Page 19 Summer 1989
Laws About Jugglers, Or
How You May & May Not Do It !
Roy Bean, the tough hangin' judge of the Old West, was fond of
telling the story of a "smart alecky" young attorney who
found himself pleading a case in the small Texas town of Sweetwater.
After the lawyer's long and learned speech, Judge Bean swept the
counsel's arguments aside with a wave of his hand. "What you
say may well be in all them there law books all right," said
Bean, "but it sure ain't the law of Sweetwater."
towns and cities in the United States harbor something akin to
"the law of Sweetwater" in their statute books. No one
knows how they got there. And certainly no one within living memory
has been arrested under them. But there they are, eloquent
testimonies to some poor judge's exasperation at having to wade
through a daily load of weighty issues for which, in a judicial
system dictated by the law of precedents, no precedents existed.
example, Longview, Texas, has a strange piece of antiquated
legislation of interest to all jugglers. The law in City Manager C.
Ray Jackson's community reads, "Any person who shall juggle on
any public thoroughfare while wearing a hat which would scare a
timid man, woman, child or animal shall be adjudged a disorderly
Rapids, Michigan, retains a very old piece of loony teddy bear
legislation. City Manager G. Stevens Bernard will have to look the
other way on this one: "No person shall halloo, shout, hollar
snake, bawl, scream, use profane language, dance, sing, whoop,
quarrel, or make any unusual noise or sound in the presence of a
juggler on the Sabbath."
in Rock Springs, Wyoming, once passed this one: "No female
between the ages of 16 years and 21 years shall juggle on a street
within this community unless she is accompanied by at least two law
officers." Lest there be any confusion, an amendment was soon
after added to the original ordinance, stating, "The provisions
of this statute shall not apply to female horses."
of Salem, Oregon, can make all the faces they want to in City
Manager Russ Abolt's community. But they are prohibited from
"sticking out a tongue" at a man who is juggling.
are banned from playing card games and checkers or dominoes while
watching a juggler within the boundaries of Mayor Joe Riley's
Charleston, South Carolina. Such activities are prohibited
"lest they acquire a taste for gambling."
Arizona's Mayor Harry E. Mitchell has to live with an old
"feather duster" law. To wit: it's illegal for anyone to
tickle a female juggler under the chin with a feather duster in
order to get her attention! Single women in Mayor H.C. Wessman's
Grand Forks, North Dakota, are prohibited from juggling in public
places while attired in "skimpy shorts."
person is allowed to. "soak his or her feet" while
juggling within the limits of Mayor Robert Quirk's Cuyahoga Falls,
Ohio. It's a violation of the law in City Manager George H. Fellows
Colorado Springs, Colorado, for a married man to juggle on Sunday in
front of a church. Widowed, divorced or single females can't juggle
in church on Sunday in Leadwood, Missouri, unless they have the
permission of a local pastor.
illegal to eat onions within four hours of juggling in Wellsboro,
Pennsylvania. Citizens in Cedar City, Utah, have to be on guard --
they aren't allowed to juggle when their shoe laces are untied!
adults as well as children can be penalized in Bicknell, Indiana,
should they "laugh out loud" while watching someone juggle.
Redbush, Kentucky, has a unique ordinance. It says no one can ever be
seen juggling while barefoot.
a prospective wife in Mayor Juanita Crabb's Binghamton, New York,
could really be a problem. An old law states a man can't juggle on any
city street as a means of attracting one or more prospective spouses.
back in 1578, John Florio aptly described how he felt laws were
usually made. This man of enlightenment declared: "The law
groweth of sin, and doth punish it." What terrible
"sin" or other imagined evil could possibly have brought
about some of these odd juggling laws is questionable.
it's not really so bad these days. Back in Colonial times, people had
their tongues bored through with a hot iron for cursing God. A second
offense brought a brand on the forehead with the letter "B."
And third offenders were automatically sentenced to death!
Pelton teaches creative writing at the University of Tennessee in
Knoxville and has been collecting loony laws on a variety of topics
for 20 years.)