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Kite Flying and Other High Crimes

I’ve heard it said that you can tell a lot about a man’s personality by observing how he spends his leisure time. I first became aware of my problem in this area when, as a budding obituary writer for the Dallas News, I noticed what a friend of mine – a hardened, veteran reporter – was doing with his afternoons. He’d look at the work sheet, and if his story assignment didn’t look too promising, he’d walk over to Elm Street and spend the afternoon watching a double feature in Loew’s Theatre. Which was a damn sight better than climbing into his battered old red Ponti-ac and sputtering out on assignment to some far away suburb for a story about a backyard farmer and his giant kum-quat.

By contrast, I’d walk across Young Street at lunchtime and sit in Ferris Plaza, reading something like Crisis in the Classroom, while the winos stared at me. I don’t suppose they’d ever seen a Renaissance Man.

I also showed my monolithic personality at the courthouse. Our regular courthouse reporter spent his spare moments spinning out science fiction stories. I spent mine in the county law library listening to tape recorded lectures on “Limited Partnerships in Texas.” And then there was the night a vice squad officer caught me in the police press room reading Anti-Intellectualism in American History. So much for my inside tips on porno raids.

Recently I’ve discovered that during the years that have passed since I departed from the News my interests haven’t broadened appreciably. On a hot day, when I should have gone over to Loew’s to take in Godzilla vs. The Thing, I opted instead for the downtown public library and a little self-improvement. I could have chosen to go upstairs and listen to records – some Rossini or Rolling Stones. I could have done a little reading, perhaps some Rousseau or Rossetti. But instead my passion drew me inexorably toward the municipal government reference section, where I found two scintillating volumes, bound in plastic – The Revised Code of Criminal and Civil Ordinances of the City of Dallas Texas.

As most of us know, living together, packed tightly into a city, requires that we surrender certain rights. There are a few things that civilized men must not do in a city if we are to remain civilized, and those things are carefully outlined in a city code. In the interest of better citizenship, and a brighter, cleaner Dallas, I’d like to present a few of my findings – from the Dallas city code.

Ordinance 43-16: No person shall throw banana peelings or fruit peelings of any kind onto any public sidewalk in the city. Vegetable peelings and meat scraps are no problem.

Ordinance 43-18: No person shall skate on roller skates upon any sidewalk or on any street in the city, provided, however, that persons under the age of 16 years may roller skate on side-walks in residential areas in the city. Skaters over 16 had best keep on the back alleys to avoid arrest. Skaters over 30 had best keep it confined to the kitchen or the neighbors may talk.

Ordinance 31-9: A person commits an offense if he operates a moored balloon having a diameter of more than six feet or a gas capacity of more than 115 cubic feet or flies a kite weighing more than five pounds within the city, closer than five hundred feet to the base of any cloud. I have it from an inside source in the city attorney’s office that this ordinance may not be enforceable. “What are we supposed to do?” my source asks, “call in the cloud as a prosecution witness?” It is, however, easy to see the inherent danger of a runaway six-pound kite to large birds and small aircraft.

Ordinance 16-36: No person shall carry or haul or direct or cause to be carried any firebrands, torches or other burning combustible material upon any street, alley or public easement of the city. Note that this doesn’t say anything about firebrands wearing sheets and carrying torches. Nothing wrong with a little old-fashioned fun.

Ordinance 9-3: No rider of any bicycle shall remove both hands from the handlebars or both feet from the pedals. Clearly an unnecessary government infringement on our personal liberty. It’s a fine up to $200 if you’re caught.

Ordinance 7-13: It shall hereafter be unlawful for the owner of or harborer of any bull, stallion or jack, or anyone having under his control any bull, stallion or jack, to permit or cause to be permitted the standing of any such bull, stallion or jack within the city for breeding purposes, except: Whenever such owner or harborer desires to use any bull, stallion or jack for the purposes of breeding or otherwise, the same shall be conducted and carried on in a structure or a building sufficiently enclosed on all sides in all parts so as to completely shut off and prevent all outside view or observance of same; provided that such building is located not less than 200 feet from the nearest inhabited private residence or 100 feet from any public street. Personally, I’d like to see this ordinance extended to cover hereafter other similar, frisky animals. But my source in the city attorney’s office says that enforcement would hopelessly crowd the court dockets.

There are other ordinances that Iconsidered bringing to light here, ranging from dealing with sex perverts (sufficiently enclosed and otherwise) topunishing, those who would be so boldas to knock pecans out of the trees atWhite Rock Lake Park. But space doesnot permit. I also fear that it would enhance my image as a bore.

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