gov. Mike Huckabee was unmercifully mocked for his cornball attempt to start a Twitter beef with rapper Snoop Dogg over a music video in which Snoop "shoots" a fake gun at a clown that resembled Donald Trump, with Huckabee calling Snoop "Poop Dogg" and showing his street cred by making a reference to the 16-year-old Baha Men novelty hit "Who Let the Dogs Out?"

Worst old timey

According to a story in The Saline Courier in May, a funeral home in Benton is offering a $3,895 coffin made of rough, salvaged barn wood, complete with knots and unfilled nail holes, with interior options in camouflage, lace and duck cloth.

Best march

On Jan. 21, the day after the inauguration of President Pussygrabber, thousands of Arkansas women and their allies, like millions of women nationwide and around the globe, took to the streets for a massive, raucous anti-Trump protest march on the state Capitol.

Worst trunk

In February, a Johnsville (Bradley County) man was arrested after he brought his father's dead body to the Warren Police Department in the trunk of his car and allegedly confessed to his murder.

Best proof

In March, a student at the University of Central Arkansas pulled over by Conway police who suspected him of driving while intoxicated proved his sobriety beyond a shadow of a doubt by retrieving three juggling pins from his car and juggling them for the officers, including flipping pins behind his back and under his legs. An officer's dashcam video of the stop soon went viral online.

Worst 'research'

In June, Philip P. Frederic, 56, a former school bus driver from Jacksonville, who was convicted of conspiracy to commit rape for arranging a sexual rendezvous with a police officer he thought was an underage girl, wrote a letter to the judge in his case asking for a new trial and saying that his attempt to meet the girl was actually research for his college thesis, for which he wanted to "engage certain online subject in an immersive conversation regarding their sexuality."

Worst difference

On Oct. 10, it was simultaneously 49 degrees in Garfield (Benton County) and 93 degrees in the Bradford (White County).

Best ol' yeller

It was a hell of a mess in early October, when according to the Eureka Springs Independent, the Arkansas Department of Transportation painted new stripes down the main drag of the town with water soluble paint on a rainy day. The newspaper reported that the oozing hue temporarily dyed Leatherwood Creek a brilliant yellow, with the paint being splashed onto cars and tracked into stores.

Worst day for everyone not driving a yellow Corvette

Some of the cars splattered by the sticky yellow mess were several of the 400-plus classic Chevrolet Corvettes in Eureka Springs for a car show.

Worst ransom

In December, the Carroll County Sheriff's Office announced it had paid $2,400 in bitcoin to hackers to get them to release the "ransomware" that encrypted the department's computer system, making all files — including files related to ongoing cases — unreadable.

Best unemployment

Hunter Hatcher, an outreach coordinator for State Treasurer Dennis Milligan, resigned in January after it was revealed he had made several boorish posts on social media, including an inauguration day Facebook post in which he said that because of Trump, "gay jokes are back on ya bunch of homos," a post during the Jan. 21 Women's March in Little Rock in which Hatcher wondered, "if all these women are at the Capitol, who's making lunch?" and a Jan. 1 post in which Hatcher said: "Equality? Don't get equal, get to cooking woman! Get equal on your own time."

Best canceled

In January, the Arkansas Inaugural Gala, the state's contribution to the slate of Washington, D.C., balls surrounding the inauguration of Donald Trump, had to be canceled after organizers admitted they hadn't sold a single ticket.

Best lonely

In March, Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R-Little Rock) filed a one-sentence bill that proposed to "preserve the right to be left alone." The bill was still pending when the legislature adjourned.

Second worst judge

In April, the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission issued a letter of admonishment to Circuit Judge William "Bill" Pearson, whose jurisdiction includes Pope, Johnson and Franklin counties, after he pleaded guilty to two charges related to a January incident in which he blew through a DWI checkpoint near Clarksville while driving drunk, then led police on a short chase before a state trooper rammed Pearson's truck to end the pursuit.

