Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Great Rabbit Hunt

 As I have mentioned previously, I spent a great deal of my youth on the Mustang Prairie Ranch. While in high school, I worked there every summer and spent many weekends in the fall and winter hunting dove and deer. I killed my fair share of dove over the years and always gave them away to other hunters, since I don't care for their taste. Deer hunting takes a lot of patience and discipline, so it is no wonder I never shot one. Just being in the solitude of the woods and armed to the teeth in case I was attacked by a savage coon or crazed armadillo was enough for me.
One evening Eugene May, Charlie Jackson and I were riding along the dirt roads of Mustang Prairie. We hadn't intended to do any hunting, but we had a couple of shotguns with us for personal protection. It was just after dark and we were driving around whining about having nothing to do. About then a jackrabbit ran in front of the pickup and proceeded to stay in the headlights, keeping pace with us as we moved slowly forward. Such a bold act couldn't go unpunished, so Eugene grabbed one of the shotguns, leaned out the window and blew the rabbit into the cotton field along side the road. We tossed him in the back and kept going. A few hundred yards down the road another jackrabbit appeared and was dispatched with extreme prejudice. After the second one we decided shooting jackrabbits was no challenge at all.
We drove another mile when a cottontail rabbit ran into our headlights, zigzagged back and forth a couple of times, then ran off into the darkness at top speed. Obviously this presented more of a challenge. For the next hour we took turns blasting cottontails. One would drive while the other two sat on the toolbox in the back of the pickup resting the shotguns on the cab. When we finished we had ten dead rabbits bleeding all over the bed of the truck.
Near the highway lived an old man and his wife. He was about eighty years old and had worked on the ranch most of his life. He was allowed to live there rent-free and his utilities were furnished. He could no longer drive so they didn't get into town very often. I would stop by and visit with them when I was in the area. On the way to town we stopped by his house and asked him if he wanted the rabbits. He said rabbits were his favorite food. He got a butcher knife and started skinning the first one before we got the rest out of the truck. He said he would take as many as we wanted to bring him, anytime day or night.
We went hunting three more times over the next couple of months, and each time we would get close to a dozen rabbits. We would drive up to the house and the old man would be sitting on the porch with a pan of water and a butcher knife waiting for us. He always told us to bring him more when we could.
When school started in the fall, we were involved with football and other activities, so it was late October before we found the time to go rabbit hunting again. The rabbits weren't as plentiful in the cool, crisp fall air. After a couple of hours we had only six rabbits to show for our efforts. We drove up to the little house and honked the horn to let the old man know the rabbit delivery service had arrived. He wasn't home. There was a note on his door saying they had gone to Madisonville to visit their son.
This presented a problem. We didn't want to waste good rabbit meat, but we sure as hell weren't going to eat them. We couldn't think of anyone else to give them to. You know the old saying "All sick and twisted (or is that great?) minds think alike." Suddenly all three of us had the same idea; we would take them into town and throw them at people!
We had a hard time cleaning the blood and dead rabbit ooze from the bed of the pickup the night of the first hunt. On all the subsequent hunts we carried a large metal pan to toss the little, furry, blasted-to-hell bodies in and cut down on the mess. Eugene stopped the truck and retrieved the pan and put it inside the cab just before we got to town.
You have to be selective when you throw dead rabbits at people from a moving truck. There is always a chance, especially in Crockett, someone might not see the humor in it and start popping away at you with a Saturday night special.
We circled the courthouse square and threw the first two rabbits onto the windshields of parked cars. In both cases the rabbit landed spread eagle in the middle of the windshield with a big "SPLAT," and stuck like glue. We made sure we weren't spotted leaving the scene.
There was an area of town out near the high school that was fairly run down. Very few street lights were still working. Most had been shot out or broken with rocks. After replacing them over and over the city finally quit bothering. As a result, we could drive down the primary streets and not be readily identified. Within a few minutes, we had passed a couple of groups of people walking along the street in the dark toward us. We would speed up just before we got to them and toss a bloody rabbit in the air which would land in the middle of the group. We would hear screaming and cussing as we drove away.
We had two rabbits left. The smell inside the cab of the truck was getting pretty rank. It was getting too cold to keep the windows rolled down, and when we turned the heater on it only made matters worse. Finally we pulled over and returned the metal pan containing the rabbits to the back. We drove to the Dairy Queen and got some Cokes and tried to think of what to do with the last two rabbits. We considered leaving them in the parking lot, but we didn't want to take the chance of getting them served to us the next time one of us ordered a steak finger basket. We decided to drive around a little longer and maybe a good opportunity would present itself.
The traffic in front of the local picture show, the Ritz Theater, was always heavy and slow on Saturday night, at least by Crockett standards. It was the only place in town to take a date and therefore the most popular place on the weekend other than the Dairy Queen. The weekend ritual was to drive around the square, out the Houston highway, circle the Dairy Queen, return to the square, then drive past the Ritz to see who was coming out with who so you could talk about them.
As we eased slowly past the Ritz Eugene saw someone he knew. He rolled down the window and threw a paper cup at them. They laughed and yelled at him. The traffic came to a stop for a few seconds, and just as we were driving away some guy who had just came out began yelling at us and insinuating he would whip our asses if we stopped. We continued on down the block and made a slow right turn so we could make a second pass by the picture show. The guy remained out front which is what we were hoping for. A small group of little junior high assholes sporting a fresh crop of pimples were gathered behind him.
After we turned the corner and were out of sight of the theater, Eugene pulled over. Charlie got behind the wheel and Eugene got in the back of the pickup and lay down. Charlie drove slowly around the block and made a right turn to pass in front of the picture show again. Miraculously the guy was still out front with his mob only inches behind him. We couldn't see what he was holding for sure, but it looked like a big cardboard popcorn tub. He was walking toward the pickup with the intent of throwing it on us. When he was about four feet away he drew back the tub and was ready to toss the contents. Eugene jumped up and threw two bloody rabbits straight for his chest. To say he was surprised would be an understatement. One hit him in the middle of his chest and the other hit him on the shoulder and sent blood and other bodily fluids flying into his little band of homies. He jumped back on impact and fell into the crowd. We were laughing so hard we cried. We didn't drive back by for about an hour. We circled past in my car later. There were the two dead rabbits in the gutter and nobody was out front.
That was the last time we went rabbit hunting. We knew we could never top that night without the possibility of going to jail.

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