We have a big backyard. In fact, we own two acres. We live just outside of town here in Texas, which gives us the occasional opportunity to run into wild animals–and loose tame ones–on our property. We’ve played host to possums, snakes, wild pigs, and lots of squirrels over the years. We like it. It’s quiet.
Two nights ago, I was trying to beat a rainstorm, so I went out to mow the back lawn about an hour before sundown. In the process of mowing, I startled a mother cottontail rabbit who ran when I came close with my riding mower. A few minutes later, a tiny baby rabbit ran out as well. But rather than follow his mama into the taller bushes in the far back, he ran right into the path of my lawn mower and hunkered down in the grass, hoping I wouldn’t see him. Of course, I saw him. I stopped the mower and got off to rescue him. He didn’t move when I walked up and picked him up in my hand and took him in to show my wife. He was so tiny I could have fit two of him easily into my hand. After showing him off, I walked him out to the brush pile outside the mowing area and let him go. I don’t know for sure, but I suspected that he and his mama linked up when darkness came a bit later. Happy ending.
Tonight, Shelly and I decided to walk with the dogs out to the far back. I took her out past the mowed lawn area to our back fence. We have another acre beyond that which is a bit wilder, which is where many of our wild animal friends live. As we went to open to gate to go out, we saw an adolescent rabbit–larger than the baby I had rescued, but smaller than his mother–trapped in our wire fence. I suspected that when he was little, he had been able to fit through the fence, but now he was too big. We looked closer. He was caught halfway through, with his upper body through and his back legs caught in the wire. I told Shelly to hold him to keep him from hurting himself anymore, and I went off to get wirecutters. A few snips and he was free. But as we worked on him, we saw that he was injured. He had blood on his back legs. Shelly suggested taking him to the back porch to clean him up. She went in to get antiseptic for him, and I held him in bloody hands on the back porch. Right before she got back, I felt him lurch, shudder, and go still. She came back and we discovered that he had died.
Two rabbits. One lived and one died. We put the dead rabbit in the brush pile along with the live bunny who had escaped with his life a few days before.
We all wished that death wasn’t a part of life, but we also know that isn’t true. Young people don’t want to talk about it, maybe because they think by ignoring it it will go away. It won’t.
I’m happy that I didn’t run over the little bunny with my lawnmower a few days ago. I’m also sad for the rabbit who died tonight. But life–and death–surrounds us, whether we want it to or not.
Nothing more profound than that.