Friday, June 8, 2012

Jack Rabbit Coming Down the Road

            Having learned to drive in southern California where merging with rush hour traffic was a driver-ed mandate, I relish our area’s slow-paced traffic.

            Despite their often wash-boarded condition, I like driving country roads. Even more, I like walking them early in the morning or late in the afternoon where I frequently walk several days in a row without seeing a vehicle.  Lack of traffic is a joy of country living.

Recently, however, I found another kind of traffic livening up my country rambles.  I usually take a dog along, and whichever beast accompanies me prefers to travel the weedy ditches to rambling down the road. This is no surprise as each one has had varied success at flushing a pheasant, a covey of quail, or a cottontail from the brush. 

            Not too long ago, the big yellow dog and I took our afternoon walk.  We’d had a recent snowstorm so wind-driven drifts formed modern art style geometric sculptures on either side of the road.  Tucker gleefully jumped into these drifts, sinking up to his chin and then biting at the snow as if it were a giant snow cone set out to cool him down after his exertions.

            One such drift had formed over wind-driven tumbleweeds.  Taller and wider than other drifts, it offered a challenge my big, yellow dog couldn’t resist.  He pounced. Immediately, two cottontails exploded waist high in front of me, feet and tails flailing like whirling helicopter blades. 

Both were close enough I could have touched them.  My wide eyes spotted their equally wide eyes, and all our hearts nearly burst at the same time.  One of them did a basketball player “hover in the air” move with a little kick.  Had I thought fast enough, I could have grabbed him.

            Totally surprised, I jumped straight up, which certainly would have pleased my high school basketball coach.  As soon as I landed, Tucker bolted ahead, close on the bunnies’ tails.  They, having escaped more than one coyote or bobcat, split, leaving my oaf of a dog to decide which one to follow.  Their gambit worked, leaving him to shake his head in confusion and head my way, where I stood trying to figure out what just happened. 

            When I told my husband about this, he said he’d seen coyotes hunting in pairs to take advantage of this exact situation.  The trailing coyote obviously reacts faster than I do and captures one of the fleeing bunnies to provide that day’s calories. 

Just this week, the big yellow dog provided another hair-raising adventure.  We took a late afternoon walk on a balmy day.  Meadowlark trills and gentle breezes lulled me into an altered state, so it’s a good thing a water truck didn’t barrel along.  I might not have noticed.  Any way, my feet moved of their own accord while I existed on some other plane. 

Suddenly, I heard a stampeding herd heading my way.  I jerked my eyes up to find myself directly in the path of a racing black-tailed jackrabbit with Tucker close on its tail. Mesmerized by a scene from the late fifties or early sixties, I watched the chase until Tucker pooped out and returned to me. 

This intrigued me.  I can remember my dad hunting jackrabbits when we visited Kansas in the early sixties.  On these hunts, he would tell us about rabbit drives of the “Dirty Thirties” when he was a little boy.

In my mind, these were creatures of the past, perhaps a not so distant past, but still the past.  Here was my dog chasing the past down a country road.  Once again, the unexpected occurred as I exercised on lonely, dirt road.

I may not have to worry about merging vehicles out this way, but I’ve decided I’d best pay attention.  It appears that cottontails and jackrabbits might cross my path when I least expect them.

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