Rabbits

The neighborhood where I grew up had no privacy fences. The backyards flowed from one house to the next, with minor interruptions — hedges, gardens, garages, streets, and the occasional picket fence. And the neighborhood children made it all into a single playground. We ranged, perhaps more wildly than our parents would have liked, across this expanse with little concern for ownership. We weren’t the only ones; wild animals abounded in those yards, though we rarely thought about them.

When I was very small families of rabbits resided in a woodpile at the back of the yard just behind ours. A small depression in our yard next to the vegetable garden, just south of the rhubarb, provided what might have been a summer resort, a place where mother rabbits sometimes sheltered their young. We would sometimes see a rabbit family nestled there.

Occasionally we would find baby rabbits, abandoned, hiding in the depression. And we were concerned — how can these babies survive if the mother is gone? — perhaps the mother has died. And we would carefully gather the babies into a cardboard box lined with a towel or a piece of blanket and carry them into the house to be warm and safe. And we would feed them cow’s milk from a medicine dropper. And look in on them every morning. They always died within a day or two.

Now many years later I know that the babies were probably not abandoned. And the food and care we provided were not appropriate for baby rabbits. But we were young and full of good intentions, and did not know what we were doing.

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