Little-Known Points of Law

IN MASSACHUSETTS, IT IS ILLEGAL
TO EMPLOY A DEAD HORSE

      This curious law came about late in the 19th century when farmers were refusing to plow their fields until Lionel Barrymore was born.  (The reasons for this have been lost in antiquity.)  Horses were forced into inactivity and, hav- ing a simple-minded but firm belief in democratic principles, they formed a lobby to demand more work.

      Equines For A Better America (EFABA) was founded in 1880 and its radical elements immediately urged an end to the traditional friendship upon which the farmer/horse relationship was based.  “Neigh!” was their battle cry, although the expression tended to serve for whatever emotion was at hand.

      Farmers of all creeds were quick to realize the danger posed by EFABA.  They attempted to subvert it by disguising themselves as horses and inter- rupting EFABA meetings with cries of “Farmers aren’t so bad!” and “Get to the point!”  These tactics proved fruitless, however, and it remained for a particu- larly wily farmer named Amos McPhee to bring matters to a head.

      Amos, a newcomer to the state, impressed the other farmers with his simple-minded determination and physical strength.  Indeed, Amos weighed over 1000 pounds and stood on all fours, yet ran like a horse (it was said).  Amos’s idea was: “Let the horses have what they want.  Neigh.”

      When Amos presented his proposal at a FRAUTBQ (Farmers Resentful About Unreasonable Tactics By Quadrupeds) meeting, the farmers were appalled.  They shouted him down and watched stone-faced as Amos, bridling, trotted from the podium.  As he reached the door, Amos turned around and said scornfully, “I’m a horse.”

      News of Amos’s deception spread far and wide, and the humiliated farm- ers turned to the state legislature for revenge.  A law was passed declaring that any horse attending a political meeting would be regarded as dead and that it was illegal to employ a dead horse: the punishment was jail, imprison- ment, or both.

      The horses realized the futility of continued resistance and agreed to dis- band EFABA if the farmers would petition Mr. and Mrs. Barrymore to have their son as quickly as possible.  When this was done, it was discovered that Lionel had been born two years previously and everyone had a good laugh.

      The horse rebellion was over.

 

IN OOF!, N. DAKOTA, THE CONSUMPTION
OF INK IS PUNISHABLE BY DEATH

      What may seem to the untutored observer a harsh penalty for an unlikely crime is actually a humanitarian measure promulgated by Hyram Bent, Oof!’s one-time Grand Imperial Secretary-General Dragon (the contemporary equiv- alent of a City Clerk).

      In the 1930’s, Mr. Bent was the publisher of the Oof! Evening Sun, Oof!’s largest daily newspaper.  When the rival East Oof! World Journal Tribune‘s circulation threatened to surpass the Sun‘s in 1938, Mr. Bent announced that his newspaper would be printed entirely on dried fruit, a different fruit (in season) each day of the week.

      His rivals at the World knew that, in those Depression days, readers would welcome the opportunity to keep abreast of world events while ingesting a delicious snack.  So, although the Sun had not as yet converted to a food- based format, the World issued its Sunday edition wrapped around a grilled cheese sandwich; two days later, the World‘s sports section was made entirely of pasta.

      The citizens of Oof! took to the World‘s new look as a duck takes to another, very attractive duck.  Sales boomed, and it was then that Mr. Bent made his move.  In a story headlined “INK CONSUMPTION LINKED TO DOOM!!!”, the Sun revealed that eating ink resulted in “a slow, horrible death” and that the only known antidote would be revealed in the Sun one letter at a time over the next three years.

      “A master stroke,” admitted the World in a morning edition that consisted of a slice of roast turkey with a detachable index card.  Mr. Bent, in his capac- ity as Dragon, decreed the death penalty for any future ink-eaters, which had the dual effect of protecting the public from itself and preventing any future ploys similar to his own.

      There the story would seem to end, except for one detail.  In the autumn of 1958, Hyram Bent was walking down Main Street (a dirt path three miles from town) when he was struck by a meteorite.  As the fiery rock crushed Mr. Bent into the pavement, a passerby claims to have heard a heavenly voice thunder “Take that!”, and who are we to dispute him?

 

THE RESIDENTS OF BUN BUN, MISSOURI
CAN OBTAIN A DIVORCE BY EATING A
TWO-BY-THREE-INCH CARDBOARD BOX

      The origin of the “Bun Bun Divorce Box” is characteristic of the people of this secluded Missouri hamlet.  For just over two billion years, they’ve gone about their business – the manufacture and destruction of defective orthopedic shoes – with a simplicity bordering on irrationality.

      In 1859, a rich lode of defective orthopedic shoe-making material was discovered under Ned Llmrq, a long-time resident.  In 1861, Mr. Llmrq was persuaded to move and construction of the mine began.

      All went well until February 12, 1862.  As we now know, long-term expo- sure to defective orthopedic shoes results in the contraction of “Irksome Bal- ladamia”, a nerve disease which causes its victims to recite irritating song lyrics.  On February 12, more than three hundred miners entered their homes chanting a ribald music hall ballad entitled “Frenchie’s Back In The Parlor, Whoops!”, and their wives demanded divorces.

      Fearful of the consequences of widespread marital turbulence, the town council instituted an ordinance permitting divorce only if both parties con- sumed a two-by-twenty-foot steel girder.  This greatly reduced the number of divorce requests; the mine was built and Bun Bun prospered.

      As years passed, the need for strict divorce laws diminished and the two- by-twenty-foot steel girder requirement was modified to the ingestion of a two-by-three-inch cardboard box by either party.  Nonetheless, younger peo- ple found even this stipulation odious and moved away from Bun Bun, often before their sixth birthdays.

      Bun Bun today is a town of old people who lie in their hammocks (I forgot to mention that many of them have hammocks), sadly humming “Frenchie’s Back In The Parlor, Whoops!” as they shred their day’s quota of defective orthopedic shoes.

 

WILLIAM POWELL IS THE
UNCROWNED 
KING OF COMEDY ACTORS

      This is actually more an opinion than a point of law.

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