Cantey Davis was a jock back then. His hero was Coach Bob Fowler, who’d won 15 Varsity letters at Earlham, the Quaker university at Richmond, Indiana. Coach Bob was 6’8” in the days when nobody else was tall enough to dunk basketballs. He inspired exemplary deportment without having to raise his voice. As a matter of fact, whenever Coach Bob wasn’t grinning, things got quiet. He was trying to teach Cantey to control his temper.
Coach Bob’s brother Jim caught hawks and hunted with them. At the time he was off somewhere in South America catching a harpy eagle. Before he made a name for himself on Wild Kingdom, our mothers warned us if we didn’t study hard, we’d end up like that worthless Jim Fowler, though we thought it took a lot of class to choose a profession by a pun on your last name.
I was sure to make my own fortune very soon after getting out of Dougherty County. I might go down to South America myself, I thought. Carve an enormous pecan plantation out of the Brazilian jungle and oversee it by horseback. I bet by God Margaret Wilson would listen up when I set up a concert grand piano for her in the grand hall of my antebellum mansion. I’d saunter in, remove my Panama hat from disheveled ducktails, lean against the doorway in my muddy English knee boots listening to Mozart with one critical eyebrow raised. I pictured her in a flowing white dress playing the concert grand or nursing me back to health from some romantic disease that didn’t involve dysentery or urinary discharges. Something like malaria, with cold chills and hot fevers. I’d lie in a high canopy bed, hovering near death, as she applied cold compresses to my winged temples. The idea of dying didn’t bother me a bit, nor did the fact that nothing in my high school curriculum had prepared me for carving out colonial plantations. In retrospect, I’ve known only two people in my life who contracted malaria. Mr. Haslam, owner of the Greatest Used Bookstore in the World, caught a fatal dose in Africa, and Jimmy Gray, who picked his up in Viet Nam. Jimmy assured me that malaria (at least the Vietnamese strain) isn’t romantic.
Cantey, bound for Dartmouth on a football and academic scholarship, was saving his cash from a temporary job delivering Easter flowers in a bunny costume for his Uncle Jim Pace, the florist. Cantey was supposed to hippity‑hop from the delivery truck to the front door with floral bouquets husbands ordered for their wives. The best hippity‑hop Cantey could manage was a lope interceded by a spastic lurch among the barking dogs and the gaggles of children who swarmed him barking and screaming, nipping and grabbing at his cotton tail.
The public danger lay in the disguise. The floppy‑ears and demented buck‑tooth smile of the headpiece innocuously masked a simmering rage stoked and maintained by teenage and adult tormentors who couldn’t estimate Cantey’s disposition and who didn’t, therefore, know when to let up, and at evening twilight of Easter Sunday, some tedious husbands with too much Jim Beam under their belts harassed a rabid bunny rabbit beyond the restraint Coach Bob had taught him.
“You ain’t going to believe this,” a neighborhood spectator called in to 911, “but they’s a big pink rabbit at a Easter Egg hunt in Hilsman Park steady kicking ass.”
Puzzled police arrived on a broken field of scattered egg basket and wounded fathers, an enormous bunny with a missing tail and one amputated ear hulking back to a white van full of lilies, slamming the door.