Like making sausage

Farm Forum

After days and nights of committee meetings, caucuses, constituent meetings and sessions, legislators meeting during these winter months can get downright tired, bored and testy.

They also may become playful.

South Dakota’s ninth Legislative Session in 1907 accomplished a lot, including appropriating $95,000 for a new Capitol Building. There was also an effort to close Springfield Normal College, but that was defeated by a slim margin.

Then there was the playful business of deciding how long sheets in hotels and on Pullman rail cars should be, followed closely by a bill that required the state to round up all jackrabbits for an annual dipping to cure scabs.

The bill on bed sheet length was seriously considered. Lawmakers settled on a length of seven feet or more. The rationale was that sheets apparently weren’t changed regularly at hotels and on Pullman cars in those days, and were merely reversed.

The foot end one night became the head end for the next customer the next night. With a sheet of seven feet or more, that foot end could be turned down enough so the next sleeper wouldn’t be sleeping with his nose next to where smelly toes had been the previous night.

But the jackrabbit roundup and dipping bill was fun and games. It was introduced after a Sioux Falls legislator introduced a bill that would set a closed season for jackrabbits so members of a Sioux Falls “coursing club” would have enough rabbits to chase.

“Coursing” was the pursuit of rabbits with howling hounds.

Farmer legislators weren’t too crazy about big city Sioux Falls lawmakers anyway, so one of the farmers introduced a bill requiring jackrabbits be rounded up and dipped each year to kill scabs, just as the state required ranchers to do with cattle.

And just as the bill for cattle required, the rabbits would need to be sent through the dipping pond twice, with a ten day delay between dippings.

Of course, the bill wasn’t approved. But neither was the one giving the Sioux Falls coursing club a closed season of rabbit coursing.

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