Rabbit Road Recollections- An Easter Story
Today is Easter Sunday. For many folks this day has particular traditional significance. It marks the arrival of spring, and the rebirth of Jesus Christ. For many, therefore, a day of religious celebration-a day for families to gather and worship together, enjoy chatting with friends and neighbors, culminating in an afternoon feast of baked ham with all the fixings.
For others, it is a time to become that wide-eyed child once again by living vicariously through their youngsters as they gleefully ransack the house and yard searching for the elusive Easter eggs.
It is a day of parades. Easter kicks off the mother of all parades and celebrations in New Orleans...Mardi Gras.
For other folks, Easter represents the joy of another season of baseball. I'm kinda partial to this one. It is a day, for many, to plan the re-planting of their gardens.
The most common theme to both the devout and the non-religious, regarding this day we call Easter, is the Easter bunny. The popular Easter symbols like Easter bunny and egg tree were first brought in by the German settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 1700s. Eventually, American people accepted these crafts and made these symbols a vital part of their Easter celebrations.
Clearly, Easter represents a bath, a fresh slate, a chance to start anew-rebirth. It is also, like most holidays, a day to reflect and to remember.
So, as I enjoyed a cup of coffee this morning, I reflected. “It is Easter”, I told myself, “the bunny symbolizes Easter”. Not having a bunny handy, or children to watch destroy my house looking for lumps of sugar in the form of eggs, I had some time to further reflect. First I wondered how a bunny could lay eggs. How did this come to be? I googled it, and Wikipedia went on a rant about all the different versions of the history of the Easter bunny that it hurt my head. So, I had another cup of coffee and I played word association. Easter bunny...hmmm... bunny...hare...rabbit. Rabbit!
Aha! I had it.
When I was a kid growing up on the farm, I lived on the Pitcher Road in Belfast, Me. The road was named after a family that had settled on this road back when such roads were being settled. I'm told there were two families of Pitchers, one on each end of the road. The road runs from the Poors Mills road on its eastern-most end, and dumps out on Route 3 halfway up Hayford Hill on the western edge of Belfast. The road is only about two miles long. By the time I came along, the road had become known as the “Dump Road”, because the city dump was located on a side hill about halfway from either end. It was also commonly referred to as “The Littlefield Road”, because, of the eighteen houses located on the road, all but six of them housed Littlefields or Littlefield in laws. In fact, at one time, my grandfather and his brother owned most all the land on either side of the road from its beginnings off the Poors Mills Road, to just beyond where the dump was located. My grandfather's farm was on the eastern end of the road and claimed around 200 acres, and his brother George, lived in their family homestead just up the road, which was about another 200 acres. Including the dump. Uncle George sold a piece of land to the city for the dump, and became the caretaker of it for many years. Saturdays was always a busy day on this road as so many folks made their dump run. I took advantage of this and set up a lemonade booth one summer, hoping to become the lemonade baron of Belfast. I didn't get wealthy, but I sure did hear some pretty funny stories of what “treasures” folks would brag about finding at the dump while off loading someone else's soon-to-be “treasures”.
Recycling at its best. Another form of rebirth.
Anyway, located about a quarter mile east of my grandfather's farm, was a old dirt track that ran through the woods from the Pitcher Road all the way to Route 3, spitting out beside the Sanka farm. This dirt track was called “The Rabbit Road”, which was used as a secondary road of sorts back when hauling hay, firewood, and manure was done primarily by horse or mule-drawn wagons. It was a short cut, and several farm families in that neck of the woods would use it as such. It wasn't a public road, in fact it was owned by my grandfather until the road crossed his property line onto the Sanka farm, but it was understood the road was there to accommodate neighboring farms. By the time I came along, it was used primarily by my family as most of the old farms has become defunct.
The Rabbit Road served many purposes for my family. Since it was a private road we owned, we used it to haul out firewood from the surrounding 100 acres of forest. I remember days when we would go up the Rabbit Road and shoot off on a twitch trail to cut firewood or timber with a team of work horses hauling a scoot. I would walk through the woods with my grandfather as he surveyed his kingdom and marked trees to be cut. He would point out the differences of each tree as a way of identifying each genus of every hardwood and softwood growing on our land. Sometimes we would cut a variety of evergreens for the brush they provided to bank our homes from the cold winds of winter. All this work would be done with each of us working together at a comfortable pace, stopping to build a fire and roast hot-dogs for lunch while being entertained by stories of past adventures from my grandfather. Once the scoot was loaded, my grandfather would walk beside the team of horses and give them voice commands as we trudged out of the woods, onto the Rabbit Road, then across the Pitcher Road to the farmyard to off load our days work.
The Rabbit Road also offered great recreation. It was aptly named as the rabbit hunting was fantastic. One of our dogs, a beagle named “Jinx”, was considered by many as one of the best rabbit dogs in the area. Ol' Jinx would get a scent and run the rabbits in a circle bringing them running pell-mell through an open area where we stood behind a blind. Once a rabbit was dispatched, Jinx would stop, grab it, and bring it to us, dropping it at our feet, wagging his tail desperately in a plea to go find another rabbit. He loved to chase rabbits.
The Rabbit Road also offered great partridge hunting as there were a couple of old apple orchards just inside the woods. Many of my family members hunted deer in the woods surrounding the Rabbit Road, and tagged out every year. It was where I harvested my first deer, and several more after.
It was also a fantastic playground for a boy with a hyper-imagination. I spent many hours growing up playing my imaginary games of “cowboy and Indians” or “war” tramping around the woods off the Rabbit Road. Sometimes I would bring a back pack with me so I could have a little fire and make myself coffee and beans just like the real cowboys did on TV. I built several tree-houses over the boyhood years where I could hide away or play with my cousins who lived nearby on the Pitcher Road. When I was a teen, I would drive my snowmobile or my old '55 Dodge Coronet field bomb up and down the Rabbit Road and the maze of twitch trails off from it. In the summer, I would drag my dad's Sears & Roebuck Ted Williams model canvas tent up the Rabbit Road to a spot in the woods where an opening was soft with pine needles and camp out. Later in my more “mature” teen years I would offer a tour of this road and surrounding woods, to young ladies who showed interest. The Rabbit Road was my home base, my center of gravity, and my hide-away from a world gone mad.
Sometimes, even now, I will drive my truck up the Rabbit Road and sit there, listening to the sounds of Mother Nature, while I contemplate this world we live in. The effect on me is always the same. I always leave this enchanted road and surrounding lands, with a feelings of peace and a smile on my face, ready for the rebirth of another day.
Happy Easter everyone, may you find your own enchanted Rabbit Road.