Anyone who has crossed the Mississippi in the back of a sparkling 1965 (or earlier) station wagon with his or her multiple siblings playing car bingo has met one.
I didn’t come to the awareness of the species until later in life. I was about eleven and my older half brother and I were being tortured by one of my father’s intermittent AAA® “family vacations”‘.
As near as I can figure, the old man decided this was the epitome of the family adventure. It played to his ego to go somewhere where he could come back and wax poetic about the collection of small and useless facts with his scotch drinking comrades. A compulsory slide show demonstrating his self imagined photography skills accompanied the endless evening.
So we were doubly tortured as the bro and I had to sit through the still life rerun with the accompanying stereophonic LONG playing accompaniment. It should be no surprise that we commiserated that this would be the last trip we were ever forced to make.
Enter that rarest of creatures of the Wild West: the Jackalope.
We were going out to visit my uncles in Idaho. My eight-year-old bladder was expected to maintain endurance until we made the entire trip. One accident in the back seat after five miles of pleading and crying taught him otherwise.
As my mom dug in the trunk for dry clothes and my father sought out the nearest liquor store, we found a diner and ordered sandwiches while reparations were made.
Next to the diner was the obligatory gift and souvenir shop. I felt his eyes on me before I spied him.
At first glance, I thought it was the biggest wabbit I had ever seen. My dad, seeing my gaping slack jaw, explained that it was Bugs Bunny’s older brother and a member of a particularly aggressive branch of the species of lagomorphs. While the bunny and hares of this order were friendly, jackalopes were the enforcers. They were the aggressive and vicious goon squad of the gang.
Furthermore, we were heading into the worst of jackalope territory and I shouldn’t even think of getting out of the car. They were sneaky as well and would sneak up on unsuspecting eight-year-old girls who couldn’t control their bladders.
His sadistic streak won. I was petrified. I fled the gift shop as quickly as I could. All the while I could feel the creature’s eyes following me. His antlers were a lethal weapon – with me in mind. I refused, as always, to show any fear.
Flash forward to life here in the present. I hadn’t thought of the dreaded jackalope in several decades. Even as we travelled to our new permanent home in the Wild West, my encounter with the jackalope on the shelf in Wall Drug yielded no fear; only a smile remembering my old man’s demented sadism with a smile. He was, after all, a champion bullshitter.
Recently, I was reading our local paper. It has been in existence continuously since 1876, when Wild Bill and Custer were local residents. I found this advertisement in the classifieds:
There is a large section of the classifieds devoted to the divine and desperate of items for sale. On any given day, one can ponder the purchase of a 1970 Ford Falcon (“runs great!”), a mink jacket (slightly used, one owner!), a 1/4 or 1/2 of fresh buffalo meat (one owner!).
But Frank and his entrepreneurial venture intrigued me. How did he come to this price point? What if he were flooded with hundreds of jackalopes from all over the entire state? Does size matter? Could he legitimately declare bankruptcy if the jackalope market tanked?
And, why, Frank? Has it long been your call in life to open the International Jackalope museum? Will it be a broad spectrum of jackalope demographics? The sweet, kind jackalopes as well as the jackalope felons and evildoers? What does an evildoing jackalope do to be evil?
When you live out here, passing fake mannequins checking speeders and trying to collect jackalopes for fun and profit becomes one of life’s bigger questions.
I’m thinking of calling Frank for the answer. It’s right up there with the meaning of life…