Rabbit dipped in whitewash is particularly tasty fare

An osprey hunkers down in the branches of a dead tree along the fringes of the Great Marsh, waiting for a warming sun to start melting this week's snow. BY DENNIS FORNEY
March 28, 2014

Joe Hudson tells good stories. Dave Frederick too. Natural-born storytellers have great memory recall and a knack for engaging us with episodes from their lives that they describe.

Joe decided recently to give up on the horse liniment. His trick knee wasn’t getting any better, and too many neighs were slipping into his conversation. So he went to see Dr. Choy, and now he’s sporting a new knee.

But having a new knee means some recuperation, which also gives time to chat. Joe and I talked a while this week, and he found himself talking about the rabbit route he had when he was a kid growing up in the Harbeson area.

“I delivered a newspaper named Grit,” he said. “I think it came out of Pennsylvania. There was an ongoing story in it that people would wait for each week. Sometimes people would call my mother up: ‘Where’s that boy with the newspapers? I need to find out what’s going on with that story.’ It was fun having that route.”

Then Joe started talking about the rabbits he raised and Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer character leapt into my mind.

“Occasionally I would deliver a dressed-out rabbit to someone on my route,” said Joe. “So it got to be a newspaper and a rabbit route. I could raise a rabbit from birth to market size in less than a year.”

Then Joe’s memory synapses fired.

“I remember a day when a woman called and wanted a rabbit. My brother and I were whitewashing the house at the time. My father had left us to do it. Then we took a break to skin the rabbit. My brother wanted to pull the skin one way to do it and I wanted to pull the other way. Then we both dropped the rabbit and it fell into the tub of whitewash. I did everything I could to clean that rabbit up, pumping water out of the well and scrubbing. Of course we didn’t have running water. It was the height of the Depression. But I made the rabbit look good anyway and delivered it.”

Joe said a day or two later he heard the phone ring and his mother answered.

“When she hung up she hollered to me: ‘Joe, that was Mrs. Redefer.’

“I thought uh-oh. That was the lady I delivered the rabbit to.”

“‘She said that was the best rabbit she ever had and wanted me to tell you thank you.’”

Joe laughed. “After that I said we dipped all our rabbits in whitewash.” Then he laughed again. “But it wasn’t really true.”

Ospreys nesting despite snow

Speed Lackhove called this week to say he spotted his first osprey of the year. “Down by the river park [by the Broadkill],” said Speed. “You know lots of them nest down there.”

All the young ones that have fledged over the past few years showed up in the past week. Now they’ve started nesting and cavorting and carrying on.

I saw a couple of them hunkered down out of the wind in a stretch of dead trees and cedars by the Great Marsh. Then they flew off to a nest by the University of Delaware harbor at Roosevelt Inlet.

They’re probably just as tired of this wintry weather as we are.

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