The ears of the hare

Ed
Ed Smith
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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column on rabbit hunting with No. 1 Son.
One of the e-mails I received in response was from a chap upalong originally from Boyd's Cove who wanted to tell me about a rabbit hunting venture he had with his father some years ago.
"I was the only son," he wrote, "so I followed Dad everywhere in the woods. In the '70s, I was posted to Edmonton in the military and never returned permanently to Newfoundland again. One December, Mom and Dad came up to spend some time with us. I had put out a few slips in small groves of poplar and maple. There was no spruce or fir around and not many meshes.
"Dad wasn't impressed. This, he maintained, was no place to be tailing rabbit snares. But he was really amazed when, in one lot of 10 slips, we had a rabbit in almost every one. What impressed him most was the fact that we had two more in snares we had already checked on the way in.
"'Melvin b'y,' he said, 'I've seen rabbits thick before up Rocky (an area just south of Birchy Bay), but nuttin' like this. A feller with a couple packs of picture cord would need two dog teams to haul 'em all home!'"

Hoppy memories
Melvin's story reminded me of my father and me and our rabbit-catching experience on the mainland. I may have alluded to it sometime, but I don't think I've ever told the whole story.
Father was in Mount Allison in Sackville for ordination, and I, at the ripe old age of 15, was working in a bank. Mine was the only regular income, so we weren't exactly flush with cash.
Since he had hunted rabbits from his youth on the Northern Peninsula, Father wondered if there were any around this area. We did some investigation one Saturday and discovered to our mutual delight there were leads everywhere near Dorchester.
The thrill of the hunt rapidly turned into the possibility of a commercial venture. Rabbits were selling for $5 a pair in St. John's - big money in those days - and immediately a slow ascent out of poverty seemed a definite possibility.
My mother's brother-in-law, a born salesman if ever there was one, worked in a furniture store on Water Street at the time. He agreed to represent us in the sale of rabbits and Father and I went to work.
Not far from the penitentiary, the rabbits were numerous. Before long, we had several brin bags full of frozen critters ready for export to the Avalon North market. True to our expectations, they sold like hotcakes. We couldn't keep our agent supplied. All our spare time was taken with snaring rabbits and sending them off to market.
All went merry as a wedding bell for some time. The extra cash supplemented our income and we took considerable pride in our father-and-son business venture. Dad had gone into business once before, selling hot water heaters In Conception Bay. These were submersible things designed to heat the water in bathtubs in the days before most people had electric power.
Unfortunately, he was not a salesman born. When a woman opened the first door he rapped on, he asked her if she had the hot water in her house.
"Yes, sir!" she said, and without another word, dashed off into the house and returned with a jug of hot water. "Here you are, sir. What do you be needin' it for?"
The rabbit idea was working a lot better.
Then, one day, after brother-in-law - we'll call him Bob - had sold his supply, a man came into the store and said he wanted his rabbit ears. Bob was a little confused.
"Rabbit ears? Why would you be wanting the rabbit ears?"
"Because," replied the customer, "I paid for 'em and I wants 'em."
"That's pure foolishness! You don't need rabbit ears! No one needs rabbit ears!"
"Well I do!" The customer insisted. "I paid for 'em!"
"I suppose you did," Bob replied, getting more annoyed by the minute, "but I don't have any extra. What did you do with ones you had?"
"I never had 'em."
"You must have had rabbit ears in the beginning."
"No, I didn't."
Bob could see he wasn't winning this argument, so he thought he should speak to Dad about it. He told the customer to come back tomorrow and he'd settle with him.
That night, he called and wanted to know if rabbits in New Brunswick were born without ears. Dad assured him they were all in one piece when they left us, and what was the problem with a couple of missing ears, anyway? Bob said he couldn't understand it himself, but he'd talk with the man again.
"Sir," Bob said to his customer the next day. "I'm certain you had the ears when you took delivery two days ago. Somehow, you must have lost them between the store and your house."
"That's not possible," the customer retorted. "I think you're trying to cheat me out of my rabbit ears and I'm going to complain to the management."
"Go ahead," Bob said, getting pretty angry himself, "but you're going to look pretty silly complaining about the loss of two rabbit ears."
"Silly? Silly! How am I supposed to get the damned TV to work without the rabbit ears?!"
And then it was suddenly all clear. Bob had sold the man a television set earlier in the week. In those days, you needed the "rabbit ears" antennae to boost the reception.
The rabbit hunting ended shortly after that, and we moved to Halifax where, again, we were in need of a supplemental income. I was now in Dalhousie University and they were on their own. But that didn't bother my parents at all.
Mother made doughnuts and Father sold them between classes in Divinity School.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is edsmith@nf.sympatico.ca.

Organizations: Dalhousie University, Divinity School

Geographic location: Edmonton, Newfoundland, Birchy Bay Mount Allison Sackville Dorchester St. John's Water Street Avalon North Conception Bay New Brunswick Halifax Springdale

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  • margaret
    July 02, 2010 - 13:09

    I have recevtly found you on the internet. What a nice surprise !!! I have always enjoyed your stories and I marvel at your courage. Hope you are feeling good. Keep up the humor, it does wonders for the soul. Mscott/crocker

  • margaret
    July 01, 2010 - 19:45

    I have recevtly found you on the internet. What a nice surprise !!! I have always enjoyed your stories and I marvel at your courage. Hope you are feeling good. Keep up the humor, it does wonders for the soul. Mscott/crocker