I grew up with my sister in Southern California; bonafide city kids. We visited our extended family in Minnesota several times where we learned about farm life. We liked to go fishing and were aware the meat on our table came from animals such as the fish we caught or from meat farms like the cattle and poultry operations in the counties east of us. We didn’t have to raise our own meat so we never experienced the killing and cleaning part of anything larger or messier than our caught fish. In our minds, the cows went straight from the fields to the burger joint.
When the recession of the mid-seventies hit, prices on just about everything went up dramatically and quickly; food prices were not immune. I had a good friend with whom I spent a lot of time and our families became close friends as well. We did lots of things together; traveled together, ate together, celebrated together. My friend’s family was minimally employed so they learned to live very frugally. As the recession deepened, we sought to learn that life style from them.
My friend’s dad raised meat rabbits and suggested my dad might want to do the same to save money on grocery bills. To help our family, our dad enthusiastically dove into this new endeavor and – BAM! Just like that – we were into raising meat rabbits. We built hutches in the back yard of our suburban home and began making regular trips to the pet food store for bags of rabbit food. Half of the family wasn’t sure the fuel along with mileage on the car and the cost of the feed was cheaper than buying meat from the store, but we continued to tend to, and become attached to, the rabbits.
The rabbits did what rabbits are supposed to do and soon we had to harvest some of them or give up our bedrooms to them. My friend’s dad came over and helped my dad prepare to slaughter and dress out the biggest bunnies. They tied little ropes to our swing-set and tied rabbits up by their hind feet. My dad emerged from the garage with a large hammer; all of this while we watched from the dining room window as the bad scene unfolded before our eyes. That’s when it happened. My sister was far more horrified than I was. However, I would have preferred to continue thinking the rabbits just disappeared and magically turned into supper. These beneficial bunnies had suddenly become a big problem.
Our mom sprang into action, devising a plan than still has ramifications today. One afternoon, as soon as our dad had left for work, we collected all the remaining rabbits and packed them into the family car. We drove to-and-fro, crisscrossing the county dropping off rabbits the way Fed-Ex drops off packages. When we ran out of adoptive friends, we took the last few furry fugitives and shoved them under a fence setting them free in a tree farm that ran for a mile under some large electrical transmission towers. Those rabbits did what rabbits do and we saw generations of their kin every time we drove past that tree farm. At least they weren’t proliferating in our back yard anymore. Those rabbits were just like any kind of trouble in life; you have to handle it or it will just keep multiplying.
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