“I’m a wed-hot sportsman after wild game. Heh-heh-heh-heh.”
— Elmer Fudd
One unwritten law of hunting — violated once and never since broken — is this: Never bring a date. Well, she really wasn’t a date. She was overbooked and needed a place to hide.
I was home from college. It was New Year’s Eve. I had no real prospects for spending the night in mixed company, so I welcomed the opportunity to go hunting with my brother Galen and his friend John from next-door.
It was freezing, no big surprise for that time of year in north central Kansas. We donned all the layers we could pull on, loaded rifles and ammo into Dad’s red and white Ford pickup, and threw an old washtub in the back of John’s Jeep for all the rabbits we hoped to bag.
Back then, during the Kansas jackrabbit infestations of the ’60s, rabbit swarms could strip a wheat field bare overnight. … And area farmers saw our small contribution to thinning the population as a public service.
But before we could do our duty and head for the country, John’s sister Jane invited herself to our party. She was a little older, kinda good-looking — at least she had a date; and that was part of her problem. Somehow she had two dates, and she couldn’t accept either. She wouldn’t tell us the details, but the bottom line was that she had to disappear for the evening.
Could she go with us? Oh, gosh, what a question. We had never hunted with a girl before.
But, hey, it was John’s sister. How much trouble could she be?
Galen and I rode in the pick-up, and Jane, wearing a fluffy white fake-fur coat, crawled into the passenger side of John’s Jeep, where she wrapped her legs in a sleeping bag to stay warm.
She would just ride along; she wouldn’t be any trouble.
We headed out south of Russell, Kan., and cruised up and down the rural roads, then off onto a few oil lease roads. There weren’t a lot of jackrabbits moving around — just a little too cold for them. Finally, probably around midnight when the sane world was indoors, celebrating the arrival of 1967, we finally spotted a few rabbits running along the right side of the road at the edge of our headlights.
Galen drove the pickup, so I bailed out of the right-hand seat and took a shot. The jackrabbit keeled over dead right there in the snow. No big deal; not a difficult shot. I grabbed the rabbit by the hind legs and dropped it into the washtub in the back of the Jeep.
There must have been a spark of life left, because the second the rabbit hit the bottom of the washtub it came alive. With a great kick, it crashed into the top of the Jeep, then accompanied by Jane’s screams, bounded around looking for an escape route. Slinging blood at every jump, clawing and kicking — it finally lit in Jane’s fake white fur coat.
Tangled in the sleeping bag, she couldn’t escape, and the jackrabbit was clawing its way up her back and into her hair when, with one last giant kick, it shot out her window into the ditch — where it died on the spot in the snow.
Obviously, the hunt was over. Jane was hysterical, covered in blood, and shrieking that she wanted us to take her home at once — which, of course, we were glad to do. She would never again ask to go along on one of our hunting trips.
As I remember it, that jackrabbit was the only one we bagged, but it made that New Year’s celebration one of my most memorable.
Dave Berry is editor of The Tyler Morning Telegraph. His column appears every Sunday. Next week, we’ll look back at my first 10 columns and share reactions from readers. Have a Happy New Year and thanks for reading.