Perhaps he had a fortuitous name. I doubt that bunnies these days get read to before bed like they used to when I was little. And so there is little chance that his name brought naughty impulses to his mind.
“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were – Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail and Peter.” Beatrix Potter wrote The Tale of Peter Rabbit about a mischievous and disobedient young Peter Rabbit who is chased about the garden by the farmer, Mr. McGregor.
He escapes and returns home to his mother who puts him to bed with a cup of tea. His obedient sisters get a lovely dinner.
Anyway this tale is about a real rabbit named Peter who is a full grown, adult rabbit with felonious impulses, especially when it comes to feasting on other people’s vegetables.
He grew up in a large hutch which he shared with his girlfriend.
Beans and other luscious plants were planted in their enclosure. His girlfriend, Mopsy, was very contented with the hutch and never tried to escape. Not Peter; and he became good at breaking out because he had a lot of practice.
He was like a prisoner who becomes obsessed with the idea of freedom. He was always scheming of ways to get out. He was quick and often succeeded in making a break for it when one of his owners opened the little door to the hutch to fetch him something to eat or to clean it out. Quick like a bunny…
Hippity-hop and he was free. The grass is always greener on the other side. His stomach started growling in anticipation of the feast that was in store for him. As an enterprising rabbit he had no notion of other peoples’ gardens and it was all free range in his world.
All this time unbeknownst to me these rabbits lived across the street behind a tall fence. The occupants of the house came and went at weird hours and we never got to know them.
But one day my neighbor, Elisa, approached me while I was working in my garden. She mentioned that her rabbit had escaped.
I expressed concern about his well-being; the danger of neighborhood dogs and the coyotes that lurked beyond the end of the cul de sac where we lived. She said that he was a very intelligent bunny and not to worry about him. “He can take care of himself,” she said. I responded that I’d keep an eye out for him.
That is when it dawned on me why my vegetables had been disappearing lately. For a few days I noticed something was eating the leaves of my seedlings. I found one plant stripped completely bare, and so I started using plastic food containers to protect them at night. I thought the problem was insects or snails or something like that. Little did I suspect that it was a bunny nibbling on my vegetables.
Later that day I saw him for the first time. In the past he had concealed himself under a neighbor’s deck and seldom came out until after dark. I guess he knew that the cat (so to speak) was out of the bag and he had nothing to lose. When I found him he was crouching in my vegetable garden nibbling on my carrots.
I quietly sneaked up on him and when he was within grabbing distance I reached out to seize him by the ears. At the last minute he hopped away. We went through this pantomime again and again with him hopping away whenever I got near enough to touch him. When I finally tired of this game he started nibbling on my bean plants. That is when I got really angry and started yelling.
“Naughty bunny… Leave my vegetables alone. Bad, bad bunny” He just twitched his ears and moved away.
Then he decided to relax and took up a posture like the cartoon version of Bugs Bunny with his back legs flung carelessly out to the side. They were crossed one over the other, while his head was resting pensively on his front paws. He presented the very picture of a rabbit without a care in the world. But when I reached out to grab him he hopped away.
It was as if he was too lazy to take any real evasive action and only took flight when it was either risk being caught or flee. He didn’t go very far because like I said he was a lazy bunny.
Or maybe it was just because he knew that he was a whole lot smarter than me? It soon became clear that I wasn’t going to catch him unless I had a net on a long stick.
Anyway, I didn’t have a net but I did have a long stick and started to chase him waiving the stick in the air. It was a game of tag. He was “it” but he wasn’t about to let himself get caught. I can run pretty fast but I can’t run bent over. He played me like a musical instrument.
I got completely frustrated and yelling at him I swung my stick, and narrowly missed swatting him across the back. Pretty soon the neighbors were gazing out their windows trying to see what the commotion was all about. Bunny wars was looking more like bunny abuse.
I didn’t care what anyone thought. I had had it and yelling insults, I continued to pursue him flailing away with my stick.
That was when he decided that he had enough. He realized that it wasn’t worth getting beaten to a pulp over a few scrumptious vegetables, and scurried back beneath the neighbor’s deck. All I could do was scream at the top of my lungs and throw twigs under the deck in an attempt to frighten him.
Nobody was home at his owners’ house. I wasn’t going to catch the bunny on my own and I had to once again laboriously cover all my plants with plastic containers.
The next day I went out and got some chicken wire fencing and put it around my garden.
He isn’t a very athletic bunny and I knew that there was no fear of him hopping over the fence. The fact of the matter was that it looked too much like his despised hutch for him to want to dig under the wire for a taste of fresh veggies.
When I saw Elisa again she explained that they planted vegetables in his hutch and he was used to eating them to his hearts content. My bunny wars became bunny abuse. He couldn’t understand why I had become so upset. In his mind he was just doing what bunnies do, eating fresh vegetables.
After that we called it a truce and he only visited at night. I did leave a squash plant outside of the fencing. He nibbled on it whenever he got the urge. Although he was captured when his owners got home, he subsequently escaped and has become a fixture in the neighborhood, nibbling away on other people’ plants.
My neighbors were renters and recently left for New Zealand. The hutch in their front yard was dismantled and new neighbors have moved in. Sometimes; still to this day, at the crack of dawn when I am loading my bike in preparation to go riding at Carnegie, I’ll look around for the rabbit. I haven’t seen him for a while. I just hope that he is OK.