The fire stick

Photo Credit: Watership Down by Tristan Ferne per Creative Commons license.

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.

Fiver nodded.

“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.


One response

  1. You’re not alone. I don’t need to prove my manhood by successfully hunting down and killing Bambi.

    Still, did I need the meat, bones, hide, and so for my family’s survival, I’d hunt down and shoot Bambi without a second thought.

    And yet I’m a strong proponent of capital punishment (without all the attendant delays that serve only cruel-ify the punishment, but maybe that’s for a different thread): unlike deer and rabbits, we humans know what we’re doing.

    On a lighter note, I wouldn’t be writing this if looks could kill. When our daughter was a toddler and just learning to like meat, my wife served a meat dish for supper that our daughter attacked with considerable gusto. Me: “You like that, huh?”

    Daughter: “Yes!”

    Me: “Good–that’s Peter Rabbit.”

    She looked at me, looked at her plate, pushed it away, and ate nothing else for the rest of the meal. And went back off meat for another six months. My wife was…dismayed.

    In the end, though, our daughter recovered very well. It became a running joke between us that whenever one of us saw a pair of jack rabbits in our edge-of-Las Cruces yard, that one would point them out and say, “Look–breakfast and a pair of slippers.”

    Eric Hines

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