The legend ends at the Legislative Reference Library of Texas,
where a small team of well-referenced librarians has gone through
the records and sorted out fact from fiction when it comes to the
laws of the Lone Star State.
"The ideas of the history of Texas capture the imagination with
those stories of cattle drives and the old West. People want to
still think it is like that and those laws are on the books," said
Catherine Wusterhausen, the library's assistant director.
There was never any state law forbidding buffalo hunting from the
second floor of a hotel. But a person who fired a weapon in those
circumstances would probably face other violations of criminal law.
The library has received a steady stream of requests from the public
and lawmakers to see if a certain statute is still on the books or
whether it existed at all. It recently sorted through claims for an
exhibit at its home in the state capitol building.
One claim is that a couple can be married in Texas by publicly
introducing a person as one's husband or wife three times.
This seems to have grown out of common law marriages that were
common about a century and a half ago, when a trip to a county seat
in the state's wide open spaces was too long a journey for many
Texas law does allow for "marriage without formalities" and
recognizes those that are registered or from couples who agree to
live together as husband and wife and represent to others that they
Introducing yourself as a married couple three times is not a
"There is usually a kernel of truth to many of these myths," said
reference librarian Becky Johnson, who helped put together the
The state laws of Texas have been well preserved, codified and
computerized. Some of the myths of Texas laws could have come from
local rules that were lost over the years.
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Many of the frontier laws faded into history or were folded into
other laws during major revisions to the criminal code, the last one
being in 1973.
Removed was the law that made it illegal to milk another person's
cow, which carried a maximum fine of $10.
The law on the books from at least 1856 making it illegal to publish
that another person is a coward also has perished. Current libel law
can handle cases like this.
Also gone is the law that made it illegal to introduce Johnson grass — a noxious weed — onto another person's property, because it would
A few myths, such as the claim that Texas once had a law requiring
criminals to inform their victims at least 24 hours ahead of any
crime, stem from relatively recent actions. A lawmaker proposed such
a measure in 1973, but the bill did not pass.
There are also some antiquated laws that may be worth revisiting,
such as a part of the education code from the early 20th century.
It required that "suitable instruction shall be given in the primary
grades once each week regarding kindness to animals and the
protection of birds and their nests and eggs."
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; editing by Dan Grebler)
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