Worst judge

In October, former state District Judge Joseph O. Boeckmann of Wynne plead guilty to federal counts of witness tampering and wire fraud related to allegations that Boeckmann had used his position on the bench for years to take lewd photos of young men who came before him, some of the most desperate of whom, according to investigators, he recruited as paid sexual and sadomasochistic partners.

Best freedom!

In April, the "Chocolate Covered Cherry Freedom Act of 2017," sponsored by Rep. Jana Della Rosa (R-Rogers), was signed into law.

Worst insult to hardworking grit tanks

A petition was filed in February on change.org asking that the mayor of Conway rename the city's "grit tank" — a round tank that gathers and agitates raw sewage prior to its being treated — after Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway). The petition has over 2,500 signatures as of this writing.

Worst anniversary present

After celebrating its 40th anniversary in June, Riverfest announced that it was closing shop. The state's largest and longest-running festival lost almost $300,000 in its final year. Organizers blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers' fees for the move.

Worst hearse

In August, Little Rock police and several other agencies engaged in a high-speed chase with the driver of a Hummer SUV that had a full-sized casket strapped to the roof. When he finally pulled over near the town of White Hall, the 39-year-old driver was arrested on several charges, including fleeing and reckless driving. The casket, thankfully, was empty.

Worst sweeper

In June, a Rogers woman and her infant son were injured when a wayward street sweeper careened off the road and crashed through the wall of their house.

Worst serious

Following a March presentation to the Little Rock Rotary Club, Arkansas Department of Correction Director Wendy Kelley closed by asking if any of the audience members would like to volunteer to witness one of the eight executions the state had scheduled for April. "Temporarily, there was a little laugh from the audience because they thought she might be kidding," acting chapter president Bill Booker told a local news station. "It quickly became obvious that she was not kidding."

Worst ordinance

In May, a new ordinance put under consideration by the Little Rock City Board proposed making it illegal to feed free meals to more than 25 people in a city park without a permit, with groups barred from serving such meals more than two times a year at any park.

Worst 'therapy'

Documents uncovered in January related to the state's General Improvement Fund, a taxpayer-funded, $50 million slop for legislators, revealed that between 2013 and 2015, $41,698 had been paid to a Saline County company run by a former insurance agent that provided "ozone therapy," a quack medicine technique that's about as effective at preventing and treating disease as regular ol' breathing.

Worst soda scam

The legislature passed a bill, pushed by Governor Hutchinson and signed into law in February, that creates a tax exemption for military retirement pay. The bill offsets the cost of the tax break by hiking up the tax on candy and soft drinks. But completely unrelated, it also reduced the tax on soft drink syrup and paid for that by raising taxes on unemployment benefits and digital downloads.

Best perk

When local blogger Russ Racop asked a Little Rock Police Department spokesman why LRPD Chief Kenton Buckner wasn't issued a ticket after a March 2 incident in which Buckner rear-ended a car at Markham and Spring streets, Racop was given a copy of a memorandum authored by Little Rock City Manager Bruce Moore that stated it was LRPD policy that police officers were never issued tickets after traffic accidents in city-owned vehicles, even if they were at fault.

Worst perk pattern

Moore's memorandum noted that the Cops Don't Get Tickets After Accidents policy was also true for the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office, the North Little Rock Police Department and the Arkansas State Police.

Worst 'fair trials'

A report by Harvard Law School's Fair Punishment Project about Arkansas's plan to execute eight death row inmates over an 11-day period in April noted that the inmates scheduled to be executed included a man with an estimated I.Q. of 70, another who regularly reports seeing his dead father and ghostly dogs walking around inside the prison, an inmate who was represented at trial by an attorney who was allegedly drunk and another whose defense during his original trial — including attorney's fees, travel costs for witnesses, lodging and food — cost a grand total of $6,641.95.

Worst faith in the memories of inky wretches

The Arkansas Department of Correction initially announced that during the executions in April that reporters serving as media witnesses to the executions would not be able to bring pens and notebooks into the execution viewing room, with ADC spokesman Solomon Graves telling the assembled media, "I trust your ability to be able to clearly and concisely report what you would have witnessed" — which called into question just how, exactly, Graves thought reporters, most lacking a photographic memory, could manage to do all that clear and concise reporting. After an outcry, which included accusations that the ADC was trying to keep a lid on accurate reporting should an execution be botched, the decision was reversed.

