Sunday, February 19, 2012

Rabbit Fur Coat

When I was about twelve years old, I was trusted with a .22 caliber rifle. At first I sharpened my aim with bottles and cans. After a while, that grew boring so I sought moving targets. Where I grew up, jackrabbits and cottontails were plentiful.

 I remember the first rabbit I shot. It was down a long shallow draw in the shade of a creosote bush about 50 yards away, sitting on its honches. When the sun is low on the horizon and the rabbit is back lit, there's a distinct fleshy redness of the the jackrabbit's ears. In my  peripheral vision, that color caught my eye. The breeze must have been in my favor, because the rabbit just sat there. I stopped, dropped to a knee, drew a bead, pressed the trigger and shot. To my surprise the bullet found flesh, bone and hair, the rabbit squealed, leaped several feet in the air, and hobbled off. This was unexpected.

Up until this point in my adolescent development, the jackrabbit was this "thing" that lived in the desert. This was no longer the equivalent of an aluminum can, it was a living creature that felt pain. There I was with the rifle in my hand and an injured animal scrambling to safety. I knew that I couldn't allow the thing to suffer, so blinded by tears, I followed its tracks in the sand and the trail of blood to where it lye dying. When I found it, I put the barrel to it's head, its one eye staring up at me, but before I pulled the trigger, it quivered, spasmed and died.

It took a few days to recover from the experience but I soon went out again and began to shoot up the desert. I got pretty good with my aim and could kill a rabbit in a full run. To justify my useless killing, I brought the jackrabbits home and skinned them. In my naivety my plan was to sell the pelts to a "fur trader" because my sister had a rabbit fur coat that she loved.

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