In Virginia, squirrels are the ubiquitous yard rodent. We have squirrels in Iowa City, too, but more often than not, the daily visitors are rabbits, instead. Even before we planted a garden, they seemed to be everywhere.
When I first moved here, I thought they were adorable. I’ve always had an affinity for rabbits, and a rabbit sighting causes me to speak in the same high-pitched voice triggered by little girls dressed in ballerina costumes or schnauzer puppies. It’s not pretty, but it’s unintentional.
When I was four years old, I emerged from my bedroom on Easter morning to find a Steiff rabbit puppet topping off the pastel basket stashed outside my door. I promptly named her Bun, and announced not long after that I loved her so much, I would like to be buried with her. I was a child of the Hyperbolic Age.
A few years later, my parents and I were at a butcher shop when I saw a familiar-shaped piece of meat. “What’s that?” I asked Mom.
“That’s rabbit,” she said.
Rabbit? People actually ate rabbit? People actually ate…Bun? This thoroughly disgusted and horrified me.
I suppose I should have known that rabbits were edible—Beatrix Potter’s books were some of my favorites when I was growing up, and she makes it very clear that Peter Rabbit’s mother is a single parent because Daddy Rabbit ended up in Mrs. McGregor’s pie. Maybe I just wasn’t reading with good comprehension, but this never troubled me nearly as much as actually seeing the flayed rabbit carcass in the meat case.
Times change, though, and yesterday’s blue-jacketed book character has now turned into our nemesis. I never thought I’d be on Mr. McGregor’s side.
I figured we’d at least have a few weeks of blissful growing before we’d have to worry about feeding the bunnies. No such luck—on the second night of gardening, I looked over into the neighbor’s yard, where sat, to my great chagrin, a rabbit. It just hung out there for awhile, as if he or she had an interest in garden construction.
To the rabbits of Iowa City, I say this: I might not be capable of harming a bunny, but you don’t know that. As far as you should be concerned, Peter was lucky and Mr. McGregor was slow. Watch yourselves.