At one time or another, most Americans have heard of archaic laws that are on the books in given states (sometimes after dozens of decades) despite not making any sense.
Here is a list of such laws that are actually official (although perhaps not strictly enforced) along with their unofficial counterparts (added by your local fish wrap correspondent). As usual, there’s no particular order involved.
Official: Fishing for whales is illegal.
Unofficial: Harpooning politicians is illegal.
Official: Shooting a rabbit from a motorboat is illegal.
Unofficial: Shooting a motorboat while hunting rabbits is illegal.
Official: Keeping and ice cream cone in your back pocket on a Sunday is illegal.
Unofficial: With a permit, keeping an ice cream cone in your back pocket is legal Monday through Saturday.
Official: Serving customers a milkshake with non-dairy milk without warning them is illegal.
Unofficial: Warning customers you’re going to serve them a milkshake with non-dairy milk in it, then telling them they’re actually going to get a milkshake with real milk in it, and then serving them a root beer float is illegal – unless it’s made with non-dairy ice cream.
Official: Wrestling with bears is not allowed.
Unofficial: Trying to stop a wrestling match between a person and a bear is also illegal. •Connecticut
Official: A pickle isn’t a pickle unless it bounces.
Unofficial: A basketball isn’t a basketball unless it’s pickled.
- West Virginia
Official: Taking road kill home for dinner is illegal.
Unofficial: Taking road kill to your neighbor’s house for dinner is OK.
Official: A man cannot buy drinks for more than three people at one time.
Unofficial: A woman cannot accept drinks from more than five men at a time.
- South Dakota
Official: Sleeping in cheese factories is not allowed.
Unofficial: Sleeping with gouda in your ears or havarti between you toes is illegal.
Official: One-armed piano players cannot charge for performances.
Unofficial: Pea-brained lawmakers can give themselves raises.
Official: Leaving a sheep in the cab of a pickup without a chaperone is against the law.
Unofficial: Taking a sheep to a dance without a chaperone is illegal.
Official: Selling dog hair is illegal.
Unofficial: Unless the buyer is from New York.
- New York
Official: Selling cat hair is illegal.
Unofficial: Unless the buyer is from Delaware.
- North Dakota
Official: Selling beer and pretzels at the same time is not allowed.
Unofficial: It’s illegal not to eat pretzels while drinking beer.
- New Mexico
Official: Idiots and insane people are not permitted to vote.
Unofficial: Idiots and insane people can legally run for office.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are posted online at www.houstonherald.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.