The Easter Bunnies
2019 General Nonfiction Honorable Mention
© Copyright 2019 by Carol Rotta
The memory of a little girl and the rabbits she and her younger brother received for Easter—and the humorous events that followed.
Two Easter bunnies came to live at our house. Literally. I was seven and my brother, Bunky, was five when our parents gave us each a baby bunny for Easter. How Mother persuaded Daddy to let us have them remains a mystery—he did not like pets of any kind. We didn’t even have a dog! She probably assured him the man at the pet store had guaranteed both rabbits were the same gender.
So there we were that Easter morning, sitting on the back steps gently stroking our bunnies soft fur, and nuzzling them against our cheeks. As I recall, we named the black and white one Flopsy, and all-white one, Mopsy.
“Be careful,” Mother said, watching us closely. “Don’t squeeze them. Just hold them tight enough so they can’t get away.”
I was thrilled when little Mopsy settled quietly in my lap. I marveled at the pink inside of its long upright ears, how fast the rosy nose twitched, and how sharp the claws were on the powerful back feet.
We kept the bunnies in a large cardboard box for a few days until Daddy had made a hutch for them. Mother limited the amount of time we could hold them, but I had fun watching them hop about in their temporary home. We squealed with delight when they nibbled the lettuce leaves we tossed on top of the bowl containing their food pellets.
Daddy, whose building skills were minimal, built a sturdy, wood framed box-like structure, about four feet long, covered with wire. It was raised several feet off of the ground on wooden legs. He put a small hinged door in the front, and showed us how to secure it with the hook and eye closure.
“You’ll have to make sure it’s locked after you put their food and water inside,” he cautioned in a grave tone as he squatted down and looked us in the eyes. “If you leave it open, the bunnies might get out. And you don’t want that to happen, do you?”
Bunky and I shook our heads no, in solemn agreement.
Daddy also took some of the left-over wire and built a little circular pen that could moved from place to place on the back lawn. “That way the bunnies will be off of the wire flooring for a while,” he said, “and they’ll be able to nibble on the grass. And you can reach over and pick them up.”
We loved playing with the bunnies. In the following days and weeks they became quite tame as they got used to being handled. And they grew surprisingly fast.
One morning, after Daddy left for work, Mother was in the kitchen washing the breakfast dishes when Bunky burst through the back door. His blue eyes were wide with anxiety, and his voice high pitched with hysteria as he screeched, “Mama! Mama! Come quick! There’s baby bunnies all over the place.”
Mother didn’t say a word but quickly turned and dashed out, drying her hands on her apron as she went. Bunky and I trailed behind her as she scurried across the lawn and out to the rabbit hutch situated in the furthest section of the back yard.
“Go back inside,” Mother ordered in her don’t-argue-with-me tone as we neared where she stood beside the rabbit hutch. “Now!” she commanded.
Bunky and I turned and trudged reluctantly back to the house—but not before I had glimpsed some tiny hairless forms on the wire bottom of the hutch, and on the ground beneath.
Back in the kitchen we waited for Mother’s return. “What happened?” I questioned, when she appeared in the doorway.
“Well, it looks like one of your bunnies had babies that we weren’t prepared for. Only one baby survived.”
“Can I hold it?” I asked, excited that we had a new bunny.
“I don’t think so. I put some old rags in for Mama Bunny and her new baby. I think we better leave them alone for a day or two. We’ll have to have Daddy attach a nesting box to the hutch so she’ll have a safe place to go the next time she has babies.”
When Daddy came home that evening Bunky and I rushed to greet him and tell him the exciting news that we now had three bunnies. Mother interjected her comment into the conversation, saying in a sarcastic tone, “The man at the pet store sure know much about rabbits. He was obviously wrong!”
Several days later Mother relented to my constant pestering. I was enthralled as she carefully placed the tiny black and white bunny into my outstretched, cupped hands.
Daddy dutifully removed the wire from one end of the hutch and attached a wooden box. Then we watched as Mother placed a mound of shredded paper on the floor inside. The three curious bunnies took turns hopping inside to inspect it. I heard them scratching around as though rearranging the contents according to their individual preferences.
Not too many weeks later the nesting box housed its first litter of baby bunnies. They matured rapidly and, as a consequence, the natural reproduction for which they are famous, also escalated. The maternity nest was in constant use. Soon, there were rabbits at every stage of maturation.
Daddy doubled the size of the hutch to accommodate the swelling population.
One morning, as mother fixed breakfast, the phone on the wall rang. She picked up the receiver and spoke into the mouthpiece. “Hello?”
“Yessss,” Mother replied, a quizzical note in her voice. “This is Mrs. Brinkman.”
“Well yes, we do have rabbits. Why are you asking?”
I saw Mother’s eyes widen as she said in a distraught tone. “Oh, my. Oh,my. You’re saying our rabbits are in your yard. We’ll be right over and get them. Goodbye.”