Worst quick

Though officials with the Arkansas Department of Correction said that the rush to execute eight men in April — the state eventually managed to kill only four — was due to the fact that the state's supply of the execution drug Midazolam was set to expire and might be impossible to replace, 97 days after the last of the four executions, a new Midazolam supply was acquired and the state was ready to resume killing prisoners.

Worst milk

Two police officers in Crossett were fired for a March 13 incident in which investigators say they were caught on surveillance video climbing through the window of an elementary school in the middle of the night, each stealing a carton of milk from the cafeteria.

Best neigh

In April, Ryan McDonald, 38, of Fouke, pleaded guilty to 18 felonies and assorted misdemeanors, thus sparing himself a trial in which prosecutors said their key pieces of evidence would have been cell phone videos of McDonald fornicating with a miniature horse. He was sentenced to six years in prison.

Worst chief

In June, a judge found that Jacksonville Police Chief Jeff Herweg was ineligible to hold the position he'd been hired for in March after it was revealed Herweg had a conviction on his record stemming from a Christmas 2000 incident in which investigators said Herweg, then a sergeant with the Tyler, Texas, police department, crashed his car into a house, left the scene of the accident and later reported his car stolen, with an incident report in the case alleging he told fellow officers he'd been drinking at the time of the accident.

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Worst dodge

Perhaps worried that activists might want to harangue him about his support for repealing the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Rep. Steve Womack scheduled his "Coffee With the Congressman" event Aug. 21 in a location that was accessible mostly by Peel Ferry, the last operating ferry in the state, across Bull Shoals Lake. The only road to the island was through Branson, Mo., a drive of over 85 miles one way.




Best goat

Officials in Poinsett County hailed a baby goat named Speedy as a hero in March after the pet repeatedly jumped on the legs and chest of his sleeping, 10-year-old owner, Abigail Bruce, rousing the girl enough to realize that her family's home was on fire and quickly filling with smoke. Thanks to Speedy's efforts, Abigail and her family got out safely.

Best timing

Speedy had only joined the family two days earlier, when he had been given to Abigail as an early birthday present.

Worst Cotton

Arkansas U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton proposed legislation that would cut in half the number of immigrants and refugees legally allowed to enter the U.S. each year.

Best good riddance

The flamboyant Arkansas cult leader Tony Alamo, who was convicted in 2009 of taking underage girls as young as 9 across state lines for sex, died May 4 in federal prison.

Second best good riddance

In September, two racist billboards — including a yellow sign that said, "Diversity is a code word for white genocide" — that had long been a blight on the main drag of Harrison were removed after the owner of the property where the billboards stood discovered the permits for the signs had expired.

Worst 'recycling'

In May, the Southwest Times-Record of Fort Smith published an expose revealing that for months, the bins of recyclable materials sorted and put to the curb every week by Fort Smith residents had secretly been taken to the local dump along with the rest of the trash.

Worst pet

In late March, a man shopping at the Jacksonville Walmart was taken to the hospital for treatment after the defanged pet copperhead he'd brought along in his pocket bit him with its remaining teeth.

Best not sticking to the script

At a ceremony celebrating the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School, dubiously dubbed by city leaders as "Reflections of Progress," Little Rock Nine member Minnijean Brown Trickey delivered a speech in which she said, "We're not stupid. We know what's going on in this town," alluding to ongoing school divisions in Little Rock, including the state takeover of the Little Rock School District.

Best billboard

In May, the group ARrevolution.org paid to put up a billboard near the home of Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Sewage Tank) that encouraged Rapert to resign.

Best 'You're out of your element, Jason'

In his 20-minute Facebook video in which he griped about the billboard, Rapert held up his cell phone camera several times to show the names of people associated with ARrevolution, including a person who called himself "Walter Sobchak," which also happens to be the name of John Goodman's character in "The Big Lebowski."

