The birth of the Jackalope
-reprinted from John "Ace" Bonar's book "Pride, Power, Progress"
Many people have heard the claim that the famous horned Jackalope was first discovered in 1829 by a trapper near Douglas, Wyoming. Adventurer John Colter, the story goes,mentioned the Jackalope only to his closest friends. Yet it is said thatmountain men swapped yarns of the odd animal as they lolled around their blazing campfires.
In spite of the Jackalope's fame, few folks are familiar with the person who created its image in taxidermy and started it on the road to renoun. Laying claim to this honor is Douglas Harrick, an ambitious man in his 50s with a keen imagination, who now lives near Casper Wyoing.
"Grandfather used to tell us tales of this great rare creature of the plains when we were kids," related Mr. Herrick. "Brother Ralph had shot a giant jackrabbit on a hunting trip near the town of Douglas, in the fall of 1941. The horns of a buck deer hung in the garage at home. I cut the small end horns off andscrewed them on the big rabbit's head. It looked exactly like Grandfather's description of a Jackalope that he had seen mounted in a store in Buffalo, Wyoming, during the early 1920s.
Ray Ball, manager of the LaBonte Hotel, in Douglas wyoming, bought the Jackalope from the Herrick brothers for ten dollars. As a direcct result of vigorous advertising, the animal-replicas of which number into the thousands - has wandered its way into every state in the Union, including Alaska and Hawaii, and hopped its way across the ocean into far away contries of Europe.
Legends about the Jackalope attest to its unusual characteristics. Its shape and coloring are like those of a rabbit, except that it has horns, however, it is too small to pass as a deer. It is said that the Jackalope is vicious when attacked, and that most other animals have great respect for its sharp set of prong horns. Herders singing the lonesome nights away claim to have heard their words repeated like an echo rebounding from the high hills... which htey attribute to the Jackalope. This, they say, usually occurs on calm dark nights, and always before a clashing thunderstorm. It is also told that hunting hounds havespun in their tracks trying to trace the lightning-swift horned rabbit streakingthrough the darkness at 90 miles an hour. In fact, Jackalopes are said to blend so much with the color of the countryside that they are seldom seen during the daylight hours. The 30 mile an hour speed of a jackrabbit added to the fleet 60 mile and hour take-off derived from its antelope ancestry, stirs air friction, aiding a good hunter in setting his gun sights ahead of the flying target. While sharpshooters seldom have proof of a direct hit, many of them brag of near-misses.
Varied are the traveler's visions of this fleet-footed oddity. An easterner remarked to her spouse as she spied a large jackrabbit,"There's one of those funny things without the horns."
Meanwhile, Jackalope potatoes fill floor space at grocery marts. An inviting Warm Springs Jackalope Pool is located in Douglas, Wyoming. Entering town, a roadside sign with large letters warns "Watch Out
For Jackalopes!" Enterprising merchants slip labels on small milk cans listing it as Jackalope Milk. Motel owners display one dollar hunting license cards entitling the bearer to hunt Jackalope with the stipulation that a one thousand dollar fine is in order if one bags a two-tailed creature under any circumstances. Five out-of-state hunters spent a week in the nearby Chalk Buttes searching for the elusive beast, only to come out exhausted and empty handed. although they said that rabbits having horn-like protrusions were evident.
"We saw many does, but no bucks.... with the big horns," they sadly admitted.
Could it be that the now world famous Jackalope is a bit like Santa Claus? Although he is rarely seen, we know that he is still around.
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