Our annual "Best and Worst" issue stretches back deep into the years when the Arkansas Times existed as a monthly magazine, but the past two decades have provided brilliant examples of the bizarre, Arkansas-style. Bob Lancaster is responsible for most of what follows; David Koon is a later contributor.
Worst party food
Minced mosquito meat pie, mosquito-chip cookies, mosquito supreme pizza and mosquito gumbo were served up at the annual World Championship Mosquito Calling Contest at Crowley's Ridge State Park in Greene County. Each dish included one-fourth cup mosquitoes.
Maybe he should check out "how to win friends and influence people."
For a September feature article, Sports Illustrated asked a number of college football coaches about their summer reading — which books they'd read over the summer did they enjoy? Which influenced them most? Razorback football Coach [Danny] Ford's response: "I didn't read no books."
The Flying W Food Mart at Springhill north of Conway installed Tom Sziszak's Vend-A-Worm machine featuring cups of about 25 fishing worms for $1 in quarters. "I think I'm filling a niche that no one else has touched," Sziszak told the Conway Log Cabin Democrat. "That of the 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. worm."
Best court decisions
The state Supreme Court ruled 4 to 3 in November that a 6th grade student at Lead Hill should not have been suspended because he asked another student, within the hearing of a school administrator, "Did you fart?" The school official who overheard the remark and considered it an obscenity and suspended the boy was unrepentant after the high court's ruling against him. "If I had to do it all again, I wouldn't do it no differently," he said.
Worst c.p. argument
Two days before A triple execution, which he had the power to stop, Gov. Mike Huckabee told a call-in AETN TV audience that if Jesus had been opposed to capital punishment, His crucifixion gave Him the perfect opportunity to say so. Since He didn't use that opportunity to speak out on the issue, the governor implied, Jesus must've considered capital punishment OK.
Garlic can make chicken manure smell like 'pizzaria' — Batesville Guard
A circuit judge in Little Rock in January ordered a manicure for an inmate at the Pulaski County jail who had used his 2-inch fingernails to attack jailers and fellow prisoners. The inmate's lawyer argued that the man's slashing of authorities and bystanders was simply an exercise of his "freedom of expression."
Best marksman named Fred who's an iguana
A Bauxite man reported to authorities in June that he had been shot in the side with a handgun by his pet iguana, Fred.
Darthular Garner celebrated her 110th in July at Patterson in Woodruff County. Among the memories she shared with friends at her birthday party was finding out, in the 19th century, that there was no Santa Claus.
Caring Caskets of Fayetteville introduced a model called "The Razorback" in August for $2,550 wholesale, including shipping. It was advertised as "A heavy fiberglass construction casket in Razorback Red with exterior U of A seal and Razorback emblem on white velvet interior."
"The governor believes that all life is sacred. It is partially because of this belief that the governor supports enforcement of the death penalty." — Chris Pyle, family-life issues liaison to Gov. Huckabee, in a letter in May.
"I love Arkansas but I think Arkansas has its share of unlit minds." — Bette Greene, author of "Summer of My German Soldier," after the Clinton school superintendent and members of the Clinton School Board tried in September to have her book, and any other book with "vulgar" language including the word "damn," removed from reading lists in the Clinton schools.
Worst drug fighting
The federal Drug Enforcement Agency under Czar Asa Hutchinson, the erstwhile Arkansas congressman, launched a big new initiative last month to ban certain brands of a wide variety of supermarket foods because they contain minute traces of hempseed oil that might, if consumers ate several thousand tons of them at a single sitting, produce the beginnings of a marijuana-type high.
"If it wasn't for the grace of God, I'd have shot a few people already. Jesus wasn't liked either. And Jesus was mistreated and called names." — First Lady Janet Huckabee quoted in the New York Times.
The obituary of a Prairie Grove man who died in February had this description: "He was a Gideon, his enjoyment in life came from Jesus, his family, bulldozing, dominos and car racing."
The obituary of a Hensley man who died in January had this description: "For recreation, Mr. Brown made a large garden for himself and others. He gave away most of what he grew. Checkers was his game. He and Estella played checkers almost daily. He let her win sometimes."
The obituary of an El Dorado man in June had this description: "Ray's joie de vivre included a winning game of snooker, a good cigar, sailing, annual trips to the fiery food show and gourmet lunches ... . Ray was always quick with a joke and has left a legacy of how to enjoy life. His one dream that was left uncompleted was to be the mayor of Kitsbuhl, Austria."