Worst commuters

A Freedom of Information Act request by the Arkansas Times in May revealed that 179 officers with the Little Rock Police Department take their taxpayer-funded cars home after work, with the longest daily commute being to and from the Garland County town of Fountain Lake, a 97-mile round trip from Little Rock.

Best library

A Bull Shoals man who purchased the contents of an abandoned storage locker in Little Rock in July was shocked to find that the locker contained thousands of books read by Damien Echols — one of the West Memphis Three — during his 18 years on Death Row, including at least two personal journals Echols kept during his incarceration. The locker and contents were apparently abandoned at some point after Echols' August 2011 release.

Worst chocolate

A driver who was robbed in May of his shoes, wallet and car after pulling over to relieve himself, told police he was on his way to a Little Rock hotel where he planned to meet a woman he met online who he knew only as "Slim Chocolate."

Best skills

Told her spouse would survive, a woman arrested for allegedly stabbing her husband told Pulaski County sheriff's deputies that she "needed to work on her knife skills."

Second worst stash

Because a suspect arrested in the June robbery of a Jonesboro tobacco store was mumbling, police officers ordered her to open her mouth, where they found what investigators say was the take from the till: 14 $20 bills, one $5 and four $1s.

Absolute worst stash (and best reason to wash your hands after handling money)

Following the September arrest of a female driver who had been reported swerving, a jailer in Bentonville who was searching the woman allegedly found three syringes, a folded $20 bill and a Dilaudid pill, all inside the woman's vagina.

Best surveillance

In June, The Jonesboro Sun published a story on efforts by officials at the Craighead County Courthouse to combat a recurring problem they've had there for years: courthouse guests peeing in the elevator, even though every floor has public restrooms 25 feet from the elevator doors. By the time the story was published, cameras installed the previous fall had already caught three different men taking a clandestine whiz.

Best cry me a river

In June, Josh Duggar, the former professional morality scold whose own alleged moral transgressions cost his family its lucrative reality TV series when In Touch magazine revealed that he'd molested his sisters when he was a teenager, withdrew an attempt to join a federal breach of privacy suit brought by his sisters against the magazine, the city of Springdale, Washington County and officials who released information about an investigation into the allegations against him, with Duggar's intervention motion saying the reporting had caused him "severe emotional distress," "embarrassment" and "humiliation."

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Best Driver

At its inaugural event in August, the Arkansas Cinema Society featured an appearance by actor Adam Driver, who plays baddie Kylo Ren in the latest installments of the "Star Wars" franchise.

Worst determined

In June at Park Plaza Mall in Little Rock, police say, a woman allegedly tried to steal a portable stripper pole and bit a worker who tried to stop her. She was arrested.

Worst 'engineering'

A man who marched in August with the Tiki-torch-carrying mob of white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., drew special attention because of a widely circulated photograph showing him wearing a red T-shirt that said "Arkansas Engineering,"

Best reason to find someone who fought in World War II and ask him 'what these guys are about'

Tracked down by Arkansas Times reporter Jacob Rosenberg, the man in the "Arkansas Engineering" shirt said that even though he'd already lost his job over the photo and doesn't consider himself a white supremacist, he may participate in future white supremacist demonstrations because, he said, "How else am I going to figure out what these guys are about?"

Second worst dodge

In July, the state Judicial Discipline and Disability Commission filed formal disciplinary charges against Saline County Circuit Judge Bobby McCallister, with investigators saying McCallister had not paid income taxes for "most years" since 1995. McCallister resigned his position in December as part of a settlement with the JDDC.

Best dose of reality

In June, Arkansas transgender activist Rae Nelson told Yahoo News about a March incident at the state Capitol in which she and far-right Sen. Linda Collins-Smith (R-Pocahontas) met in a ladies' restroom, where Nelson told Collins-Smith — who was then in the process of trying to push a "bathroom bill" through the legislature that would have forced transgender people to use the public restroom that corresponds to their birth gender — "I am a black trans woman and we are in the bathroom together and you survived."

Worst brazen

In November, a spokesman for the Pulaski County Sheriff's office said deputies had discovered that someone had stolen a 14-inch TV from the lobby of the Pulaski County Regional Detention Center.

