There. Underneath a spring sky of undecided moods. Small, still, surprised in the act of nibbling at the young thistle growing against the fence. A rabbit. A cottontail.
Not one of the mighty jackrabbits from Eastern Oregon myth and legend. A common, ordinary actual bunny. Something out of a tale for Easter. A tale about some spring goddess.
It freezes as I freeze, my eyes trying to determine if it’s real, if I’m hallucinating a young rabbit. Another rabbit darts out of the pile of metal irrigation tubes, or just called tubes if you’re an insider in the world of farming.
Gotta set the tubes. Check that tube there. Is that tube running?
It’s a lingo I’ve heard since before my birth. I’d wager a bit on that.
The other rabbit darts out from the tubes, sees me, stops, reverses. Rather like a cartoon bunny. It acts like a bunny should act, skittish, scared and quicksilver as all hell. The rabbit in the yard must wait for me to either pass by or try to escape me; I’m rather too close for it to just pull a runner. I might be faster, I might not have seen it. Hi, bunny, I call to it and it remains in statue-like posing. It’s okay, bunny, it’s okay.
I pass by, after a bit.
A real live wild rabbit remains too big of a draw for me. I have to pause, stop, observe it, say silly things to it, admire it, wonder at it. Something wild is nearby. My brain slows, calms, becomes that tranquil sea that stretches to the horizon.
But I know the little animal’s heart is under extreme stress and it’s in fear of its life. I pass by. I continue to work in my mini garden, place the rocks I’ve brought. Arrange them on the stumps and about the sectioned off bit that contains the eggplant, the pumpkin twins, the summer squash, the zucchini.
The cucumber lives by the front steps and gets to watch the men pee and perhaps, when it wakes up at night for a bit, the owls that wait for the rabbits and mice and ground squirrels to dare a dash across the open space between the house and the beet field. There are several elderly fruit trees just perfect for such a waiting, and the old cottonwood has the appropriate spooky dead branches stretched out just so in twisted, devilish fashion.
I’ve witnessed owls in that old cottonwood, glaring eyes and loud hoots warning me they have work to do, why am I disturbing the sacred business of filling their bellies?
When I pass back again through the gate, I note the rabbit has gone. I notice, as well, there seems to be a rabbit-sized hole in the lawn, oh, two of them.
Please be careful, I think at them, hoping they are telepathic. Please be careful and move back to the pile of tubes or live in the small bank that skirts the field. There are piles of dead branches, old weeds, debris. Everything needed to hide a rabbit or several little hoppies. And no one would care if a rabbit, or several, dug their dens in this bank. Stay out of the lawn. Please. Stay out of the lawn.
There is no sympathy in farm country for small lives.
I understand it. I do. When your livelihood depends on getting a harvest to the correct market and collecting that check, having those small lives take a big chunk out of that means you can’t pay your bills.
Not that farmers can pay their bills anyway, even in seasons when no storms hit, the sun shines just enough, the equipment doesn’t break down that much, things sort of line up…even then, luck or the devil or God says, here, have pennies on the dollar. Here ya go. Better luck next year. Better luck next decade. Shoulda kept your knees shut, farmers-– seems to be the message at all times.
So. I get it. I get people trying to kill every last little life they come across if a farmer or rancher. Letting them run rampant could mean you lose your shirt. And your land. And all your stuff used to make that land produce. Because the courts take your stuff to sell so a fraction of your giant ass bills, yep, yeah, uh huh.
But that young rabbit, as fresh as a dream, as light as hope itself for a bit. Here I am. Taking a chance. Eating something tasty. Why does that giant predator keep chirping at me??
I have every wish under the stars and tired moon to catch a brief glimpse again of the newest neighbors. And hope the old neighbors called Hawk and Owl and Coyote…I don’t know who I would root for or if any rooting should be done.
I watched one of the very local hawks land on something in the corn field across the way. I watched from the yard. It crouched over something unseen, tore at it a bit, then flew toward its nest in the pine trees at the abandoned house just down the way. Which caught on fire, briefly, years ago and no one bothered to rebuild it.
The cops use it for drills and exercises and this pair of big hawks have a nest there and hunt the three fields about.
Those hawks find me silly and dismissible. One or the other will sit in the locust tree at the end of the lane, glaring down at me as I send words up toward it.
Hello, gorgeous! Aren’t you a pretty bird?
Of course it knows it’s gorgeous and of course it knows it’s a pretty bird! Geez, lady! Then, it flaps off with a truly bitter air.
I’ve disturbed its hunting or perhaps it had stopped to have a smoke break. Or it just didn’t like a human talking to it. Being a rather wild and fierce raptor, after all.
So, I suppose I will glimpse those rabbits again.
I cannot wait. I know they will dread it but I mean them no harm. And that end of the lawn is pretty much riddled with gopher desecrations, anyway. It’s a lost cause sort of corner of lawn.
There’s what remains of a dead cherry tree and some persistent irises that persist in coming up each May. And abandoned gopher holes, as they trek in from the field and dig their way down the bank and into the yard…and as farmers hate gophers around here, well.
I wonder that our two Labs, actual hunting dogs with all the hunterly instincts, haven’t gone after the bunnies yet.