I’m not exactly sure just when to date this, other than it had to be sometime before 1957. My best guess is either 1955 or ’56, so I would have been six or seven. And I’m not sure where I got the white rabbit, but I probably won it as a prize at the Easter egg hunt at Richland, because although we were still living on my grandfather’s farm just outside Womelsdorf, we had relatives in Richland and spent a lot of time there.
What I do recall is that my pet rabbit was kept in a cage in the barn with the cows. The farm was pretty large and had two barns; the one for the cows was near the house where my grandparents lived. That was really the main barn, and in addition to housing the cows, it had two silos, an open barnyard, and just generally had a warm and inviting feel. In fact, my grandfather’s brother Miles, who helped out on the farm and had been living there since his wife died shortly before I was born, even slept in the main barn alongside the cows on a bed of straw during the warmer months.
Across the meadow was the house where we lived, and the other barn was adjacent to our house. It did not have a warm and inviting feel because that’s where the steers lived. Steers, unlike cows, were not especially gentle creatures. So that barnyard was closed off. The pigpen also opened into that barnyard.
So my pet rabbit’s cage was kept in the cows’ barn. And that might be what led to the crisis. Or perhaps my being six or seven and not yet having developed a sense of responsibility. For whatever reason, the barn wasn’t close enough to my house or I just plain wasn’t responsible enough, I was accused of not feeding and caring for my pet rabbit on a regular enough basis.
While the charge was probably true enough, the penalty was much too severe.
For one day I came back from grocery shopping with my mother and went running to the barn to check on my pet rabbit only find Miles skinning the carcass of the dead animal. I had been given no advance warning that this might happen, and I was heartbroken. Well, heartbroken and angry. But of course, I had no recourse.
That evening I dined at my grandparents’ house, as I often did in those days, as my grandmother usually made a big feast every evening for all the farm hands and one more little mouth to feed was no problem.
It was at the conclusion of supper that my grandmother informed me that the chicken that I had just eaten was, in fact, my pet rabbit.
So I learned a valuable lesson at an early age: Trust No One.