The day Uncle Curtis’ rabbits did the town
By Carl Iobst
Well if this don’t beat all. Over in eastern Germany where lederhosen, apple strudel, and skinheads are tourist attractions, Karl Szmolinsky is fixin’ to feed the world’s hungry. Maybe not the whole world, but you’ve got to start somewhere. And what better place than North Korea, where thousands are starving to death every day!
It seems some of Kim Jong Il aka ‘Wacky Kim’s’ people found out Szmolinsky raises really big rabbits to dress up that sour cabbage that Germans like to eat. These rabbits, called ‘German Giants’ are as least as big as Cocker Spaniels. Arf arf. The North Koreans “came here and they checked out the rabbits,” Szmolinsky told the Associated Press. “They really liked them.”
Well all this foolishness reminds me of my Uncle Curtis. Uncle Curtis was a good old boy raised right here in the mountains. He was looking at the Sears and Roebuck catalog one afternoon while taking care of business in the outhouse. One of the advertisements Uncle Curtis just happened to spot was selling breeding pairs of rabbits. “Start Your Own Rabbit Farm — Guaranteed to Make Money,” the ad said. Next thing we kids knew Uncle Curtis was pullin’ up the road with a big crate in the bed of his rusty old Ford. Curtis told us kids to not mess with nothin’. When he turned his back we peered through the slats in the crate and poked sticks inside.
The only thing we could see was big floppy ears and brown rat-like noses. These rabbits didn’t look anything like Bugs Bunny in the cartoons they showed before the movie in town. Uncle Curtis ran us off and moved the crate into the old tobacco curing shed and locked the doors. It wasn’t too much later we kids forgot about the rabbits and went back to fishin’, stealing apples from old man Carter up the road, and laying out of school when we could get away with it.
Every once in a while Uncle Curtis would haul some big sacks of rabbit pellets from the general store in town. This was in addition to the sacks of ground corn and sugar he brought in as raw materials for the still up the branch.
One day, a couple of years later, the whole county was as excited as a hive of stirred up bees over the news that the Governor was planning on makin’ a speech in front of the courthouse. A big fair was planned with a livestock show, pie-eating contest and best of all to us kids, a dunking booth with the Chief of Police in the seat of honor.
On “The Day” Uncle Curtis backed his truck up to the shed and loaded it with a dozen large crates and threw a big tarp over all of ‘em. He drove to town and backed right up to the livestock tent. The fair manager ran over and began to raise a ruckus with Uncle Curtis ‘cause he hadn’t reserved a stall.
Uncle Curtis and the manager disappeared around the corner shoutin’ at each other. Little Johnny Blanton, who was probably the meanest kid in our school, saw his chance. Johnny snuck up to the truck and unlocked all the cages. The Governor was just starting to ‘speechify’ up on the stage in front of the courthouse when someone cut loose with a string of firecrackers.
That was all she wrote for Uncle Curtis’ bunnies. Seemingly hundreds of the scared rodents broke free of their prison and started hopping like mad through the crowd. Women screamed, kids shrieked and men jumped. The Governor’s bodyguards hustled him off the stage and into a State Patrol cruiser. It looked for all the world as if downtown Sylva had gone mad.
Later on when things got sorted out, Uncle Curtis had to promise the judge not to raise anymore rabbits. I believe that eventually the rabbits went to feed the convicts at the county work farm.
Humm, did I say work farm? I guess that’s why ‘Wacky Kim’ wants some rabbits for his people. He better watch out though. Uncle Curtis could tell him a thing or two about loud explosions and keepin’ rabbits penned up.
(Carl Iobst lives in Cullowhee.)