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March 27, 2020

Kotzebue--things got in the way today of what I really wanted to write about: Rabbits. Morning was -2 and blowing snow. I couldn't see in the white snow so i went out to check my little traps but I didn't catch a rabbit. I've been having a bit of a standoff here in town with one who is eating my transplanted poplar trees. (Just to be clear, quite a few hares have ended up in my cast iron frypan this winter so they could also be telling tales of troubles they've had with a white fella.) Anyway, I don't want to hurt anyone's sensibilities but I strongly believe in the importance of being honest about our relationship with nature, and high on that list is what tastes good. These snowshoe hares are good--especially if you ever find yourself hungry. I like them mostly, seeing their tracks and watching what they're up to. But conflict changes things--even with animals--and when they start wrecking your stuff you seem to change. It's ironic how all our relationships can change so drastically and abruptly. I grew up hunting rabbits, me on snowshoes, too. We ate a lot of snowshoe hares, and fed them to our dogs. My parents warned us they have tularemia, which could infect us or our dog team, so we washed our hands after working on them. Also, they have a round bb-like bone behind the knee that can break your tooth. Otherwise, just because something is cute and furry doesn't mean it's not good food. Keep that in mind for a few years. You never know what's coming our way. Some of my best memories are hunting rabbits in Otter Slough with my brother Kole and our friend Alvin. We skinned hundreds and hung them on our fish racks to dry for dog food. One of my best rabbit stories was twenty years back, me arriving at Bob and Carrie's--esteemed elders here, out living in camp--and Carrie storming around upset because my friend Andrew Greene (Alvin's brother-in-law) had just dropped off a sack of rabbits--except he'd shot them all in the head. "Why he shoot the best part?" she growled. I looked at my hands and smiled. I'd been all set to go get her some rabbits and this was good information. Snowshoe hares hunker down and don't have great postures, their necks are small and hidden behind large heads--a handy target, if you happen to be a hunter. I thanked Bob for coffee and went and shot Carrie a sack of rabbits, all thru the neck or chest. Now, when I recall that time, which is rare, I enjoy reminding Andrew. What I think about more often, though, is the day Carrie told me she used to hunt rabbits, long ago with her ancient .218B rifle--to trade at Hanson's Store, for cigarette money! When I found that out it was one of those life lessons, to suddenly recognize the huge worlds every elder had lived--same as us youngsters--starting off and traveling straight ahead through life, roaming and hunting, buying smokes, falling in love, making mistakes and all the rest of this. Anyway, it's late and I haven't eaten dinner and I could tell way too many rabbit stories. Next time I need to explain how to clean and cook one. Maybe tomorrow if I'm lucky.

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