Second worst brazen

In June, an employee of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock reported she was robbed at gunpoint near a cafe inside the sprawling hospital.

Worst brazen (dishonorable mention)

A 77-year-old woman serving as an usher during a July funeral at Jonesboro's First United Methodist Church reported to police that following the service, she found that one of the attendees had stolen her wallet out of her purse.

Worst take the money and run

In September, it was revealed that two recruits who went through the Little Rock Police Department's training academy in February had received the department's $5,000, no-strings-attached "signing bonus" upon graduation, then promptly quit the LRPD.

Worst what goes up ...

On June 27, Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway) was on hand to crow about the installation of a 10-foot clearly unconstitutional granite monument inscribed with the Catholic and Lutheran version of the Ten Commandments on the lawn of the state Capitol ...

Best ... must come down

... which was smashed to pieces fewer than 24 hours after it was installed when Michael Reed, 32, a man with a history of mental illness who was broadcasting live on Facebook, drove his Dodge Dart into the monument, shouting "FREEDOM!" Rapert and the group that paid for the monument are getting close to replacing it with enhanced security measures. Then it's on to federal court to see if a promised lawsuit by the ACLU will — legally this time — take down the monument for good.

Worst fomenting

At a post-monument-destruction news conference, Rapert — who once took to social media to brag that a constituent wasn't "smart" to bother him while the legislator was "#armed&ready" — railed against the ACLU, the Freethinkers and critics of the monument in the media for "fomenting violence."

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Best 'hold my beer and watch this'

Three men were arrested in May after, investigators say, they drunkenly broke into the Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center in Little Rock's River Market district and stole a live, 3-foot alligator. Police soon recovered the alligator, unharmed, from under the seat of a truck.

Best miracle

The fact that no one was killed during an early-morning July 1 shootout during a hip-hop show at Little Rock's Power Ultra Lounge, which saw plentiful bullets flying around the dark and crowded club as rival shooters swapped close-range lead. Twenty-eight people were shot or otherwise injured as they tried to flee. Two people have since been arrested.

Worst bard barring

In July, in an apparent reaction to the near-massacre at Power Ultra Lounge, Pulaski County Justice of the Peace Judy Green proposed a 180-day moratorium on any entertainment that might "promote or incite violence." The Quorum Court quickly shot down the proposal, which Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter noted could prevent theaters from staging Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" because of the play's depictions of bloody gang warfare.

Worst 'Deliverance'

In July, a couple canoeing the Mulberry River north of Ozark reported to police that a bearded stranger they'd been chatting with at the Redding Recreation Area struck the male canoeist on the head, put a machete to the woman's throat and attempted to drag her to a truck. The woman's companion managed to wrestle away the heavy blade, but only after the man severely slashed his arm. The suspect fled. The assailant, later identified by police as Michael Leon Warrington, 49, of Chipley, Fla., was later arrested and booked on charges of battery.

Worst notification

A new state law that was scheduled to go into effect July 30 included provisions that would have made it illegal for a woman in Arkansas to have an abortion without first informing the man who impregnated her so they could discuss how the fetal tissue should be disposed, with no exceptions for women who became pregnant through rape or incest.

Best ACLU to the rescue

After a lawsuit was filed by the ACLU, a federal judge blocked enforcement of the rapist notification law two days before it was scheduled to take effect.

Worst hobby

In July, police arrested a couple in Jonesboro and charged them with several crimes related to, investigators say, the couple making graphic sex videos in public places — including a Home Depot store, a Cheddar's restaurant and an Arkansas nature center — which they would then upload to the internet.

Worst drive-through

In July, a driver pulling in to meet friends for lunch at the Little Rock outlet of the Cracker Barrel restaurant chain reportedly passed out at the wheel and drove her Honda CRV through a wall and into the restaurant.

Best gift from the gods

In July, an 18-wheeler overturned on Interstate 40 in Lonoke County and spilled thousands of gallons of bourbon.