Best getup for going parking with a bomb
Police at Van Buren found a man sleeping in his SUV parked beside a reservoir near Van Buren in September. He was wearing only panties and a bra, and on the seat beside him was a homemade bomb. He had no explanations.
Best new Billy Bob Thornton phobia
In past years, the Malvern-native actor has listed antique furniture and Benjamin Disraeli's hair among his phobias. In March, he remembered another one: being bit by komodo dragons and dying from the lethal bacteria that grows in their mouths, and then being eaten by them.
The cake at Breezy Osborne's lavish wedding in August was 9 feet tall, no problem serving all 600 guests, including those who came back for seconds. Guests included the Jimmy Carters and Mickey Mouse, 75, of Orlando.
The state legislature enacted a bill making it illegal for Arkansas residents to sell or give away their urine. State representatives made "pssss" sounds into their microphones as they whizzed it through to enactment in January.
Best dog euphemizing
A Hot Spring County police officer said in July that he had "euphemized" a dog that attacked him at a house in Malvern. Perhaps meaning he called it nice names before he shot it.
Best appreciation for the Beach Boys and the letter G
An obituary in the Jonesboro Sun in January had this description of the deceased: "Bobby Wayne was known to have never smoked or drank, and the most surprising little-known aspect of his life was his admiration of the music of the Beach Boys. ... The passions of his life could largely be summed up with the letter G: God, guns, goats, guineas, gas (propane), and gold."
Left us wondering what it was he did with the goats.
Best portrait of ordinary life in Texarkana
A naked man broke into a house in Texarkana in September and told the female residents that he was on a secret assignment to have sex with them. They called police. He stole a pair of shoes and fled in them, and police caught him in a nearby field a short time later, shod but otherwise stitchless, chasing a horse on which he said he was hoping to make his escape.
One of the denominational papers carried an article about Pastor Ronnie Floyd of Springdale and his unsuccessful campaign in June to head up the Southern Baptist Convention. The article told of Pastor Ronnie's gigantic church and of some of its wretched excesses, including a high-dollar children's baptistry made to resemble a toy firetruck. The article went on to say: "The unique baptistry, created by Disney designer Bruce Barry, is part of a $270,000 high-tech project for the church's children's worship area that includes video games, a light show, music videos and a bubble machine, according to Christianity Today. When a child is baptized in the firetruck-shaped baptistry, sirens blare and confetti is shot out of cannons."
The city of Cabot, original home of white flight, refused to go along with the rest of the country in celebrating Jan. 16 as a holiday commemorating Martin Luther King's birthday. "There's only a certain amount of holidays that Cabot observes," Mayor Stubby Stumbaugh said. Meaning, all the rest of them.
The obituary in January of a Mayflower man began not by saying that he had died but that he had "answered the dinner bell to the marriage supper of the Lamb." It went on to describe relatives who had died before him as "saving him a place at the table" and relatives who survived him as "aggravated at their brother for cutting in line" and "hoping they do not have to wait in any buffet line behind him."
Worst state fair fare
The Fort Smith blogger DBI noted in October the debut of a Facebook friends group called Arkansas Pastors for Concealed Carry.
Worst bro tase
Remember "Don't Tase Me, Bro!" — voted the most memorable quote of 2007? Well, in October, Conway police were called to a private club to quell a disturbance that involved an off-duty Vilonia policeman. The melee concluded with the Vilonia officer being tased by a Conway officer, his brother.
The obituary in January for Jim Cobb of Little Rock began by noting his death, and then it said: "Jim Cobb was a very private person. The only way this obituary could be published would be over his dead body."
Best legal precedent
In a December order in which he recused from a case involving the controversial construction of a new coal-fired power plant in South Arkansas, U.S. District Court Judge William Wilson Jr. formally cited the 1972 Arkansas-filmed movie "The Legend of Boggy Creek" after noting the case "appeared to be as hairy as the Fouke Monster."
In July, the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration announced the details of Arkansas's August sales tax holiday, providing a short list of examples of clothing items that would be exempt. Among the garments listed by the DFA: "beach capes and coats," bathing caps, girdles, overshoes, garters and garter belts, and "rubber pants." What? No bustles and pantaloons?
Best superhero origin story
When a defendant fled his courtroom on Dec. 5, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Barry Sims hopped off the bench in his robe and gave chase through the gallery, out the door and down the hallway. His Honor reportedly managed to deliver several applications of judicial discipline upside the guy's head with his gavel before bailiffs were able to subdue the suspect.