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 been my custom to suggest worthwhile legislation to a new General Assembly, and it’s been the legislators’ custom to politely ignore all those suggestions.
They haven’t just ignored some of them or most of them. They’ve ignored all of them, every single one, over a span of 40 years. You’d think even the blindest hog would snout up one acorn over 40 years, but alas it has not been so. Even when I had close relatives in the legislature, or pretty much running the legislature, I couldn’t get to first base, legislatively speaking. I might as well have been an abortion or gun-control advocate.
I’m willing nonetheless to give it one more shot if the solons are. So here are my 2007 legislative proposals — a listing that, I’m sorry to say, might have to spread out over several of these columns, lest important details or flights of grandiloquent language be edited down or mutilated in the precis. So bear with me.
I have a plan for squandering the big budget surplus. It involves giving half of it, around $400 million, or about what they think they have coming, to the Huckabees — as a going-way present, or wedding gift, or good-riddance sacrifice, or campaign contribution, however they want to construe it. It’s worth at least that much to have them gone.
There’s an Ol’ Moi education package, a higher-ed package, a prison package, a relief package for Gus Wingfield’s nepots, and a sheaf of bills to replace the current costly and stupid public-school abstinence instruction programs with common-sense alternatives, such as going back to telling the little hunches that they’ll go blind. I’ve also got nominations for new elements of state regalia — bird and song and motto and seal and such.
I’ll get to all that in future columns — or maybe not … all right, probably not … OK, OK, when hell freezes over, etc. etc. — but I think our first order of business should be reshaping the state parks system. Call me crazy but that’s what I think.
We need some new parks. We need some new ones that are thought out along more modern lines. The parks we have now are based on enjoying nature and old-fashioned concepts like that. There’s just a surfeit of outdoorsiness in them. They’re bucolic run amuck.
Why couldn’t we have a new one inside one of the really big Wal-Mart Supercenters or Home Depots? There’s lots of stuff in one of those that’s more interesting than sitting around trying to trick some stupid fish into committing suicide by jumping on your hook. Anyone wanting to pitch a tent or roast weenies could go right ahead.
It’s just a total drag in my opinion to sit around waiting for deers or ducks or squirrels to show up so you can kill them or for birds to show up so you can watch them. So how about a park with a little excitement, like in that Perry County grove where the copperhead snakes gather like they’ve come to a camp meeting? Have a tourist take off his shoes and run through there like through a minefield, seeing how far he can get before getting fanged, then seeing if he can get to the hospital before he expires. The TV show “Jackass” would surely film a whole series there.
Or turn one of these big ugly cutovers into a state park, and instead of boring old hiking and outdated activities like that, tourists could dance around out there seeing if they could avoid stepping on sharp stobs. This is on the same model as the Crater of Diamonds State Park, only it’s the avoidance mode where that is the acquisition mode. I think it would be every bit as popular.
We could turn some of these big old empty mud flats and adjoining fallow crop fields into a state park where youngsters — and overgrown youngsters — could take their ATVs and tear up muddy terrain to their hearts’ content. This would save damage to the forests and wetlands and roadsides, and would promote public safety. It would also promote family values, always a legislative priority, by fostering family togetherness; that is, a kid who’ll balk at spending the weekend in a moldy old state park cabin in the woods will be much more agreeable to a family outing in which he gets to make a lot of racket and a big mess and that satisfies his craving for malicious mischief.
Instead of more parks with Indian mounds and scenic hillsides of windblown loess, how about one that features giant mounds of all this excess chicken doo? Such a park could have a drive-through tourist trail like Vicksburg. I can see Mount Rushmore-type chicken-doo visages carved into chickendoo bluffs and escarpments, and many other interesting features.
Building such a park would give our arts-and-crafts community a monumental challenge and a welcome change of pace from their same-old same-old of making wicker baskets and lye soap and whanging on banjos. The environmental benefit is obvious, and maybe bringing the construction material to a central location would mollify all those whiner Oklahomans who don’t recognize the smell of money.
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.
Well, when the Bull was first put up there, it meant one thing, and that…