Worst what could possibly go wrong

In July, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service office in Southwest Arkansas announced it is seeking to stop the spread of the red fire ant, a stinging invasive species from South America that has infested large portions of the state, by releasing swarms of two species of the phorid fly, a predator that lays its eggs in the ant's body, which eventually causes the ant's head to fall off.

Worst sign of the pending apocalypse

In September, a workman near Forrest City found and captured alive a venomous timber rattlesnake with two fully functional heads. It was delivered to a local nature center.

Worst prudes

Rep. Mary Bentley (R-Perryville) took to Facebook in March to remind Arkansas Tech University that state legislators "hold the purse strings" of the college's budget after a "Sex on the Lawn" event at which students — all of them legal adults — were invited to talk about sex, relationships and sexual health. Rep. Trevor Drown (R-Russellville) later proposed an amendment to the college's general appropriation bill that would have defunded Tech's Department of Diversity and Inclusion, which sponsored the event, but the amendment was withdrawn after lobbying by the university's administration.

Worst 'hero'

In August, Arkansas-based retail giant Walmart apologized for a photo that went viral online that showed a case full of shotguns and rifles, topped with a sign that read: "Own the School Like a Hero."

Worst tragedy

In a clear case of one-upmanship following the previous month's wreck of a semi hauling thousands of gallons of bourbon, an 18-wheeler that crashed in Little Rock on Interstate 30 in August blanketed the freeway from edge to edge with thousands of frozen pizzas.

Best clown

Gary Weir, a beloved figure who famously portrayed Bozo the Clown on television in Central Arkansas for over 25 years, passed away in October at the age of 75.

Worst eclipse

Students in the Little Rock School District didn't get to directly view the partial solar eclipse seen in Little Rock Aug. 21 after the district announced that a recall had been issued on thousands of eclipse glasses handed out to LRSD teachers.

Best jailbreak

In September, police were summoned to the North Little Rock Animal Shelter, where they found that someone had cut a fence and smashed through a wall to bust out a pit bull that a judge had recently ordered euthanized because of a city ordinance banning the breed.

Best slow ride

In September, police pulled over and arrested a 22-year-old man as he was exiting onto Little Rock's busy University Avenue from Interstate 630 while at the wheel of a golf cart.

Worst disappointment

Citing numerous fire code violations, Little Rock building inspectors forced the closure of Midtown Bar and Grill on Asher Avenue in August. Sadly, that also meant the club had to cancel the planned "2017 Booty Bowl," which appears to have been a competition to award prizes for the shapeliest posterior.

Best arrest

Jacob Scott Goodwin, a 22-year-old man from Ward (Lonoke County), was arrested in October after, investigators say, he was identified as one of five men who participated in the Aug. 12 beating of DeAndre Harris, an African-American anti-Nazi protestor who was surrounded, punched and kicked during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., with the assault caught on video.

Best lifesaver

At an August press conference, Governor Hutchinson announced that pharmacists across Arkansas may now dispense Naloxone, a drug that can save lives by reversing an opioid overdose in seconds, without a prescription to anyone who knows an opioid addict they believe may be at risk of overdose.

Best bad news

Officials announced that Arkansas's state average ACT score fell by almost a full point, from 20.2 for last year's high school seniors to 19.4 for this year, but added that it was largely due to 25 percent more students — including many low-income students who previously couldn't afford it — taking the test because the state started picking up the cost for all juniors to take the test.

Best don't know what you got 'til it's gone

Data recently released in September by the U.S. Census Bureau showed the number of uninsured residents in the state dropped by 50 percent between 2013 and 2016, with the number of uninsured children in the state dropping to 4 percent — a record low. With Republicans in Congress busily chipping away at the foundations of the Affordable Care Act, those numbers are bound to rise.

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Best ballsy

In October, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen held a press conference in which he announced he was filing suit against the Arkansas Supreme Court over the court's decision to remove him from all death penalty cases following a Good Friday protest at the Governor's Mansion in which Griffen lay tied to a cot while protestors held anti-death penalty signs nearby.

Best park

On Sept. 24, the city of Perryville (Perry County) held the grand opening of The Perryville Goat Park, which, much like a more conventional dog park, allows goat owners a space to let their kids romp and play.

