By Bob Quarteroni
Well, in a state where it’s still unlawful to sing in a bathtub, sleep on top of a refrigerator or catch a fish with your hands – you may not catch a fish by any body part except your mouth – this really isn’t surprising.
All these…things…are still on the books in Pennsylvania, the result of the clear thinking and sensible actions we have come to expect from our legislators. And I haven’t even mentioned Allentown’s law banning men from becoming aroused in public.
Still, the first time I heard that we have an official state fossil I thought these legislators have waay too much free time.
They used some of that time, in December of 1988, to pass an act “designating the Phacops rana, a trilobite, as the official State fossil of the Commonwealth….”
For those of you not keeping up with these things, a trilobite is an extinct marine arthropod that occurred abundantly during the Paleozoic era.
But a little digging found that there was actually a good reason for this: An elementary school science class campaigned for the trilobite to be enshrined as the state fossil.
Which means that our elementary school students are intelligent enough to believe in Darwinian evolution, not necessarily the case with our alleged educational leaders.
In Arizona – where the state fossil is petrified wood – fossils may or may not exist, at least in the classroom textbooks.
Last month, WKOV.com reported that “School Superintendent Diane Douglas is apparently behind a rewrite of science standards for all Arizona school children that would delete references to evolution and allow ‘intelligent design,’” that cleaned-up phrase for creationism, to be taught.
So it would seem that petrified might be sort of a theme out there.
But let us not wander from our own little playground.
I’m pleased to inform you that Pennsylvania also has a state insect – politicians apparently being wrongfully omitted from bug classification: the firefly.
Well, at least it’s better than Rhode Island’s incomprehensible choice of the American burying beetle. However, Rhode Island does have a state appetizer: calamari. Interesting state, Little Rhodie.
Back home there’s more. Official state dog: The Great Dane, which would seem more appropriate for Denmark but hey, William Penn was said to have one.
Our politicians were at their best for the 1965 vote.
According to statesymbolsusa.org, “When the Speaker of the House called for a voice vote to designate the Great Dane, yips, growls and barks assaulted his ears from every part of the chamber! With a rap of his gavel, the Speaker confirmed that the ‘arfs have it’ and the ‘Barking Dog Vote’ entered the annals of legislative history.”
And while everyone knows that mountain laurel is the state flower, betcha didn’t know we’ve also got an official state plant: penngrift crownvetch.
As statesymbolsusa.org notes “The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has planted it along roads throughout the state. “
One tiny problem. The State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has it listed as “invasive” on its invasive plant fact sheet.
As the Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of Arkansas says, “Once touted as the end-all for erosion control along road cuts and other difficult locations, it’s now being considered an invasive weed by many.”
Well, can’t win ‘em all.
So many more.
State beverage: milk.
State song – hold onto your hats – “Pennsylvania.”
The chorus makes it pretty clear this is DOA.
“Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, may your future be, filled with honor everlasting as your history.”
State colors? blue and gold. State firearm: The Pennsylvania long rifle.
We even have a state aircraft, the Piper J-3 Cub (pay no attention to wags like Max Stanley, a Northrop test pilot, who said “The Piper Cub is the safest airplane in the world;…it can just barely kill you.”).
But of more importance – and boy, isn’t this all important? — are three things that haven’t received the official state designation.
First is the state soil. Proposed is “Hazleton soil,” which is listed as only the “unofficial” soil right now.
Named for the Luzerne County city where Lou Barletta ran amok as mayor, the soil occurs in half of the counties of the state. I have nothing further to say about this.
And we have a proposal for a state toy, the Slinky. An Act was proposed by Rep. Richard Geist in 2001, but not enacted, which is a shame.
A Slinky is a perfect symbol for Pennsylvania: wobbly, always going downhill and without a spine. It’s a match made in heaven.
Lastly, consider the monumental battle for state cookie: In 1996, a group of 4th grade students started lobbying to have the chocolate chip cookie named the official state cookie.
But in mouth-dropping wonder, usastatesymboles.org reveals “The legislation to adopt a state cookie has been held up for several years as lawmakers struggle between the chocolate chip, Nazareth sugar cookie (House Bill 219), and the oatmeal chocolate chip cookie (House Bill 2479).”
And we actually pay them.