Outdoors: Farm Kid Rabbit Huntin’

Steve Gilliland
Special to the Globe

During the 1960’s there was an oil boom in Morrow County, Ohio, where we lived, and either there were no regulations on anything or no one followed them, because oil rigs appeared on tiny podunk patches of ground barely big enough to contain the equipment, and the drilling rigs were so thick that at night the countryside looked like the Emerald City.

A company drilled a well on our place and told dad they hit oil, but one morning we awoke to find everything gone, oil tank and oil included, without him every seeing a cent.

The area was left a mess, with lengths of oil well pipe, huge wooden timbers and chunks of steel cable laying everywhere in the weeds.

Dad decided he was going to get something from them for our trouble, so, thinking surely they would come back and clean up their mess, he hooked the tractor onto several long oil well pipes and drug them to the other end of the farm and deposited them along a fencerow out of sight.

One of our favorite winter pastimes was rabbit hunting. We didn’t have a dog so we’d just wonder through the woods and along fencerows looking for tracks and rootin’ through weed and briar patches to kick out rabbits hiding therein.

One snowy Saturday afternoon my buddy Ralph and I departed on a rabbit hunting excursion that followed our usual route, starting behind the barn and turning right at the end of a short pasture, then following a drainage ditch that was overgrown on both sides with all manner of briers, blackberries and other stellar rabbit hiding places.

Ralph carried his old scratched and beat-up 12-gauge single-shot that broke into two pieces instead of hinging open like it was supposed to. Several inches of soft snow made for slow going, but the snow made rabbit tracks show-up like chocolate chips in pancakes.

The drainage ditch ran for a couple hundred yards and where it ended against the next fencerow was where the high-jacked oil well pipes resided. Rabbit tracks littered the ground all around the pipes; one pipe in particular had a highway of tracks going into one end but none going out the other.

A quick glance inside showed complete darkness, telling us Brer rabbit was certainly holed up inside. Eureka!

But it seemed like a terrible waste of good rabbit meat to shoot him in the pipe and not be able to get him out. Surely pounding on the outside of the pipe would get him moving.

With Ralph standing near one end, his old 12-gauge canon at the ready, I proceeded to jump around on the pipe. I tap-danced, kicked, beat and pounded all up-and-down one end of the pipe, but nothing. Since we couldn’t actually see him in there, maybe he was facing the other direction, we thought, so we traded ends and tried again, still nothing. Somewhere we found a long stick of some sort that reached part way through the pipe.

While Ralph stood on guard, I poked and prodded from both ends, but still nothing! Curses, we were getting’ nowhere! Then suddenly I had a two-word epiphany that would solve our problem; John Deere!

We hiked back to the barn, started the old JD 3010 with a loader on front and headed through the snow back to the pipe.

As we chugged along, we could almost taste the freshly fried rabbit, as surely no cottontail alive could keep its footing inside an oil well pipe with one end hoisted toward the sky. I swung the tractor around in front of the offending pipe, slid the loader bucket beneath it and lifted it a few feet in the air, all the while awaiting the thunder of Ralph’s old 12 gauge as Brer came sliding out the other end. Nothing.

So, I hoisted the pipe even higher, and still nothing. What, had we found a bionic bunny with 4-wheel drive? I dropped the pipe back into the snow, pulled it away from the fence and slid the bucket under the other end. This would surely do it we figured. Once again, I raised the

pipe, awaiting the roar of the 12 gauge, and once again, nothing. I tried it all; jerking the pipe up and down, dropping it onto the ground with a thud, even sticking one loader tine into the end and whipping it up-and-down like a symphony conductor’s baton, all with the same results…nothing!

If ole’ Brer was in there, I suppose by then he was either dead or passed out from fright. It was about then the realization hit us that whatever was blocking the pipe might not be a rabbit at all, but a clod of dirt dad scooped up when he drug the pipe to its new home, a nest of some sort or maybe a dead possum.

Lucky for us it was not a skunk! Anyway, whatever was in there was either inanimate or dead and was not going to taste real good fried, so we accepted defeat and moved on.

Guys stake down old barrels in lakes as lairs for catfish, often noodling big flatheads out of them during the summer. Maybe we should have looked into renting out our oil well pipes to neighbors as “cottontail condos,” accepting a bunny nor two each year as payment. With all the forgotten, left-behind oil well pipes there must have been scattered throughout that county, we could have had dozens, perhaps hundreds of cottontail condo rentals.

We could have become real estate moguls while still in high school! Yup, I can see it all now; R&S (Ralph and Steve) Cottontail Condos, the full taste of the wild for only half the work!

Continue to Explore Kansas Outdoors!

Steve can be contacted by email at stevenrgilliland@gmail.com.