Friday, February 21, 2014

The Plight of Jackalopes in Kansas

(Plasitchrome by Colourpicture Boston, Mass Rushmore Photo Inc, Rapid City, S Dakota)

This is a jackalope, now a rare, nearly mythical beast but once a common creature of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain areas of the middle United States. The world best knows this species from the dusty and moth-eaten mounted heads hanging in every beer joint from Silverton, Colorado to Topeka, Kansas, and from 25-cent truck stop postcards sold across the world. Most people consider the jackalope a joke, a corny joke. The dismissive and irreverent attitude is widely believed to be the central cause of the tragic clash between jackalopes and the human population in Kansas.  

The Kansas State Board of Tourism and The Wizard of Oz have combined resources in an effort to control what information is leaked to the outside world. Tourism in Kansas typically brings in upwards of $190 annually, so great pains are taken to shield the reputation of the state as a desirable tourist destination. Despite these efforts at suppressing the truth of the violent and deadly uprising, the jackalope's plight has become prominent in international news.  A series of bloody clashes between jackalopes and tavern owners in the north and central part of the state repeatedly makes headlines in the foreign press, such as Al Jazeera and the BBC. Due to the State's efforts to suppress the news, little has been reported locally. 

Jackalopes have long decried the practice of headhunting among their species and have been largely ignored. In some areas of Kansas, the species has been extirpated due to the savage genocide fueling the legal trade of jackalope heads to bars in other western states. The despicable practice of taverns displaying the mounted heads of dead jackalopes has outraged and inflamed a grieving population. In addition to the genocide, and losses suffered in the inter-species warfare, jackalopes have faced starvation in dozens of Kansas counties. Their primary food source has been entirely eradicated with widespread herbicide applications, and planting genetically modified organisms (GMO) crops targeted to be poisonous to jackalopes.

The jackalope's plight is not without its sympathizers. Brian Birk, PhD, University of Washington, has spent many years in the field studying the macabre practice of displaying jackalope heads in taverns. He has lectured and written extensively on the long and checkered history between humans and jackalopes. He noted in recent publications that Kansas is the only state limiting license to drive an El Camino to Jackalopes. "Kansas is a classy state in that respect," he stated.

Native American tribes in Kansas, directing much of their casino profits toward reintroducing the jackalope species into areas where untouched prairie remains, have been quite successful. A significant number of farmers who once ruthlessly eradicated jackalopes from their lands formed a political group in the southeastern corner of the state. These repentant farmer advocates symbolically and ceremonially "marry" jackalopes as a form of protest against the continued decimation of the species, and to draw attention to the plight of the jackalopes. It is thought this symbolic practice of men marrying animals is the source of the strident argument against gay marriage. Opponents point to the jackalope/farmer marriages as a prime example of the "slippery slope" theory that once gay marriage has been legalized, bestiality is sure to follow.

The jackalopes themselves are taking action to protect themselves. A large rebel population in the northeast corner of the state has been consciously and systematically interbreeding with elk in order to increase the size of antler jackalopes can grow. It is assumed the larger antlers will be used against tavern keepers who refuse to remove the mounted heads of dead jackalopes.

Chevy El Camino - only Jackalopes are licensed to drive these cars in Kansas.
Jackalope Reserve in Cherokee County, Kansas, early spring after jackalopes shed their antlers.
(Photo courtesty of Yu Yu Lam Lam, who originally posted the video to Facebook.)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Before and After the Storm

One of my coworkers emailed this snowfall map to me on Monday before the big storm, and it nearly gave me a heart attack! The model predicts 15 to 18 inches for Wabaunsee County so I had some work to do! It almost killed me, but I rolled up the frozen hoses and brought them all the way into my house so they would thaw. I filled the horses' water tank all the way to the top the day before the storm. I bought groceries for myself, filled my drinking water bottles, and doubled up on oats, birdseed, and dog food.

The predicted snowfall from the European weather models, (the same ones that accurately predicted hurricane Sandy would target New York) were accurate. Notice the red blob in Wabaunsee County, marked by the big blue arrow. It predicted 15 - 18 inches of snow in the area. The little town of Eskridge, centered roughly in the middle of that red blob, officially received 16 inches of snow. That is a mere ten miles due south of my house. Amazingly accurate forecast!

I did not take photos of the path I shoveled through the snow from the back door all the way to the barn. Neither did I make a historical record of the path I shoveled from the house to the tree where I feed the birds, and on to the chicken pen. (I was too tired after all of that shoveling!) It took two days to clear the paths so I could keep the snow out of my boots when taking care of the critters. Those paths also made life much easier for the dogs and other wild life. Amid the dog tracks, there were rat tracks, and a trail of rabbit droppings every step of the way. It was funny to follow evenly spaced rabbit poop everywhere. (They must leave a pellet with each hop!)

After the snow came the bitter cold, and that meant eventually the horse tank was full of ice. Then I had to carry water up the hill twice a day. It gets more difficult for me every winter. I worked like a maniac to remove all the ice in preparation for refilling the tank. I guess because of the snow, instead of clear ice that would easily break into large pieces, there was about a 30 gallon glacier that would not break apart, and the tank was frozen to the ground.  After hours in the bitter cold, I admitted defeat.  In despair I faced reality and at last called for reinforcement.  My son generously came to help remove the iceberg and carry enough water to refill the tank. I was so thankful for his strength and energy. When I saw how hard a strong 27 year old man had to work to get that frozen mass out of the tank, I did not feel like such a failure. Somehow he was able to break that tank loose from the ground, too. He could carry two five gallon buckets of water at a time and hardly broke a sweat. He filled the tank over half full, and I knew that would be enough liquid water to get the horses through until the temperatures were warm enough to make using the hoses an option.

Between my son and the generous neighbor with the tractor, the big winter storm hardly inconvenienced me at all.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

An Old Fashioned Snowfall

Tuesday:  Just Gettin' Cranked Up!

The birds stayed out all day.
The joint was hoppin'!  Two American Goldfinch at the nyger seeds.

You can see how hard the wind was blowing by the angle of the feeder.

Iced Tea Anyone?

No Sleeping Here Until Spring

Outside:  Winter.  Inside: Home.

Tuesday Night - the drift on the front porch.

An amazing amount of snow...

The door would only open 18"!

And at the back - packed tightly against the door.

This is the huge drift beyond the drift in the doorway (which you can just see in the lower right hand corner).

Jake's tail below the second snow bank!

I was a child the last time I saw this much snow!
And on the third day:  A man and his machine!  Womankind cannot thank you enough, this woman in particular!