Perilous pursuit of Peter Cottontail

By Kristen Tribe | Published Wednesday, March 28, 2018

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“Here comes Peter Cottontail, hoppin’ down the bunny trail, hippity, hoppity, Easter’s on its way …”

And now, I present to you a cautionary tale for anyone considering trying to catch that cottontail.

Kristen Tribe

Kristen Tribe

When my sister and I were little, our family regularly spent time in Saint Jo at my grandparents’ house. My grandfather, who we called PaPa, was a jovial, laid back man. A few things we used to do with him included checking the cows, watching his afternoon “stories” or just fiddling around the yard.

One afternoon he told me and my little sister that he had a surefire way to catch a cottontail rabbit. What little girl doesn’t want to catch a sweet, cuddly bunny? So of course, we were game.

“What do we do?” we asked.

PaPa said if you pour salt on a rabbit’s tail, you can catch it when it turns around to lick it off.

Sounded reasonable. I’m guessing we were about 6 and 4 years old at the time.

We dashed into the kitchen, and he filled two tiny Dixie cups with salt, one for each of us, then led us into the backyard. My grandparents lived on the equivalent of what was about half a city block, so in addition to their yard, they had room for a large garden and a small fenced area where they sometimes kept livestock – perfect cottontail habitat.

We decided the fenced area was the best place to start because that’s usually where we saw the most rabbits. Logical, right?

PaPa said that would be fine, but whatever we did, we were not supposed to climb over the gate; we were to open it and walk through it. But my little sister beat him there and with no one there to open it for her, she quickly scrambled over the top.

As she climbed, she unwittingly tilted her cup of salt, and poured the contents into her eye. She instantly began wailing, and PaPa took off running for her, yelling the whole way. He wasn’t really yelling at her, just yelling in general because he was scared.

But I didn’t understand. My grandparents had never, ever raised their voices at us, so this hurt my feelings. I was afraid my sister was in trouble, and I was mad at PaPa for yelling when she was hurt.

He grabbed her from the gate and ran into the house with her to flush her eyes with water. In the meantime, I took off. I ran into the front bedroom and threw myself in the floor between the bed and the wall and began to sob.

Several minutes later PaPa ventured into the room, looking for me. I remember thinking I was in trouble, too. But he just laughed and wanted to know why I was crying.

“You’re not the one with salt in your eyes,” he chuckled.

He was relieved my sister wasn’t blinded, and I was relieved to still be in his good graces.

Catching a cottontail is harder than it sounds. Probably best to let that bunny be.

Kristen Tribe is assistant publisher of the Wise County Messenger.

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