Hey Andy! Ever hear the one about the Jackalope?

This one's for you. Hope you see it here. Leave me a note in the comments section if you do. All is well, and all is well, and all manner of things shall be well (to borrow from Julian of Norwich).

And for some other people: I talked to our soldier today, and she is well too. Fierce. Solid. Calm. Well. She will be home soon.

And Jim? Do you read my blog? Remember this?

He was eleven, going on twelve, old enough to know that our mother enjoyed stringing us along just for the fun of it. She had, after all, convinced him once, and kept him convinced for a very long time, that dill pickles could open the bathroom door. Not directly, you understand. The pickle was not a substitute for the nail we otherwise used to pick the lock when people had accidentally locked the door behind themselves on their way out. But my mother had been eating a pickle, and my brother had seen the pickle and not the nail, and by the time she told him the truth, he'd eaten a lot of pickles. It's a wonder he ever trusted her for any further information. Even when he was four or five, he was all about the information.

Our youngest brother was only nine, and we never relied on him for the facts in any case. He was for playing our own tricks on. This is how he had a childhood that included the eating of bath soap and dog biscuits, and several rapid and rather brutal falls from trees. He neither gave nor accepted information about things like danger, but generally believed that everything would turn out fine. He believed us. Obviously, he couldn't be relied upon for his judgment.

They could both believe me. I was the oldest of us three little kids, and I always looked out for the two of them, and I always told them the truth. I volunteered the truth. I wielded the truth like a kind of flaming sword or witch's wand, and I was always right, and I could prove it and argue it and defend it and it mattered to me. So, seriously. My little brother could have believed me.

I was nearly fifteen years old and I had long since outgrown baby games like telling stupid stories about jackalopes. I wouldn't have lowered myself to such dumb dork conversation.

Jacakalopes! Doesn't the name explain it? All the way from Portland, Oregon, through Boise and across the corner of Idaho, and into Green River, Wyoming, during the summer of 1975, we got things settled for the long drive to Iowa. Three lanky kids, kids who generally worked things out, worked out the issues of personal territory inside the station wagon, and whether or not and how far to roll down the windows to get some air. We ignored the map reading and parental conversation in the front seat. We read our books and made up games of our own and generally got along just as well as ever. Until we got into Green River, Wyoming. Thirty-five years after the fact, all of us still grimace at the name. The mosquitoes there were like a plague from Little House on the Prairie or the story of Moses or something.
Green River, Wyoming, was also where we saw the first jackalope postcard in some greasy spoon restaurant. There it was, in full color. A photograph. A picture. Not a cartoon, but a real picture. The jackalope was in a field or something, surrounded by wild flowers and alert for predators. Predators! The stupid looking oversized jackrabbit had antelope horns large enough to fend off a herd of stampeding bucks in rutting season, and my brother believed it was real!

There are nine hundred, thirty-four miles between Green River, Wyoming, and Ames, Iowa. There must have been about six or eight restaurants and probably one or two motels, all of which had spinner racks with postcards in them, and several of the postcards bore the image that was evidence of the amazing jackalope. They leaped in the air, they browsed in the hills, and they posed for the cameras, and my brother was just starting to believe me and my knowledge of genetic codes and DNA and inter-species reproduction, right before every stop when the whole discussion would start up again. All the way to Iowa, he resented my arguments, appealed to our amused dad, and got nothing but, “I don't know, Jimmy,” from our exasperating mother.

Nearly a month later, on the way home by the northern route, after I had turned fifteen in Iowa, and my brother and I had resumed our comfortable partnership as the older two of our three, he began to concede the point. Okay. Pictures could be faked. True enough. So maybe those postcards were a joke. Maybe, just maybe, someone was even a sick enough liar to put the printed paragraph on the back, with fake information about the jackalopes. Sick. But possible.

Until the diner in South Dakota. That was where we saw the jackalope preserved by taxonomists, on display behind the counter, for all the world to see. Stupid South Dakota.

1 comment:

Carol Whipps said...

This is a very humorous story, STeph! I hope your brother reads it and has a good laugh at the memories of your summer vacations.