I lived for a few years amongst the ocotillo and mesquite and cows tongue cactus of Arizona. About this time of year, in that high desert, the jackrabbits get amorous. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the year Chesty was a pup and Jack and I had one good show after another watching those long-eared hares.
The way sex works with jackrabbits in the spring is that the males fritter away the purple light of late afternoon by leaping at each other in waist-high bounds and jumps in a great show of athletic ability and general silliness. This posturing seems to impress nobody but themselves. Certainly the females used these long days of male one-upmanship to nibble at the expensive non-native plants I, in my own clueless wonder, had dragged home from the nursery. Maybe the female jackrabbits do notice these male antics, but I never saw so much as a lifted eyebrow or the twitch of a dainty, blue-veined ear.
Jack and I, however, found the show hilarious. The males would face each other in a classic John-Wayne-stares-down-the-bad-guy pose. Then, at a signal we mere humans never identified, the boys ran at each other on their long, stringy, powerful haunches. Inches away from colliding, both rabbits leaped into the air and kicked sideways like scrawny acrobats. They’d race away then, wait for the dust to settle, and start the whole display over again.
The year Chesty was a gangly pup this mating dance had an added flair.
The hares would stare, flinch, race at each other. In the middle of this mad collision course, one male would leap straight up, flip himself in the air and, in great bounds, disappear in the opposite direction.
The remaining rabbit would stop suddenly, shake himself as if to say,
Well, okay then, lucky that fool he gave up before I had to kick his ass. Now. Where’s them girls?
The winner would straighten his boney shoulders, stretch one long, long leg and give himself a congratulatory lick or two. You could see the moment the truth hit his itty bitty boy rabbit brain. The ground shook. Pink dust hazed the air. The hare turned as slowly as a character in the closing scene of a QuentinTarantino movie.
I’m not making this up.
We could see the jackrabbits’ eyes widen. Their mouths dropped to expose those yellow front teeth. Okay I might have imagined that part, but the point is, there was a poignant moment when the jackrabbit comprehended that he had not won the contest with his adversary. No, no, no indeed. He was not the winner he thought he was. No. He was simply the last rabbit standing to understand the REAL threat–a hundred pound dog, tongue lolling, slobber flying, racing directly for him, intent on making him a chew toy.
Lying on our lounge chairs, the dry desert air sucking the last bit of moisture from our skin, Jack and I would laugh rudely and encourage the dog.
Karma has a way of biting me on the ass.
Lately, I feel like that jackrabbit. Every time I think I’ve won, the ground begins to tremble and shake.