Is Tennessee’s Most Famous Weird Law An Urban Legend?

Pick up any “weird law” book, or navigate to any site listing “weird laws”, and you’ll find some variation of the following about Tennessee:

It is unlawful in Tennessee to shoot game animals from a moving vehicle. Except whales.

My kids absolutely love this strange fact about landlocked Tennessee.  So do I.

Unfortunately, I’m wondering if it isn’t true.  Or some weird extrapolation.  I can’t find the whale exception ANYWHERE in Tennessee Code Annotated. (Granted, I haven’t read every word – who could? – but no reasonable search turns up anything remotely resembling whales).   Here is the base law, TCA 70-4-109:

70-4-109. Hunting from aircraft, watercraft or motor vehicles unlawful — Penalty — Exception for persons confined to wheelchairs. —

(a)  It is unlawful to chase, hunt, or kill any wild birds, wild animals or wild fowl in the state of Tennessee from any craft propelled by electric, gasoline, steam or sail power, or airplane or hydroplane or from any automobile or motor vehicle, unless otherwise provided by law, rule and regulation or by proclamation; provided, that under no circumstance shall this subsection (a) be construed as authorizing the legalization of hunting from an automobile or motor vehicle while under power.

(b)  Notwithstanding subsection (a), any person totally and permanently confined to a wheelchair as certified by appropriate documentation to the executive director may hunt or kill any wildlife from a stationary automobile or motor vehicle during the lawful hunting seasons; provided, that it is unlawful for such person to shoot directly across or over any road, path or other right-of-way; and provided further, that any such persons shall be accompanied by another person who is not so confined at all times when hunting, and that such person shall retrieve all game taken in such hunt.

(c)  A violation of this section is a Class C misdemeanor.

[Acts 1951, ch. 115, § 36 (Williams, § 5178.65); 1979, ch. 237, § 1; T.C.A. (orig. ed.), § 51-416; Acts 1989, ch. 591, § 113; 2005, ch. 109, § 1.]


Now, I figured the “unless otherwise provided by law” clause to mean that there was an actual exception for whales somewhere in TCA.  There is an interesting section about “nongame mammals” in the definitions in 70-8-103, but that deals with species protection, not shootin’ whales.

A more likely scenario is that whales don’t fall under the definitions of “wild birds, wild animals or wild fowl” in Tennessee law, but that’s no fun.  I was hoping for an actual, codified exclusion for whales.

Are there any lawyers, law students, Tennessee judges, or lawmakers who can clarify this for me?  Is one of the most endearing facts about my home state not a fact at all?

(BTW, in researching this, I found the most wonderful document that puts together all the laws concerning animals in TN, from the University of Tennessee colleges of Law and Veterinary Medicine .  Check it out, although it’s a little dry.  Still, you can learn the most wonderful and obscure things looking at it).

Idea #2: The Education Corps

This idea came to me as the result of some kind of weird harmonic convergence.  I read a series of news stories, supposedly disconnected, and suddenly a light came on in my head.  The news stories?

  • Another in the endless reports of company layoffs.
  • A story about the education components of the recently passed stimulus package.
  • An interview with Tony Dungee about his new passion: stemming the dropout rate in Indianapolis’ public schools.
  • Bill Frists’ new Education task force.

Well, I have an idea for Dr. Frists’ task force.  We’ll call it the Education Corps.  Nationwide, we have a huge pool of people who were recently taken out of the workforce, who had, up till they got laid off, used their training and skills in real world applications.

It is here that I must pause and say that I think the world of teachers, that they have undertaken a noble calling, and are just like in any other field, highly competent in what they do.

It is here that I must pause even further, and let you in on a secret:  in my very short college career, once I discovered that pursuing a music degree was the height of stupidity for me, I turned my attentions toward a degree in secondary education.  My discipline was to be American History.

As a totally unrelated side note: Lintilla (whom I was dating at the time), had a degree in elementary education, although she had quickly discovered that the classroom was not for her.

Anyway, it was at this point in my life that I discovered that Education degrees were the opposite of what I had thought.  I had been under the mistaken impression that one majored in what they wanted to teach, and minored in Education.  It’s the opposite (at least it was in 1986).  How to teach, how to run a classroom, the different ways children learn, navigating the education bureaucracy – these are the highest priorities, the actual subject matter to be taught is important, but secondary.

Y’all tell me if things have changed since I was young, back in the stone age.

Let me again stress, I admire teachers, and believe they mostly do an heroic job.  But, what if we gave them some help?  What if we took a pool of people recently taken out of the workforce, and put them in the classroom, not as teachers but as Subject Matter Experts?

The idea of SMEs is widely used in the private sector.  Many of us are designated as SMEs, although we are also asked to do this in conjunction with our regular duties.  I expect no such efficiencies from the public school systems, so let’s work with what we have.

