Save the Whales’from the Cowboys

There was a story in the news recently about a mayor or something who was trying to get a law passed that would prohibit saggy pants. On the surface this sounds like a good, solid piece of legislation, way more important than, for example, health care reform. Unfortunately, Americans have rights, and one of those, outlined in our constitution in article 143, section 17, row 4, seat 8, is the right to be an idiot. Laws, of course, cannot force people to do things, nor can they keep people from doing things. If they could, there would be no crime since, for all practical purposes, crime has been illegal for years, unless you happen to be rich or a congressperson or a professional athlete. So no one can force you to walk around looking like an idiot, they just can’t keep you from it, constitutionally. But we have plenty of laws that prohibit specific behavior, such as the statute which does not allow you to drive without wearing a safety belt. This is a very good law, because once you start letting people drive however they want, the next thing you know they’re running with scissors and holding their noses shut when they sneeze. Before long it would be almost like freedom. Some of our laws, however, don’t make any sense. There are lots of laws that have been on the books for a long time, which once might have been necessary, but are pretty much just head- scratchers now. For instance, it’s against the law to have a goatee in Boston. Granted, this should be a federal ruling, punishable by death, since goatees look stupid. But because looking like an idiot is protected by the constitution, plenty of guys walk around with goatees. They even do that in Boston, despite the ban. The reprobates probably don’t keep the proper amount of air in their tires, either. Some stupid laws pertain specifically to the outdoors, such as the one against using a lasso to catch a fish in Tennessee. This is a rule that could not have ever made any sense. For one thing, using a lasso to catch fish is probably only slightly more difficult than tying a knot in an angry bobcat’s tail with mittens on. If anyone can actually rope a fish I’d pay a lot of money to watch him do it. How could there be enough fish ropers to make this law necessary’ Even if that were the case, I can’t imagine what could be wrong with it. It’s like passing a law against catching deer with a minnow net. Anyone who can do it should be allowed to do it. What would it hurt’ It’s not like the roper would be in danger from an irritated bass. Arkansas has a law against crawling into a cave and shooting a bear, but that one, assuming there are humans crazy enough to try it, seemingly has protection of the idiot as at least part of its aim. Very few anglers are done in by enraged trout. Fish are protected in some other strange ways, which may be the idea behind the law against whistling underwater in West Virginia and Vermont, assuming there are people who can whistle up fish like some whistle up quail. And that’s assuming there are people who can whistle underwater, and law enforcement personnel capable of catching them, which would not be easy. A couple of silly laws seem to be directed at Groucho Marx. It’s illegal to fish while wearing pajamas in Chicago, or plow a cotton field in North Carolina using an elephant (The elephant law was supposedly overturned recently after some serious wrangling. Look out, John Deere.) These laws may explain why Groucho never claimed to have caught a fish, or plowed with an elephant, in his pajamas. We are also not supposed to fish from a camel’s back in Idaho, box kangaroos in Oregon, shoot rabbits while motor boating in Kansas, allow a gorilla to sit in the backseat of a car in Massachusetts, take a lion to a movie in Maryland, or let a donkey sleep in a bathtub in Arizona. There goes the weekend. My favorite animal-related legislation concerns meese in Alaska, where it’s against the law to push a live moose out of a moving airplane, or give a moose alcoholic beverages for the purpose of getting it on the plane to begin with. Granted, it might be possible to get a moose to fly without getting it drunk first, but it’s beyond me how Alaska’s legislators expect anyone to induce the beast to voluntarily jump out of the plane if he’s cold sober. I mean, come on. Our lawmakers apparently take the constitution very seriously. Especially article 143, section 17, row 4, seat 8 . . . ‘ Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who has never chained an alligator to a fire hydrant in Louisiana. He’s never been caught at it, anyway. Write to him at P.O. Box 1600, Mason, Tex. 76856 or

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