Milestones: Jurisprudence – Henderson style

Well, Henderson, it’s pretty clear that we don’t interpret the rules as other towns do. Yes, friends, our “interpretations” of the law and of the rules make Henderson a town like no other.

Do we really want to be like Cary? You know, making all those rules and enforcing them to the betterment of our community and property values? Do we want to be so hung up on the rules that there’s no room for people to, you know, violate them and get away with it?

Here are some time-honored Henderson traditions of legal interpretation:

(1) Laws don’t apply to us if we’ve gotten away with violating them often enough.

Here’s a little conversation they have down at the Police Department once in a while:

“… And the officer wrote me a ticket for double parking!”

“Were you double-parked?”


“So what’s the problem?”

“I’ve always double-parked! I never got a ticket before!”

The same is true for license plate covers, rolling stops, wearing a seat belt, driving on I-85 with a trunk full of heroin, burn permits, and parking for more than two consecutive hours on Garnett Street during the regular business day outside the lines. Ditto for candidates staying behind the white line during an election.

(2) Other people need laws. We don’t.

“I’m just sick and tired of looking at that piece of junk in Billy Bob’s yard. I’ve been looking at that thing rot over there for 15 years, and I’m just sick to death of it.”

“What’s that over there with the tree growing through it?”

“That’s different. That was my mother’s car. And I’m using it to store my moth collection.”

Entomology is a rapidly growing field in Henderson.

There’s a corollary to this rule to the effect that speeding through someone else’s neighborhood is OK, but when people speed through your neighborhood it should be a capital offense, because unlike their neighborhood, there are kids in your neighborhood.

(3) We don’t have to follow the rules if they are inconvenient.

Ever go to the post office during, say, your lunch hour (if you’re a cop, a firefighter or a teacher, you can find several definitions of the term “lunch hour” on Google)? Ever notice how the fire lane is parked solid with cars? If you ask them why they parked in the fire lane, they’ll say:

“Well, there’s no place else to park,” or “I’m just going to be a minute.” And they say it with such righteous indignation that you almost believe them. Almost. Unless you’ve been around awhile and know that an indignant tone is how we lie around here.

Not to worry, Henderson. Smokey says, “Fires never start when you’re in a hurry.” There’s no need to be concerned about the post office burning, either. It’s only full of paper.

This whole discussion raises the question of how a town this small can have a post office that is so busy. What are you sending, Henderson?

(4) We don’t need a new law. The problem will go away if we ignore it.

We don’t have an emerging gang problem in Henderson, but, hey, I’m no expert. Ask the police chief. See what he thinks. All that graffiti that you see starting to blossom on the walls, all those upstanding young citizens walking around in stylish pink hats and shirts or all in red with those pretty bandannas, those things are in no way indicative of a growing gang problem.

Further, we do not have a Hispanic gang problem because there are no Hispanics living in Henderson either. Just ask the schools. We don’t need more than a handful of ESL (English as a Second Language) teachers because there are hardly any Spanish-speaking children. Anyone can learn to speak English in 40 minutes a day, twice a week. How hard can it be? I mean, we all spoke it before we even went to school. Kids who don’t speak English don’t have a hard time at school or anything, so why would they join a gang?

Just go to Wal-Mart on the weekends, the Food Lion on Norlina Road in the evenings, or the Compare Foods any time and you’ll see exactly what I mean. It’s obvious that these stores are stocking plantains because Hendersonians have developed a taste for them. By the way, if you know how to cook those, drop me a line. I learned the hard way that they’re not peel-and-eat.

The last thing that we want to do is deal with this problem (which doesn’t exist) on a city level, even though the state is dangling money in the form of grants to address the gang issue. In fact, we don’t even want to enact a graffiti ordinance making owners clean up their property. Heck, “graphic art” might enhance property values, just like abandoned “automotive classics.” Just picture in your mind New York in the 1970s (and if you can’t, may I suggest the seminal movie classic “Wolfen”). That town looked good with all that graphic art everywhere.

(5) The ETJ: Rule of law ends here

No one seems to want to enforce codes in the ETJ. If I had fully understood that I could live there and do whatever I want in an atmosphere free of consequence, I would have bought a house there ages ago. I could line up every car I’d ever owned in the front yard like an automotive museum doing a tribute to rust. Oh, and let’s not forget the burning piles of trash and leaves. No sanitation fee! A paradise for rugged individualists!

I think I know why the city created the ETJ in the first place: to have a ring of squalor around Henderson to make the city look better than it really is. It sure wasn’t to broaden the tax base. Oh, and let’s not forget, through zoning and ex post facto ordinance, harassing business owners out of Vance County who were plying an honest trade out there before the ETJ even existed.

Exhaustive as my essay has been, Henderson, I know I’ve missed a few. If you think of some that I didn’t write, drop me a line at or post them below.