Sunday, August 4, 2013

Famous People from the Land of Opportunity

Arkansas is known as the Land of Opportunity. Many people from Arkansas have taken advantage of that opportunity on their way to fame and fortune.

Entrepreneurs thrive in Arkansas.

Sam Walton was a native of Newport, Ark., who opened his first Wal-Mart store in Bentonville in 1962. When he died in 1992, he was the richest man in America with more than 1,600 stores in 32 states. Today, Wal-Mart has over 3,400 stores in America and another 1,000 internationally. It employs 1.2 million people, second only to the federal government, and had $244 billion in revenue last year.

Other successful entrepreneurs include Don Tyson, CEO of Tyson Foods, the largest poultry processor in the country, and J.B. Hunt, founder of the largest truck carrier in North America.

Arkansas has produced its share of musical artists. Johnny Cash was born in Kingsland in 1932, to a family of sharecroppers who later moved to Dyess. A legend in country music, he was elected to the Country Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. Others include Glen Campbell and Conway Twitty.

Many other famous people have been spawned in Arkansas. A partial list includes Gen. Douglas MacArthur (soldier), Alan Ladd (actor), John Grishman (novelist), Paul “Bear” Bryant (football coach), Dizzy Dean (baseball player), Mark Martin (racecar driver), Helen Gurley Brown (publisher) and Jennifer Flowers (concubine).

By the way, the forty-second President of the United States was from Arkansas. He spent eight years either feeling your pain or giving you a pain, depending on your level of gullibility. He now resides elsewhere with his wife Hillary, where he is currently writing his memoirs. Some pains never seem to go away.

There’s also a long list of people from Arkansas who remain unknown to the general public, but their contributions to humanity have forever changed the course of human events.

Harley Farley – In 1947, Farley had indoor plumbing installed in his house in Viola. He tore the old outhouse down and used the lumber to enclose his back porch, including his washing machine. Thus the first utility room in Arkansas came into existence, a trend that appears to have caught on nationally.

Abner Skittles – On July 24, 2001, Skittles caught a largemouth bass on Bulls Shoals Lake that weighed 38 pounds and 11 ounces, a new world record. Unfortunately, Skittles wasn’t too bright. The largemouth bass turned out to be a Goodyear tire. However, due to a clerical error, it’s still listed as the world record.

Lloyd Floyd – Born in Toad Suck in 1807, Floyd was the inspiration for the invention of the spittoon. He always had a mouthful of chaw and paid no attention to his surroundings whenever he needed to relieve himself of some of it. The receptacle made little difference though; Floyd tended to drool and was a bad shot anyway.

Betty Sue Ledbetter – Having made over 220 predictions, Ledbetter is the world’s most accurate negative psychic. Nothing she foresees has ever come true. She once predicted that America would have a six-month drought. Two days later, it rained so hard her mobile home in Horseshoe Bend became a houseboat.

Waylon Smucker – As a young musician from Calico Rock, Smucker formed a band in 1957 that had an annoying beat and would shout words instead of singing them. They called their style “rap music” because they were often told to “rap it up and get out of here.” Forty years later, rap music became popular once again.

Billy Clodhopper – Raised on a hill near Gepp, Billy had a cousin named Billy who lived down in a hollow. To keep from being confused, a common occurrence among the Clodhopper clan, they call them “Hillbilly” and “Hollowbilly.” Hillbilly eventually became part of the English language to describe a backwoods dunderhead.

Gus “Bubba” Ballas – As a breeder of exotic animals on his farm near Moko, Ballas crossbred a possum with a raccoon. He called it a poon. It looked like a sewer rat wearing a mask. Today, he’s the largest breeder of poons in the world. He also crossed a possum with a skunk, called a punk, but it smelled like a French armpit.

Quote for the Day -- "In my hometown of Hope, Arkansas, the three sacred heroes were Jesus, Elvis and FDR, not necessarily in that order." Mike Huckabee (former Governor of Arkansas)

Bret Burquest is the author of 9 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where life in the Land of Opportunity is bountiful.

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