Nattie’s Wild Hare
Marilyn A. Kinsella
(inspired by Julie Wier)
Downstairs in the basement of the big white house lived Nattie, a ginger-haired, lob-eared bunny. She had hazel eyes, a pink nose, and two fat little cheeks. She loved living in Katie’s corner. Katie was the little girl who looked after Nattie. Yes, Nattie was a happy little rabbit all right. But sometimes her life was rather…dull. She longed for the venturesome life when every day was a new challenge. Then, one day, something rather strange happened.
She was all alone in Katie’s room exploring some nook or cranny, when she heard a noise. It was coming from a window high up on the wall. Katie left the window open to let things air out a bit. There standing at the window was the most handsome creature Nattie had ever seen. He wore a silver coat touched with black. His ears stood straight up with cute little tufts of hair that gave him a wild, unruly look. But most astounding of all, she could hear him speak! The only words she ever understood before was when Katie said “Naughty Nattie” or “Nice Nattie.” But here was a most gorgeous rabbit right outside the basement window and she understood, perfectly, every word.
“What’s a beautiful rabbit like you doin’ in a place like this?”
“Excuse me. Were you talking to me?” asked Nattie with a bit of surprise in her voice.
“Well, I ain’t talkin’ to the laundry basket,” said the handsome hare.
“I’m sorry. It’s just that I didn’t know I could speak or understand another rabbit. You see, you are the first rabbit I have ever met. Ah - Mister - ah, what is your name?”
“The guys down at the waterin’ hole call me ‘Jack’.”
“Well, I’m pleased to meet you…Jack. They call me ‘Nattie.’”
“Nattie - I like that, but Sweetcheeks suits you better. Tell you what. I’m gonna find a way out of that rabbit hole your in, so’s I can show you the world.”
Jack let himself in the house through the pet door and began hopping around the house trying to find Nattie.
“Yoo-hoo, Sweetcheeks, where are you?”
“Right down here, Jack.,” Nattie said as she watched for Jack.
Finally, Jack saw the rabbit hole, darkened stairs. He took one step then tumbled down roly-poly, pell-mell in a flurry of fluff and fur.
“Are you all right?” said Nattie nuzzling him with her nose.
“Yeah, I always like making a grand entrance.”
“Well, come over here to my nest and make yourself at home. Isn’t it beautiful?”
“Wait a minute, all I see is a big cage. Is that what you call your nest?”
Nattie was a bit annoyed at Jack’s reaction so she said, “Well, it’s better than living out in the wild. I get three square meals and all the yogurt drops I want.”
“Sounds pretty boring to me. Yogurt drops? Yuck! Why, you haven’t lived, my friend, until you’ve eaten fresh blackberries off the vine.”
“Black bearies… is that anything like Katie’s stuffed black bear that she keeps on the middle of her bed?”
“No, berries like rasp, blue, and straw. Oh, nevermind.”
“Well, let me show you my nest and how I can come and go as I please,” said Nattie as she hopped over to the cage.
Jack followed close behind. They were almost to the cage door when Jack smelled something. He wrinkled his nose in disgust. “Whew! Just what is that, that, that…smell?”
“Katie, that’s my friend, has to clean my cage once a week, but I think maybe she forgot or something.”
“Whoa, Sweetcheeks, I think you better get an air freshener and plug it in,” said Jack side-hopping the open cage and turning toward the other corner.
On his way across the room he saw a long, black snaky looking thing that ran clear across the floor. He’d never seen anything like it. So he sniffed, then nudged, then sniffed again. He opened his mouth wide to chomp down before Nattie had a chance to yell, “STOP.”
It was too late. Jack’s front teeth clamped down on the electrical wire, and it sent him flying across the room. His fur was standing on end and his tail was smoking as he stared bug-eyed at Nattie.
“Oh, Jack, I’m sorry I should have warned you about that. No wonder Katie is always putting me in my cage and locking me up when I do that.”
It took a few minutes for Nattie’s words to sink in, but once he came to his senses, he just shook his head in disbelief. “You mean to tell me that you are actually locked up in that…that…that smelly cage? Somebody call the Humane Society.”
“It’s for my own good. And judging by what just happened, I think Katie is right.”
“That’s it... I’m outta here. First there’s nothin’ to eat, then a black worm tries to electrocute me, and now you tell me you get locked in a stinky ole cage. Sorry, Sweetcheeks, but what you have here is a hare’s worst nightmare. Now, what I’m proposin’ is simple. We march up those stairs and head straight for the pet door. Are you with me kid?”
