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OPINION: Laugh out loud

by Robert Box Columnist | June 22, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

With all of the legal and political maneuvering these days, some of our laws require a post graduate degree just to be able to read them; and then, most of the time we don't understand them. But our laws are an attempt to deal with some of the pressing issues of our time, so we need them. Regardless, sometimes it is best to just back off a bit and learn how to laugh. I recently discovered that my wife has a couple of books by Dick Hyman about some of the crazy laws in our country. Since the books are a little dated, I do not claim that their facts are correct or true, but they sure are worth laughing about.

Consider the following laws about dogs: In Boston, it is illegal to keep a dog more than 10 inches in height. In Paulding, Ohio, a police officer may bite a barking dog to quiet him. In Sheridan, Wyo., it is unlawful to permit any dog to stand closer than 10 feet to a fire hydrant within city limits. And in Wanamassa, N.J., law prohibits dogs from crying. In Denver, a law passed in 1936 says that the dog catcher must notify dogs of impounding by posting for three consecutive days a notice on a tree. Oh, Idaho state law prohibits persons from participating in a dog fight.

Yeah, I know these are far out, but they supposedly are on the law books and have never been repealed. Honestly, I wonder how they got there in the first place.

What about birds? Well, roosters are not allowed to crow within the city limits of Ontario, Calif., and pigeons are not permitted to fly over Bellevue, Ky. An old Truro, Mass., law says that a man can't get married until he has killed six blackbirds or three crows. By the way, it is unlawful to raise chickens in bottles in New Jersey.

I also laughed at the animal laws. For instance, in Washington, D.C., it is illegal to cut off the tail of any horse. In Lourdsburg, N.M., it is against the law for mules to visit a saloon, and in Little Rock people are prohibited from filing the teeth of mules. An Iowa state law forbids any person from keeping a horse in the rooms of an apartment building. In South Bend, Ind., in 1924 a monkey was convicted of smoking a cigarette and was sentenced to pay a $25 fine and court costs. And, in Illinois, an animal may be sent to jail. And donkeys are not allowed to sleep in bathtubs in Brooklyn, N.Y. And, if you think these are a little far out, consider that the courts in California just ruled that bumble bees are really fish.

In San Jose, California, it is illegal to sleep in your neighbor's outhouse without their permission, and a hobo must consult the president of a railroad company before he can take a nap in an empty boxcar without breaking the law in Wichita, Kan. Not to be outdone, it is illegal in Pittsburgh, Pa., to sleep in a refrigerator.

Be sure you are not disturbing the peace. A Barker, N.J., law makes it illegal to knock on doors or ring doorbells, and cats cannot howl after 9 p.m. in Columbus, Ga. Oh yes, a Dunn, N.C., law prohibits snoring that disturbs the neighbors, and in New Jersey, a person can be arrested for slurping soup. In Chillicothe, Mo., it is against the law to throw rice at weddings, and in Klamath Falls, Ore., it is against the law to kick the heads of snakes. It is illegal in Zion City, Ill., to make ugly faces at anyone.

In closing, here are a few loony laws. In Minneapolis, Minn., it is unlawful to tease or torment skunks. Sheep may graze on Baldwin Hill in Los Angeles just so long as they nibble more than two inches from the ground. In Alderson, W.Va., no lions are allowed to run wild on the streets, and in Knoxville, Tenn., it's against the law to lasso a fish. In Pine Island District, Minn., it is illegal for a man to pass a cow without tipping his hat.

Now, I don't know if these made you laugh or forget your worries for just a little while (and I don't know if they are still valid today), but learning how to laugh eases a lot of stress in our lives. Many authors have written about the power of laughter. This I do know for a fact: When I am out playing golf and having a miserable day, the only thing that allows me to get through the course is to back off a bit and laugh. Try it. It works.

• • •

Robert Box has been a law enforcement chaplain for 29 years. He is a master-level chaplain with the International Conference of Police Chaplains and is an endorsed chaplain with the American Baptist Churches USA. He also currently serves as a deputy sheriff chaplain for the Benton County Sheriff's Office. Opinions expressed in the article are the opinions of the author and not the agencies he serves.

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