Worst sniper

In September, a 14-year-old girl playing soccer with her father and brother in Little Rock's Allsopp Park was shot in the leg with an arrow. The identity of the person who shot her remains a mystery.

Worst 'patriotic'

A firefighter in the tiny community of Earle was relieved of duty "indefinitely" in October after, his superiors say, he made a Facebook post in which he said any pro athletes who kneel in protest during the National Anthem should be shot in the head.

Best bedbug bucks

In October, the Los Angeles Times reported that an Arkansas family won a judgment of $546,000 in their lawsuit over bedbug bites they received while staying at a Hilton Hotel in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., in 2013.

Worst bug bust-up

Also in October, Little Rock City Director Doris Wright miraculously escaped serious injury after she rolled her VW Beetle convertible near 15th and Battery streets. The crash occurred when a man ran at her car and attempted to jump into the passenger's seat, causing her to lose control.

Worst role model

In October, police arrested and charged with 11 felonies, including gun and drug charges, a 41-year-old Little Rock man who worked for Better Community and Family Values, a nonprofit that seeks to help young people find positive alternatives to selling drugs.

Best hitched

The fortunes of Mountain Pine High School's football team took a decided upswing in August after a star player, who had been ruled ineligible by the Arkansas Activities Association because he was a transfer student, was able to hit the gridiron after all when he married a 17-year-old Mountain Pine student. That made him immediately eligible under an old and obscure AAA rule. With the newlywed reportedly rushing for over 100 yards every game, the team went on to make the playoffs.

Worst repeat offender

Police said a Hot Spring County man arrested in November for attacking a woman with a chainsaw was, at the time of the attack, out on parole after serving time in prison for attacking another woman with a chainsaw.

Best story to tell to a senior prom date someday

In November, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published a report about an Arkansas couple and their soon-to-be-born daughter, who the couple planned to name Olivia after their favorite restaurant, The Olive Garden.

Best testing

In March, state Rep. John Walker (D-Little Rock) filed a bill that would have required every member of the Arkansas Legislature to take and pass the civics portion of the U.S. citizenship test before being allowed to vote on bills. The measure died in committee.

Best about time

The University of Arkansas fired head football coach Bret Bielema immediately after a 48-45 loss at home to Missouri. Bielema finished 1-7 in the SEC and 4-8 for the season. His overall record at Arkansas was 29-34.

Worst explanation for making love to a donkey

After a man in Siloam Springs was caught putting a bag over the head of a couple's pet donkey and "placing his pelvis against the rear of the animal," he told the police that marijuana makes him do "sick things."

Best use of Arkansas love for leverage

Using speculation that he might return to his native Arkansas to coach the Razorbacks for a whopping $50 million, Gus Malzahn signed a paltry $49 million, 7-year deal to stay as coach of Auburn, where he already has a great program and won't have to do any rebuilding. A source told Sports Illustrated before the Auburn deal, "Arkansas is dead serious. ... They want [Malzahn] in the worst way."

Best rebound

The University of Arkansas hired Chad Morris, former head coach of SMU, for $3.5 million a year. He is credited for helping Coach Dabo Swinney turn around Clemson, installing a high-octane offensive that program still runs today.

Best legacy

Columbus Lincoln Abrams Jr. died in Little Rock in October with 38 years of sobriety under his belt, years during which Abrams started numerous 12-step groups, served as the sobriety sponsor for dozens, and amassed a huge database of phone numbers for recovering alcoholics, who he personally called each year on their "sobriety birthday." According to an obituary published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette at the time of his death, Abrams made over 15,000 such calls per year — over half a million since he got sober in 1979 — to help encourage others to stay away from the bottle.

Best persistent

In Abrams' obituary, Don Adams, who worked with Abrams at Dassault Falcon Jet and credited Abrams with saving his life from alcoholism, said of his former sobriety sponsor, "He called people who had slipped and told them that he cared about them. So many people came back to the meetings because of Columbus. He called one woman for about eight years before she finally came back to the program. He just doesn't give up on you."


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