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By Staff | Mar 12, 2010

The whole thing went down something like this:

I was about 5 years old and was trailing my mom in a department store. Something – probably a toy – distracted me. I turned around and Mom was gone. In her place was a stranger offering me candy.

But this wasn’t just any ordinary stranger. It was a really strange stranger, specifically, a giant rabbit.

I didn’t quite know how to react to the Tootsie Roll proffered in the humungous rabbit’s forepaw. I knew that jackrabbits could get big, but had no idea that they could also walk on their hind legs.

It was doubly surprising to learn that giant jackrabbits gave away candy.

Mom’s voice came from behind me, urging me to take the candy. That made all the difference. If Mom said it was OK, why, then it was OK.

I snatched the candy from the rabbit’s paw, which looked suspiciously similar to a mittened human hand, before he could change his mind. The rabbit then went on his merry way, capering in a manner suspiciously similar to that of a human skipping.

And that was how I first learned of this creature called the Easter bunny.

When I was a youngster there was never any mention of any Easter bunny arriving at our house. I think this is because with eight kids to feed, anything that represented a possible protein source would have been considered fair game.

Easter is a strangely peripatetic holiday. It can arrive anywhere from late March to late April, based on a formula that takes into account the phases of the moon and whether or not Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow. Or something like that.

I’ve heard old farmers utter the proverb “early Easter, early spring.” That doesn’t look even remotely possible this spring in this part of the world. We’ll be lucky if our glacier-sized snow banks are gone by the Fourth of July.

This isn’t the first time the Easter/spring axiom has failed us. I clearly recall attending Easter services as a kid while a blinding snowstorm raged outside. Pastor Schmidt opened the service with, “I don’t know whether to say Happy Easter or Merry Christmas!”

This elicited a polite chuckle from the congregation, but I think it was actually more of a gallows guffaw.

But back to the Easter bunny issue. I think another reason the Easter bunny was never mentioned at our house had to do with the egg part. We always had chickens and thus knew darn well where eggs came from. A rabbit might have been plausible had we ever seen one in the chicken coop, but that never happened.

The only mystery regarding eggs was when we found the occasional double-yolker. Dad told us that such eggs had been laid by the rooster, a story I am ashamed to admit I believed until well into adulthood.

Just because the Easter bunny never came didn’t mean we skipped Easter egg hunts. On Holy Saturday we would boil up a mess of eggs and color them with food dye. The first eggs were tasteful pastels, but they soon became progressively darker as we experimented with dye blending.

On Easter morning the eggs were hidden around the house for the younger siblings to find. These eggs were later consumed as part of the noontime meal, which meant we ate green eggs and ham long before anyone had heard of Dr. Seuss.

My wife and I wed and had two little boys of our own. Since I had to milk cows every morning, Easter bunny watch fell to my wife.

One Sunday the Easter bunny overslept, which did not go unnoticed by our two small sons. They ran into the bedroom to wake their mother with the distressing news that the Easter bunny had skipped our house.

With the Solomon-like wisdom all moms possess, my wife explained that this wasn’t an oversight, that the Easter bunny had instructed her to tell the eldest boy he was now big enough to hide the eggs for his little brother. Both boys were delighted by this turn of events.

The younger child was told to wait in his bedroom while the older one hid eggs around the house. An Easter egg hunt was then held with the older boy giving his brother helpful hints. They had so much fun, they conducted several Easter egg hunts that morning.

Some weeks later my wife noticed a foul odor permeating the house. An investigation established that for once it wasn’t me. It was instead discovered that an unfound egg had exploded in its hiding spot waaay under the couch.

That darn Easter bunny! From the moment I first laid eyes on him I knew he was trouble.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com.

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