Mother hung up the receiver and turned to me. She looked very upset!
“Carol. Run out and see if the hutch is unlocked or if there’s some other way the rabbits got out.”
I raced out back and looked at the rabbit hutch. The hook was still latched. But, out of sight, in the back of the nesting box was a small opening. It looked like the bunnies had chewed through the wood and the smaller ones had escaped through the hole.
Breathless, I broadcast the bad news as I burst into the house. Daddy, dressed for work in his suit, white shirt and tie, had just entered the kitchen. Mother briefly informed him what had happened.
“Okay,” he ordered. “You kids go with your mother in the car and round up the bunnies in the neighborhood. I’ll fix the hole.”
Mother ran to get her purse and the car keys. Daddy headed to the garage to pick up the things he needed. Bunky and I followed and got in the car.
“Here’s a couple of cardboard boxes,” Daddy said as he handed them to us. “You’ll need them.”
We put them in the back seat just as mother arrived and jumped into the drivers seat. Daddy opened the garage doors for her and she backed out into the alley.
“Stop!” shouted Bunky. “There’s a bunny right over there.” He pointed to one crouched against the neighbor’s garage door.
Mother slammed her foot on the brake.
“There’s another one,” I said, and I pointed to it—huddled against our fence.
Bunky and I squeezed through the door and ran to capture the runaways. The bunnies were used to us so they didn’t scamper away as we approached. We scooped them up and put them in the cardboard box.
Mother drove slowly down the alley and we captured several more. On the street we spotted more bunnies happily feeding on several of the neighbor’s lawns and in their adjoining flower beds.
Mother pulled to a stop at the home of the neighbor who had phoned earlier—she was smiling as walked out to the car carrying a small cardboard box. She laid the box into my outstretched arms and I peeked inside to see three more of the little fugitives. “I hope you can find all of them,” she said. “They really are awfully cute—and so tame.”
“Thanks for your phone call letting us know,” Mother said through the open window as she waved our goodbyes.
Mother continued her unhurried tour of the neighborhood. We collected about fifteen escapees before Mother decided that was probably all we’d find. She headed for home.
Daddy saw the car as we neared the garage. Mother pulled in and parked. Daddy asked, as he pulled the two big wooden doors closed behind us and slid the wooden bar to lock them, “Did you find many of the little runaways?”
“About a dozen or so,” Mother said.
He reached in the car, took one of the boxes, handed it to Mother, then picked up the second one. As the four of us walked to the nearby hutches Daddy told us, “I fixed the hole—it wasn’t very big, so only the smaller bunnies could get through it. I nailed some tin over the wooden places so they can’t chew their way out again.”
The bunnies were effectively prevented from accomplishing further Houdini escapes. But their rapid reproduction rate was proving to be a dilemma. There were bunnies of all colors: white ones and brown ones; black ones and grey ones; black-and-white ones, and brown-and white ones. When the head-count reached fifty-four, Daddy said, “That’s enough! No more bunnies!”
The solution came from a fellow worker in Daddy’s office at the city hall. Carl Ourston had recently moved to the (San Fernando) Vally. With three little boys, he wanted to raise them out in the country instead of the crowded confines of the city. He was delighted with Daddy’s offer to give him all the rabbits—free.
Daddy explained to Bunky and me, “The bunnies will have a good home. They’ll have lots of room. They will be much happier than they are here—all crowded together. And we’ll visit them.”
When Mr. Ourston arrived the next Saturday, Bunky and I helped carry out and load the bunnies into wooden cages in the back of the truck. Before I handed each soft furry body to Mr. Ourston, I hugged it and told it goodbye and kissed it on the top of the head. I felt sad giving them away, but was confident they would be happy in their new home.
Some months later Daddy drove us out to visit the bunnies in their new home. It pleased me to see they had a big fenced-in pasture to play in, and plenty of room in the long row of sturdy hutches.
later I learned that our rabbits were the beginning of a small
commercial enterprise. The Ourston’s raised them for meat
and their fur pelts. They were, in today’s vernacular, “a highly renewable commodity.”
My husband of 53 years and I moved to a senior retirement community in Prescott, Arizona, almost three years ago. One of the activities offered was a memoir writing class. I tried it out—and thoroughly enjoyed it and began writing essays for my family. I was encouraged by the facilitator to join a more advanced workshop group whose members and leader offered a deeper learning experience. At 88 years old (young?) I’ve found a new hobby I greatly enjoy among others who enjoy what I have written. Carol is the author of the book Where the Williwaws Blow, a memoir of her life on a homestead in Alaska, in the early 1950’s. Several of her biographical essays are published in recent editions of Best Short Stories, A Collection by Arizona Writers. She’s a member of the Professional Writers of Prescott.