“Hit’em! Hit ’em! You’re SUPPOSED to! THAT’S what they want!” Admittedly, they do have an uncanny knack for jumping out of the sage and chaparral at just the precise SECOND one’s thousands of pounds of vehicle is hurtling along at warp speed in the waning light of a desert sunset. Lack of light, still shimmering heat waves and the camouflaging color of asphalt make it darn near impossible to see their furry, sprinting forms as they fling themselves out onto the roadway, gleefully hightailing it down the center of YOUR lane, occasionally looking back to see if you’re still giving chase.
Now, the driver of the mostly plastic, rubber and a bit of steel rocket ship known as a car, or truck, must make a hasty decision: 1) stomp on the brakes with the might of Hercules, sending kids, dogs, groceries and loose teeth fillings into the windsheild, 2) launch a couple of tons of car and occupants into the sand and desert peach off the right side of the highway, or 3) swerve into the opposite lane and pray to God the opposite lane remains free of oncoming eighteen wheelers. Those choices assume one is concerned with the jack rabbit’s life. I am.
My friend, however, was offering a fourth alternative, loosely based on his beliefs about the rabbits’ intentions…..just run over them, period. He pointed out how once they leap out in front of the car, they continue hopping and skipping down the center of the lane, in front of the car, truck, bicycle, (I once squashed a hapless little ground squirrel with my Schwinn, but, darn it, he “jack rabbited” me!), or any moving object with a velocity greater than rollerblades, although, I have seen some wannabe-NASCAR- racers on THOSE things, too! The jack rabbits’ zigging and zagging add to the adventure in avoidance since you never know where they’re going to be ….directly attached to your front bumper, off the left side tire, back to the right side door, somewhere under the car, hanging off the tailpipe……it’s wicked difficult to guess where they are. ” Watch,” my friend said, ” they’ll even look back to make sure you’re still following them!” He was right! For a nano-second, the whites of their eyes are visible over their bunny shoulders, then the rabbit rocket boosters are engaged and they’re gone in a “Hi-Ho, Silver, Away!” burst of speed.
“If they’re moving that fast,” I asked my friend, “how can you possibly say they want to be hit?”
“Well, just look at all the fur patches on any stretch of highway,” he replied. “We know they’re fast enough, and certainly agile enough, to avoid becoming buzzard buffets, but they choose to shuck, dive and dodge until a driver has no other option but to nail ’em!” Could be he had something there, as I have counted as many as fifteen furry little carcasses on a one mile stretch of roadway, all in different phases of “hit-dom,” from the “well picked over by buzzards and crows” to the ” VERY recently suicided” stages.
Truly, I never did subscribe to Bart’s theory about the rabbits’ desire for”suicide by vehicle,” but having recently returned from a trip to the “gates of hell,” (AKA: southern California freeways!), I believe the rabbits have taken to driving cars! Not content to simply sprint down relatively obscure rural lanes under their own piston power, jolting unwary drivers out of driving induced comas, they went out and got their drivers licenses!
Carefully maneuvering my way down El Cajon Pass with a full size pick-up, pulling a 2 horse trailer, it occurred to me that the rabbits were whizzing past me at speeds that were better suited for rocket launches. I, myself, was already speeding, doing better than ten miles per hour over the posted limit for vehicles towing anything! For one daredevil, nano-second, I took my eyes off these whizzing rabbits, to glance at an upcoming sign: Auto Club Speedway. “Ah HA,” I thought. “THAT explains everything! I’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere and I’ve ended up on the Nascar Speedway!” Briefly, I wondered why huge, thundering eighteen wheelers would be on a speedway, but upon further reflection, it made perfect sense! This was, after all, a southern California “speedway,” albeit one with 62 lanes!
The closer I got to Temecula, my ultimate destination, it FINALLY dawned on me that these shiny chrome and steel, zigzagging, lane hopping, (turn signals are used randomly to 1] prove a car has them, or 2] to signal a left turn by blinking “right”, 3] blinking, then doing absolutely nothing, or 4] doing all three in rapid succession!), brake stomping, finger waving, lip flapping, (Oooooh, YES! Got some lessons in lip reading,too!), accelerator smashing macaroons, (Thank you, Bugs Bunny, for that vastly useful term!), actually wanted to be HIT! HELLO! Their appearance was somewhat altered, but, there they were….JACKRABBITS!! I WANTED TO OBLIGE THEM!
Amazingly, a jack rabbit’s size does NOT matter on a southern California speedway………er, freeway. Speed, frenzy, mayhem and perhaps a pistol waved out of the window will get any driver where they want to be…… most likely six lanes over from where they are….. with only ten feet to make the change! I couldn’t reach my derringer……….didn’t DARE take my eyes off those fifteen cars thundering neck and neck just inches from my passenger door, nor my hands off the steering wheel, long enough to try and shoot someone, anyway.
When I finally headed back north, reaching the Highway 395 turn-off that would take me home, I wanted to get out and kiss the sign, but the billion or so jack rabbit powered cars and trucks still on my tailpipe, back bumper, doors and rear tires, all vying for a “suicide” position ,prevented me from doing so. Passing on the outskirts of Victorville, a once beautiful little town that I had lived in, those pesky car rabbits were STILL trying to get me to run over their tailpipes! I wasn’t about to jeopardize, nor terrorize any further, the horse I was trailering home. I simply pulled over and had a stiff shot of milkshake……Forty million calories of “calm down!” But, darn it, those “rabbits” drove me to it!
Once home, I reflected on the similarities of the northern Nevada jack rabbits, and the southern California type…..the desire for speed, the need to knit themselves and others into a string of mayhem on the highway…….. and concluded that both types are just nuts, either lacking, or having too much of, some brain chemistry that pushes them to the edge of group chaos. The main difference I discovered is that I really, REALLY do NOT want to hit the NEVADA rabbits. I’m quite certain that my friend, Bart, long deceased, would now feel the same way!