18. Some strange Oregon laws, and the truth behind them
Numerous sites which list purported strange laws claim that in Oregon it is illegal to use corn as bait when fishing. That statement is false. It is legal to use corn as bait, but a fisherman cannot empty a can of corn, or corn in some other form, over the side of his boat or into the water if bank fishing, in the form of chum to attract fish. Another reported law in Oregon requires anyone juggling in Hood River to have a license. That one is true, more or less, the city doesn’t enforce the regulation but it remains on the books. Another Oregon community, Salem, bans slingshots and bean shooters from its streets and public places, such as parks.
In Sheridan, Oregon, an ordinance literally bans spitting on the sidewalk, a term often used as a reference to the least possible crime a person can be charged with. It includes streets, alleys, public buildings, and parks unless there are vessels designed as receptacles for the purpose of being used by those who expectorate. Yamhill, Oregon bans fortune tellers, seers, astrologers, tarot readers, and the rest of what the community refers to as the occult arts. Throughout the state riding in the back of a pickup truck is illegal except under special circumstances, as is riding on the outside of an automobile, as on the hood or fenders.
19. Some so-called strange laws which simply don’t exist
One of the popular dumb laws cited by many of the websites and magazine articles which specialize in disseminating them regards a law in Arkansas which makes it illegal to pronounce the state’s name incorrectly by sounding the final letter. According to the story, the legislature made it illegal to pronounce the state’s name in any manner other than Ar’-kan-saw. The claim that those who mispronounce the name is subject to fines or even jail time is false, has always been false and is linked to an act of the legislature in 1881, where after years of dispute they adopted the above pronunciation as official. However, they attached no penalty for mispronunciation.
Another law which is claimed to be on the books in Arkansas is one which bans flirtation between men and women, with some attributing it to the state generically and others citing that it is in effect in Little Rock. It too is mostly false. Little Rock does have a statute that makes certain gestures and actions between men and women illegal, and it includes the word flirt, but it was written with the intent of preventing solicitation for the purpose of prostitution, “along any of the sidewalks, streets, or public ways of the City of Little Rock” and is no longer in effect.
20. Most so-called strange laws aren’t laws at all
The vast majority of the reported strange or archaic laws said to be still in effect in the American states are urban myths, misinterpretations, or simply made up. Some are deliberate distortions of existing laws, as in the Massachusetts law which bans transporting wild animals in the back of vehicles. Since a gorilla is a wild animal and the law bans their transportation, some imaginative soul decided that Massachusetts had a law banning gorillas from the back seat and an urban legend was born. It could just as easily have been a wolf, or a bear, or some other animal which was at one time indigenous to the region, which would have led to yet another strange law which in reality doesn’t exist.
One strange law that does exist comes from the State of Tennessee and addresses the disposal of what is commonly called roadkill; dead animals in or alongside the roadways of the state. If the animal is a game animal a driver happening upon it (the law doesn’t say he has to be the one which struck the animal) is allowed to “possess it for your personal use and consumption”. If the animal happens to be a deer the law specifies whoever takes it must notify the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) within 24 hours, providing them the possessor’s name and address. Bears are also available to the finder, but with a permit issued from the TWRA. Good dining.
Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources: