Jackalope hunting season
Was thinking of setting up a get together for all THL members that could make it for a varmint hunt and visit. Texas has a sizeable population of jackalopes.
Here is some info and a picture. If we get enough interest I will also show the available accomodations.
Twelve hundred years before the invention of the postcard or the roadside souvenir stand, Buddha is quoted in the Shurangama Sutra as telling a follower that "horns on a rabbit" simply do not exist.
So don't blame me for ruining one of the most cherished legends of the American West. Blame the Enlightened One.
Or, better yet, don't. I'm happy to report that Buddha was wrong. The jackalope actually walks - or hops - among us, and we can thank it for a recent major advance in human medicine.
If you spend much time roaming around the Rocky Mountains states - the part of America I've come to think of as Jackalopistan - you've probably developed a weird fondness and obsession, as I have, for this rare and secretive cross between a jackrabbit and an antelope. Like the yeti and ***y teenage vampires, we root for them to exist; the world would be duller without them.
John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, is the first American to claim a jackalope sighting. His announcement drew mostly bemused shrugs. Compared with his tall tales of spouting geysers and bubbling mud pots along the Yellowstone River, a horned rabbit wasn't exactly front-page news.
The creature probably would have bunny-hopped off into the mists of mythology had it not been for Douglas Herrick, a young rancher in Douglas, Wyo., with a mail-order taxidermy degree. According to his obituary in the New York Times, the big moment came in 1932 (or 1934, or 1939, or 1940 - the stories vary), after Herrick and his brother Ralph had returned from a hunting trip.
"We just throwed the dead jack rabbit in the shop when we come in, and it slid on the floor right up against a pair of deer horns we had in there," Ralph Herrick told the newspaper. "It looked like that rabbit had horns on it."
According to the story, his brother's eyes grew wide with inspiration.
"Let's mount that thing!" he said.
Someone proposed calling it a "deerbunny," and if that name had stuck we probably wouldn't be talking about it today. Fortunately it was vetoed in favor of the more marketable "jackalope." (Somewhere along the line it also acquired a Latin name, Lepus-temperamentalus.)
The Herrick family began mass-producing them - by one estimate Ralph's son Jim ships 1,200 a year to Wall Drug alone - and a tourism icon was born. Seeing a rare opportunity, Douglas, a pretty little town along the North Platte River, proclaimed itself the world's jackalope capital and installed an 8-foot-tall statue in the town square. Before the big coal and uranium boom in the 1970s, the town largely supported itself selling jackalope souvenirs to tourists. (One of them, a mounted trophy head, ended up on the wall of Ronald Reagan's Western White House.) Even today, the Chamber of Commerce will sell you a jackalope hunting license - you must prove you have an IQ below 72, and the hunting season is brief: between midnight and 2 a.m. on June 31.
But is the jackalope really a creature of mythology? Surprisingly, wildlife biologists say no.
Sightings of a jackalope-like creature have been reported in Europe for centuries. In Bavaria it was known as a wolpertinger; in Austria they called it a raurackl; in Switzerland it was a dillsapp.
A woodcut picture of a hare with horns appeared as far back as 1575 in a zoology treatise titled "Animalia Qvadrvpedia et Reptilia (Terra)." Another showed up in the Encyclopedie Methodique, a popular, 206-volume French encyclopedia published between 1782 and 1832.
On a hunting trip in the 1930s in the western United States, Dr. Richard Shope of Rockefeller University heard a friend talk of seeing rabbits sporting horns. He asked his friend to send him some of these horns, which under the microscope turned out to be warts that formed horn-like protrusions on the hare's head.
Shope and other scientists eventually tracked the cause to a virus called papillomavirus, which in humans causes cervical cancer. This set researchers down the long path that in 2006 led to the cervical cancer vaccine approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
So the jackalope really does exist, and human life is the better for it - in many ways. Just don't tell any Buddhists.
KATY TEXAS PRAIRIE
THIS TOO SHALL PASS
Last edited by Alboy; 12-17-2009 at 11:32 AM..