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The Easter Bunny (Book Excerpt: Where the Green Grass Grows)
Bright afternoon sunshine streamed through the tall window, and from my place at the kitchen table, I could look up at a patch of blue sky that seemed as smooth and clear as polished glass. Earlier in the afternoon, I had gone outside to see Dusty, but–just like the day when I had flown my kite for the first time–the wind was so cold it made my eyes water. Mom had reminded me that in another month there would be plenty of warmer days, so I had spent most of the afternoon inside. I had helped Loretta clean upstairs. I had read a book for a while. And now I was working on my Sunday school lesson. As I turned to the next page in the book, my father reached under the sink and brought out a stack of egg cartons.
“Want go with me?” he asked.
“Are you leaving right now?” I said, setting down my pencil.
Usually I put off doing my Sunday school homework as long as I could, but since I would rather not ride my bike–or my pony–in the cold, biting wind, now was as good a time as any to work on the lesson that had been assigned for tomorrow.
Dad shifted the egg cartons to his other arm. “Yup, we gotta leave right now if we’re gonna get back before it’s time to feed the cows.”
Every couple of weeks, we bought eggs from a farm several miles away, although it was close enough so that the family was considered one of our neighbors. The daughter of the family raised chickens. She also kept ducks and rabbits and calves. But best of all, she owned a horse, a bay gelding named Lucky she had bought when he was six months old. She had trained him herself.
I always hoped when we went to buy eggs I might have a chance to pet Lucky. Sure, I had my own pony, but I never wanted to miss an opportunity that had anything to do with horses.
I stood up and flipped my Sunday school book closed.
“When do you plan on finishing that?” my mother called out from the living room.
“After supper?” I said.
“I promise,” I said. “I’ve only got a few questions left, anyway.”
I went into the porch, put on my denim chore coat, zipped it up, and stuffed my stocking cap into my pocket. If Lucky was in his pasture, I would need the stocking cap.
“Ready, kiddo?” Dad asked. He pushed open the door and stepped outside onto the porch.
“Look,” he said, as we walked toward the pickup truck, “the grass is starting to turn green.”
Although a few patches of snow remained in the woods, the lawn and most of the fields were bare. I still could hardly believe it, though, when I walked outside and saw the brownish color of the lawn and the fields, rather than the bright white that had been there all winter long.
A short time later we arrived at the neighbor’s place. While the daughter went into the house to get our eggs, Dad and I waited in the yard. The trees on the other side of the driveway blocked the cold north wind and it felt almost warm in the sun.
I had been gazing toward Lucky’s pasture and wondering if we could stay long enough for me to pet him when Dad spoke up.
“Want a rabbit?” he asked.
I turned toward him. “What?”
“A rabbit,” Dad replied. “You know, an Easter bunny.”
He pointed to a small piece of plywood with black letters painted on it that said, “Easter Bunnies For Sale. $1.”
I had not noticed the sign.
“An Easter bunny? Could I?”
“I don’t see why not,” Dad replied.
A rabbit! A real, live rabbit! A couple of the kids at school owned rabbits, and I thought they seemed like such nice little animals with their wiggly noses and long, floppy ears.
I happily thought about the idea of my very own bunny rabbit for all of five seconds–until I remembered my mother.
“Dad? If we bring an Easter bunny home, what will Mom say?”
My mother thought that the dog and the cats and the calves and my pony were far more pets than any farm needed
“It’s only a little rabbit,” Dad answered. “She won’t get mad. Besides, when we tell her that it will eat those cabbage leaves she’s always complaining are going to waste, she’ll think it’s a good idea.”
Mom did like to let anything go to waste. One of her favorite sayings was ‘waste not, want not.’ But when Dad suggested that she could save the cabbage leaves for soup, she said she did not like cabbage in soup because it gave her heartburn.
The girl came back with our eggs a few minutes later, and Dad told her that I wanted an Easter bunny. She took us to a little shed near the barn. Inside were dozens of rabbits. Some were in cages on shelves and some were in pens on the floor. One pen had young rabbits. They were not tiny babies, but they were not as big as the other rabbits. Some were solid black and some were brown, and some were black and white and reminded me of Holstein cows.
And then I noticed one little white rabbit sitting in the corner all by himself.
“See any you like?” Dad asked.
“The white one,” I replied, pointing.
The girl reached down and grabbed the rabbit by the scruff of his neck. “This one’s an albino,” she said. “That’s why his eyes are pink.”
She held out the rabbit and set him into my waiting hands. The young rabbit sat quietly, and when I cradled him to me, he snuggled down in the crook of my arm. His fur was the softest thing I had ever touched, softer even than Dusty’s velvety nose or the fluffy fur of a kitten.
Dad stroked the bunny’s head with two calloused fingers. “You’re a nice little feller, aren’t you.”
“Should I find a box to put him in?” the girl asked.
“Is this the one you want?” Dad inquired.
“Yes, Daddy, this is the one I want,” I said.
Dad pulled his old cracked and faded brown leather billfold out of his shirt pocket, opened it, thumbed through the bills, selected one and handed it to the girl. She tucked it into her pants pocket.
“I’ll go and get a box,” she said.
While the girl went to the house, I stood with the rabbit cuddled in my arms. His eyelids drooped and then closed tight.
“Well!” Dad said. “That bunny rabbit must like you. He went to sleep.”
I looked down at the rabbit.
“How do you know that means he likes me?” I said.
“If he was scared,” Dad said, “he’d be wide awake…”
From the book: Where the Green Grass Grows (True Spring and Summer Stories from a Wisconsin Farm) ( ISBN-13 978-1-60145-090-6; ISBN 10 1-60145-090-7; 190 pages; $13.95)
by LeAnn R. Ralph
©2006: LeAnn R. Ralph
For more information about the book, visit — http://ruralroute2.com
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