At first Nattie didn’t know what to do. She loved Katie and she didn’t care what Jack had to say. This was her home and this is what she knew best…and yet. It did seem rather exciting to go off on an adventure with Jack. Why it was just like a fairy tale and Jack was her Prince Charming coming to take her away from the dreaded castle. She’d be a fool to pass up an opportunity like this.
So, without one more thought about Katie and how much she would miss her. She smiled at Jack and said, “Ready when you are!”
Jack hopped up the stairs first.
“Come on, Sweetcheeks, let’s make a run for it!”
And faster than you could say, “Jack Rabbit Robinson” they were out the door and into the bright sunlit day.
“Now where are those black bear things you told me about?”
“Blackberries!” sighed Jack, “and they’re over by the woods.”
So Nattie and Jack hopped gleefully to the far corner of the field where the wild blackberries grew in a tangle of briars and sweet fruit.
Jack, who was a master of the maze, slipped under the brambles and started nibbling the sweet fruit. But Nattie’s fur got stuck on the stickers. “Ouch! Eeek! OW!” she shrieked. Soon, her fur was caught up in the branches. “Help! Let me down!”
Jack couldn’t help laughing. “You look like you were hung up to dry.”
“Very funny. Now get me down!”
“What’s the magic word?” Jack said teasingly.
So. with a little tugging and pulling and pinching, Nattie was finally released from the prickly hold of the blackberry bush. Tiny tufts of cinnamon hair clung to the briars. “Let’s get out of here…now,” said Nattie moving away from the bushes and toward the woods.
“Whatever, you say,” said Jack licking the last of the berry juice from his whiskers.
It wasn’t long before the two rabbits hopped into the cool canopy of trees. Nattie’s nose wrinkled as she sniffed the air. “Hmm, I’ve never quite smelled anything like this before. What is it?” said Nattie with her nose in the air.
“What smell? I don’t smell anything. It’s just the woods. That’s all.”
But Nattie couldn’t help but wonder as wisps of pine, damp leaves, and rotten logs swirled about her.
At last they came to a burrow where other rabbits were talking and laughing. It seemed to Nattie that they were having a wonderful time. Jack fell right in with his good buddies and left poor Nattie by herself. She felt a bit out of place. She didn’t know what to say. The rabbits were talking about wild runs through the woods and narrow escapes. Some of their stories frightened Nattie whose idea of excitement was running circles around Katie’s room.
Finally, one of the rabbits took notice of her. She was different than the other rabbits. Instead of silver fur, she had snow white fur with pretty pink eyes. “Hello,” she said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you here before.”
“You haven’t. My name is Nattie and I live in the big house on the other side of the field.”
“It’s good to meet you, Nattie. My name is Corinne. I’m a snow rabbit and already have my winter fur. What kind of rabbit are you?” said Corinne anxious to know about her new friend.
“Well, I’m not sure. I think I’m a lop-eared bunny. This is my first day in the woods. It sure is exciting. But I’m so tired. I’ve never hopped so far and so fast in all my days,” said Nattie yawning a bit.
“Just follow me. There’s a nice little nest under the pine tree where you can rest,” said Corinne as she led Nattie to the sleeping place.
Once the two rabbits reached the burrow filled with pine boughs and bits of rabbit fur, Nattie nestled down and quickly went to sleep.
The next thing Nattie knew she was rudely awakened by loud shouting. There was Jack nudging her awake, “Quick, get up! It’s the fox. We have to run.”
“What? Where? Oh my, a fox? Whatever are you talking about?” asked Nattie sleepily.
“No time to explain, Sweetcheeks, just trust me. Let’s go!”
Then, Nattie saw what must have been the fox. He was standing very still next to a mulberry bush. His dark eyes darted back and forth trying to spot a delicious rabbit for his dinner. Just for a moment their eyes met. Nattie must have looked like a tasty cinnamon bon-bon to the sly fox, and he quickly leapt in her direction.
But, Jack ran out in front of Nattie and the fox chased him instead. Nattie didn’t know what to do, so she stayed in the nest while the chase went on. Her little heart was beating fast as she watched Jack dip, and swerve, and hop, and back track until the fox was so confused that he trotted off in disgust.
Jack made his way back to the burrow, after he was sure that the fox was gone. He sauntered over as if nothing happened and laid down next to Nattie.
“Wow, that was a close one. I thought I’d never see you again,” said Nattie.
