I was asked to give you a quick lesson on the Sylvilagus floridanus. Topics were to cover its medium height ears, the fluff of gray and/or brown, and its appropriate tail color of white. Yes, this was going to be a quick narrative of the Eastern Cottontail rabbit, specifically, those living amid the woods to the south of New Portland Road between Gorham and Westbrook, Maine. An odd sub-breed to be sure as they are known to grow upwards of nine pounds, nearly twice as large as their average counterparts in the warmer southern part the states.
My position in this story was to be that of a Lagomorphologist (I was once a doctor, but that got too political), that is, a studier or rabbits. But alas, that changed on August 4, 2013.
Let’s set the scene; it’s quick, I assure you. The sun was just above the horizon on its way to set. A slight breeze was blowing upon the treetops, just enough to make the full leaves rustle, but not enough to keep the mosquitos at bay. The temperature was rather pleasant at 73 degrees, but those damn mosquitos made it somewhat difficult to enjoy. At any rate, I was sitting on top of a small mound of dirt on the side of the road enjoying a sandwich and planning on taking some photos on my way home to Gorham when I spotted what appeared to be a rather ordinary Eastern Cottontail, if not smaller than the local average, perched on the edge of the road.
What seemed to be for no good reason the small rabbit began to move across the road. Perhaps there was better food on the other side or a maybe family member. Regardless, it ran its little white tail about a quarter of the way across before it stopped and turned to stare down a set of headlights from a Ford Focus about twenty yards in front of it. Either the driver didn’t see the subject rabbit, or he didn’t care. In the end, it didn’t matter. The tire made contact, and he would die a rather peculiar death. One which you may only know to be true in tales told by your grandparents and shrugged off as anecdotal.
The car rolled to a stop just off the right side of the road and about thirty yards past my position. After my shock had dissipated, I ran, or perhaps hobbled would be more appropriate, to the still running silver Focus. As I approached, I noticed the driver not moving and hunched over. Once I actually got to the door I immediately opened it to find the driver, a Mr. Joseph B. Ellis, hunched slightly to the right and visibly not breathing.
I was worried, as most people would have been, and reached in to pull Mr. Ellis back into his seat, perhaps to try and breath life into his still body, maybe to start CPR. I didn’t have a plan. But when I reached out and touched his shoulder, I felt a sharp pain shoot through my arm before I fell to the ground onto my back.
As I lay there immobilized, with my head turned to the right, I watched as the smaller than average local rabbit continued on its jaunt across the road to the other side.