Let’s face it: materials and subject matter are often years out of date in the classroom; in my field, for instance,being that far behind means the teaching is worthless beyond the general theory level. 

Could a computer class not benefit from the knowledge of a recently laid off programmer or network engineer?
Could an English Composition class not benefit from a recently laid off journalist?
Could an Economics class not benefit from a recently laid off investment banker? (liberals, don’t answer that 😉 )

I am suggesting the Education Corps, not as a replacement for teachers, but as a supplement.  The classroom would still be run by the teacher, but she will have an extremely valuable resource sitting right there in the classroom with her.

Because it would be a combination Education / Unemployment Relief program, each position would be a one-year contract.  This keeps Republicans happy with the huge amount of new spending this would require, because none of the Corps members would be sucked into the NEA.  They would be contract workers, and everyone will understand that the SME will one day re-enter the higher paying private workforce. 

Because nothing in life is permanent, each year’s Corps members would be replaced by the next wave of laid off workers.  Some  hard cases would, of course, carry over from year to year.

Neccesity is the mother of invention.  We have a need to put skilled people to work, we’ve had a serious lack of worldly-wise Subject Matter Experts in schools for a very long time.

If we are going to spend humongous amounts of money on schools anyway, why don’t we try something truly innovative and helpful to hurting workers and students alike?

Posted in Ideas. 1 Comment »

Idea #1: Catastrophe Strike Force

Do you remember the old movie “Night Shift”?  No, this isn’t about prostitution in a morgue.  However, I have quite a few characteristics of  the character played by a young Michael Keaton, Bill “Blaze” Blazejowski.  Like him, I am an “idea man”.  I have momentary flashes of ideas, some of them really good ideas, yet I don’t have the discipline, nor the attention span to see those ideas to fruition by myself.  I am easily on to the next idea before I can fully develop the first.

Blazejowski wrote his ideas on post-it notes so he wouldn’t forget them.  I have decided to use this blog for that purpose.

The other day, while pondering the heart-rending situation in Kentucky, one of those ideas came to me.  First, a little background.

Most of you are familiar, I think, with distributed computing and server virtualization.  Basically, the computing power of a bank of servers is shared: when one piece of hardware is idle, other pieces of hardware tied to it can “borrow” its computing power.  Later, if that hardware is highly taxed, it “borrows” some power from others who are idle.

Fellow techies, sorry for the oversimplification, I’m just going for the main idea here.

Anyway, it occurred to me: aren’t there certain things rural* people need in a catastrophe, no matter the cause?  I’m thinking generators, gas grills to cook with, water, and personal supplies.  There are others, but the specifics aren’t as important right now.

So, I’m thinking, why not set up a charitable organization whose main purpose is to get these things to the people who need them, when they need them?  I know, you’re thinking, “isn’t that what FEMA is for?”  Possibly.  But my work with complex systems tells me that the larger an organization, the more cumbersome it is.  I want to actually solve the problem.

No,  from my experience, the most successful systems are set up like Al Queda:  decentralized, encapsulated, modular, and highly mobile.

So, here’s what I’m thinking:  rural catastrophe supplies are needed in the Gulf coast from July-Nov.  They are needed in ice-storm prone areas from Nov-Mar.  A smart organization will only have to buy half the generators and such for the total number of people served (so start-up costs are much lowered) , and get them where they are needed in quick-strike fashion.

The  Churches of Christ Disaster Relief effort is a good model for the distribution – they can set up on a dime and get supplies where they are needed.  But, bless their hearts, they focus on food, water and cleaning supplies (much needed, mind you), and do not focus on the big-ticket items a rural person needs to survive without electricity.

Nevertheless, whether piggybacking on the CCDRE, or creating an entirely new distribution system (using all available technology to speed things up), my catastrophe strike force could get generators to people in a day, if not hours.  If rural homeowners sign up for the program, the force, once activated, will know exactly where to go and who is there (the opposite was a problem with the Kentucky ice storm).

Let’s face it: rural folks are far more likely to give personal information to a charitable organization they know will help them when they are trouble than the government. 

I know there are many problems with the idea, mainly:

*This plan wouldn’t work so well in cities, because the needs are different when people aren’t as spread out.  If you have a bunch of people crammed together, you have to restore electricity to a smaller area.  As we learned with Katrina, the biggest need in an urban catastrophe is to get people out.

Another problem: you have to trust that the person recieving help will give back the $500 to $1500 generator and other things when they no longer need them.

There are, of course, many other problems, but I post this here nonetheless because all I do is come up with the ideas.  You folks are smarter than me, and could find a way to make it work.

That’ll do for now, till the next flash hits me.