“Oh that? That was just the fox. He thinks he’s so smart, but he falls for the same old trick time and time again. All I do is run around in circles, and then back track, and by that time he’s lost the scent and the race. Piece of cake,” said Jack boastfully.
Nattie was still shivering from fright. “Let’s go back out into the sunlight where I can warm up and we’ll be safe.”
So, Jack and Nattie lopped slowly to the edge of the woods. The backfield was filled with prairie grass that looked like golden waves rippling in the breeze.
Butterflies fluttered like colored tissue paper dancing from one wild flower to another in search of sweet nectar.
Bumblebees lazily buzzed as they shook the pollen from their wings.
The two rabbits nibbled at the clover, and Nattie thought she had never tasted anything so sweet.
Nattie was just beginning to think that all this was worth leaving the big house when a cold shadow swept across the field. Jack stood perfectly still. He whispered, “Don’t move. Don’t even breathe.”
“What is it, Jack? You’re scaring me,” whispered Nattie.
“It’s the red-tailed hawk. He has eyes like the eagle. He swoops down so fast you won’t even know what hit you.”
The hawk circled once, twice, three times. Then it must have seen something move on the other side of the field, because he swooped down and swept up in matter of seconds. Nattie dared to look for a split second and could have sworn there was something in its talons.
The sun was now setting in the western sky. Strokes of purple, pink, and turquoise brushed the sky as the sun slipped under its earthen blanket for the night.
Nattie and Jack watched as the fireflies lit up the corners of the field with a dazzling light show. “Didn’t I tell you Sweetcheeks? This is the life,” said Jack.
And Nattie had to agree. This was the happiest moment of her life.
Soon, a cool evening breeze ruffled her fur, and Nattie shivered. “Gettin’ cold? Well, follow me back to the burrow and we’ll bunker down for the night. Don’t you fret none about that fox either. He’s already bedded down for the night.”
So Nattie followed Jack back to the burrow. All the little baby bunnies were snuggled down, but a few of Jack’s friends were still hopping to and fro making sure all the rabbits were safely asleep. Nattie rested on the pine needles. “You know, Jack, you are right. The woods are a magical place especially at night. Thank you for bringing me here.”
“Oh, it was nothin,’” said Jack with a big yawn.
Just when everything seemed like it was settling down for the night, Nattie heard a howling of a coyote on a nearby hillock.
It was a frightening sound. It was soon answered by another plaintiff cry on another hill. Before long the night air was thick with the harmonic howls of the coyote. Nattie wanted to ask Jack what was making that scary sound when she looked over and saw that he was fast asleep. How could he sleep at a time like this? But, even though she was frightened, she swore she would not wake up Jack. As she lay there shivering, she started to think of Katie and how much fun they had together. She longed for a sweet yogurt drop and a carrot still cold from the frig.
Then she heard it. It was another sound, but this sound was very familiar. It was far off, but she heard her name being carried on the evening wind.
It was Katie and she was calling for her! But where was she? Nattie thought she’d try to move a little closer to the sound. “Nattie…Nattie!” She slipped out of the burrow and to the edge of the woods. She heard it again a little louder, “Nattie…Nattie!” Yes! She was closer now.
The sky was an inky black with a hook of a moon hung high above. The field looked so different now. All the color was bleached out leaving it to look like a charcoal landscape. But there on the other side of the field she could see the yellow porch light that reached out to her like beacon on a distant shore.
Without another thought, she began to run. She ran fast…then faster still. She imagined ghosts were chasing her - ghosts with dark, black eyes darting back and forth looking for her, ghosts who swooped and swerved as they howled in horrific harmonies, ghosts with arms like brambles reaching out with their thorny fingers to catch her and then…and then…
And then, she was safely in the circle of yellow light. When she dared to look back, all the ghosts had disappeared and a curtain of black fell on the field behind her. Katie was so happy to see her bunny. She took in her arms and nuzzled her pink nose. She heard Katie say, “Nice Nattie!” She kissed Nattie goodnight and place her inside the cage.
That night Nattie had wonderful dreams. She was running as fast as the wind through fields and fields of clover. At the other end was Jack in his shiny silver suit of armor ready to do battle for her.
The next morning when the sun peeked in through the basement window, the hatch was open. Katie was already upstairs. She left fresh water, dried rabbit food, and a big helping of yogurt drops. After Nattie ate her fill, she hopped out of the cage and looked longingly up at the open window.
Then she heard a voice, Jack’s voice, “Sweetcheeks. Where are you?”
And she knew. She just knew. It was going to be another day of great adventure.