Photo Credit: Watership Down by Tristan Ferne per Creative Commons license.
There is a pretend world and a real world. That realization struck home vividly this summer.
I first saw the words “fire stick” at about the time I graduated law school in 1972. It was when I read the then recently released but now classic novel Watership Down. Here is a nice summary of the book:
“Set in south-central England, the story features a small group of rabbits. Although they live in their natural environment, they are anthropomorphised, possessing their own culture, language (Lapine), proverbs, poetry, and mythology. Evoking epic themes, the novel is the Aeneid of the rabbits as they escape the destruction of their warren and seek a place to establish a new home, encountering perils and temptations along the way.” Wikipedia.
A reference to the “fire stick” can be found in Chapter 9. It reads this way:
“We were attacked by a cat and had to run for it,” Fiver explained, “I’ve sent Pipkin back to the down with a new rabbit called Clover. But I don’t know where Hazel is. He’s been hurt by a man thing- Clover called it a fire stick.”
“No, is barking stick, make big sound, yes?” Kehaar asked.
“With big sound comes black pebble,” the gull continued. “If black pebble bite Hazel he need help.”
Since then, I cannot look at a rifle without thinking “fire stick” and rabbits.
At about the same time (late ’60’s or early ’70’s), and after a rabbit hunt in the “wilds” of Toledo, Ohio, I decided to quit killing those creatures for sport. The anguish of a squealing rabbit shot through the gut was no longer appealing.
I still have a “fire stick,” although a real hunter would laugh at it. And, on occasion, I still use it to kill rabbits that invade Joan’s garden. Those damn things gnaw through her pretty flowers like fierce and furry scythes.
I am not much of shot. This season I am 2 for 4. We put the dead ones in the beer frig in the garage, and freeze them solid. When the garbage man comes, the “bunny pops” end up in the dump.
Even for a good cause, killing rabbits makes me cringe. After one of my recent rabbit slaughters, something else occurred to me. I live two lives at the same time. There is my pretend life as when I luxuriate in the story of Watership Down. Then, there is my real life in our garden with a .22 or in the federal courthouse with a Guidelines Manual. Sometimes, I wish that were not so. But, most importantly, I need to be honest about all of it.