Missouri desperately needs an official weed

Monday, June 23, 2003

KENNETT, Mo. -- I'm afraid that during the current bombs-away era of foreign invasions and drooping tax revenue that Missouri has become vulnerable to the lack of official designations by members of the Missouri Legislature. The record by elected public servants in the pursuit of official flora, fauna, highways, byways, exotic weed life and other marvels of Mother Nature has been limited by virtue of the time-consuming efforts in Jefferson City to keep the state's bill collectors at bay while officials come up with workable, profitable sources of revenue, thus depriving a time-honored practice of full realization within legislative chambers.

As anyone who has followed state politics realizes, the sponsorship of an official tree or official fish or official anything is a political privilege that must not be trampled upon if only for the sake of preserving political egos. No legislator worth his salt could withstand the arrows the ignominy of failing to preserve the virtues of Missouri and its multiple wonders of nature. By sponsoring such designations, the legislator involved feels that he has met the challenge of keeping Missouri secure from the anonymity that hangs over such grievous examples as Idaho, North Dakota and New Mexico.

In an effort to facilitate the resolution of this dilemma, I've listed several categories that have, as yet, remained undesignated and thus, only unofficially unacknowledged by our state assembly. For example, who in the hectic search for more state spending money has given any thought to, much less designation of, the flora known as Johnson grass? This natural wonder within the boundaries of Missouri has mobilized row crop farmers for years as they battled first its existence and then its proliferation within our borders. Some counties have even established a special tax for this weed that blights crops and robs farmers, yet no one has ever offered a resolution making it the Official Weed Menace of Missouri.

Although I presumed such a designation had already been made, who among our elected elite has chosen to preserve the money of the 300-pound pumpkin, grown regularly but rarely across our state? I can find no designation of the Gigantic Missouri Pumpkin in our state's annals, indicating that some presumable alert legislator has failed to make use of the exclusive prerogative so often invoked in the state's official chamber of superb lawmaking, otherwise known as the Missouri Legislature.

Geographical designations have likewise suffered in recent months and there has been an intolerable lack of officially designated paths, roads and highways within our state, with little or no input by those ordained to keep and preserve our proud state heritage. Nor, unfortunately, have our lawmakers maintained a close watch over the antiquity of past designations, such as the stretch of highway along the southern portion of St. Louis that is named for a record-breaking professional baseball player who received his prestigious title as the result of better batting through chemistry. As thousands of cars daily pass over this hallowed stretch of concrete, we pay tribute to a temporary hero of our state who lost favor not so much because he had taken task-enhancing drugs but because he chose to live out his life in another state, thus revealing his lack of true Show-Me patriotism. Thank heavens, Sammy Sosa plays for the Chicago Corkers rather than our beloved St. Louis Cardinals or Missourians would be traveling the Sammy Sosa Superhighway at this very moment.

While alarmed at the lack of political designations from the current crop of lawmakers, let me express wonder that the pursuit of new tax dollars and the treasury misfortunes in Jefferson City have not pointed to an obvious solution offered to state politicians. That neither Gov. Holden nor his sworn enemies in the legislative hierarchy has proposed that these two political programs be combined: charge a few hundred thousand for an official highway designation, even if it's only for a few hundred feet. The expense required to utilize this opportunity would be practically nothing, save for a few homemade signs that read "Official Barney Frebus Memorial Highway." Not only would Barney be pleased, Missouri could pay a little more for educating its children, caring for its elderly, and meet the desires of check-balancing politicians.

Jack Stapleton is the editor of Missouri News & Editorial Service.

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