(1) Black as Night
(2) Lawn Trimmer
(3) More trimming
(4) Middle of the road
(5) Fancy Pet
The struggle to survive.
Let's take a look this week at a furry wee friend which, over the years, has had a very difficult time trying to survive -the rabbit.
When I was young all my spare time was spent outdoors, whether at work or leisure,and this has carried on to the present day.
I've noticed the decline of some species, and the flourishing of others, but the poor wee rabbit has had a terrible time of it just trying to survive.
In my teens, there seemed to literally thousands of these creatures. Everywhere we went , the ground was covered with them. They were not a nuisance to me, but they certainly were to farmers - they ate their crops and, if I remember correctly, the farmers were penalised for not controlling them on their land, or was that a law that was never implemented?
The rabbit was good for eating, and many must have been in the pot during the last war, when food was scarce. I can never remember having eaten one in my parents house, though,and it was not until many years later that I tried them and I quite enjoyed them.
I can well remember going along Montague Street and seeing the rabbits gutted and hanging by their wee paws from the hooks above the shop windows.
Pheasants which had not been gutted were hanging by their necks, and further along the street were stainless steel hooks just inside the butchers doors with sheep that had been gutted and skinned, but still had their heads on, complete with their hair and horns, but with unseeing eyes and with blood dripping from their noses.
I think that was why sawdust was on the floors, to catch these droplets. Shoppers would stand in single file in these shops, so as not to get too near the sheep and get their clothes all greasy . Above the sheep would be pigs' heads - not a nice place to be. I wonder how the public would react today if a butchers shop returned to that era? I think it would have very few customers.
But I digress - please excuse me. Back to the rabbits.
Then came the dreaded myxomatosis, a disease carried by a flea that devastated the rabbit population. When I was fishing up at Loch Fad I would hear a splash and would turn round to see a rabbit with its head extremely swollen, and with its eyes shut, making it blind.
It splashed around trying to get back to dry land, but did not know which way land was. I would put it out of its misery, and push it ashore with my welly boot, leaving it there as carrion to be eaten by whatever passed by.
This was a very regular occurrence for a long while, and everywhere we went it was the same.
If you went a run in a car, it would be easy to run them over and end their pain. I carried a hammer in my car and would stop and do the needful - you could not be certain to end their life quickly with the cars wheel, which might only injure it and cause more misery, so one hit and put it into a field that had no cattle or sheep in it, to be left for Buzzards and the like to feast on.
At last the myxomatosis died down, and the rabbit numbers started to build up once again. But the fleas that carried the disease were still in some of the old burrows, and when the rabbits entered one it would get the disease and would once more wander around unseeing.
Infected ones can still be seen occasionally, but they are few and far between, and I hope that the disease never comes back as the rabbits are still struggling. There are plenty of small pockets of them, (2005) about a dozen or so in each area, so they are coping , but only just.
Now, jump to 2011, and with Foxes and American Mink on the island, rabbits are once more very rarely seen, so its not much fun for them?