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Remedial Lapine

how do they do it? how do they chew and sit at the same time?

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, April 16, 1997.

Hope you all survived Tax Day. Do you have the stomach to survive Bomb Day, which is tomorrow? On this hallowed date, we observe the occasion of Ruby Ridge, Waco, Oklahoma City, and - I think - the Montana Freemen’s Heroic Struggle. Given that the McVeigh trial is started, and that there still could be a Thunderbolt out there, armed and dangerous and airborne, it could be a real joy.

However, in more prosaic matters, I have to announce that after serious study and profound reflection, it is now certain that, while the loony right feels our nation has declined, I feel the animal kingdom has declined. Sharply.

On my morning walks to work, I pass through a residential neighborhood which, on my afternoon return, is mostly full of yapping dogs and idiot golfers. In the morning, however, it resembles nothing so much as a casting call for a movie version of Watership Down. The place is alive with rabbits. Some lawns are so full that from a short distance it looks like a mass of worms. Further, these rabbits are among the least sharp of their breed. The old cliché is that animals are pre-programmed to fight, flee, or freeze when confronted with the unknown. This sounds so terribly, well, um, nature-like.

Rabbits, of course, traditionally freeze, the alert radar of their ears carefully targeting aggressors both land and air, then fleeing, masterfully leading their attackers in a rapid fire sequence of quick change patterns until they safely arrive in their hole. The theory, while still extant, needs work, and in the rabbits I see every morning, they need remedial gene therapy. If I might address them directly....

"First, guys, freeze is all very well if, at a distance, you sense the presence of danger. Then, your coat blends in with the backdrop, and at the very least your attacker is generalized in his approach and surprised when you scoot away at the key moment.

"This approach works less well when humans, especially humans with large, flat feet and a hacking cough, are clearly audible slapping down the sidewalk for the final half-mile of their approach. It seems somewhat pointless to wait until they are four feet away, then suddenly twist your head at their approach, synthesize the problem, and freeze. You look really, really stupid and, I might point out, and you don’t even have that right. Poised, stiff as a statue looks even less convincing if you are still casually munching food. You look like a ballet dancer chewing cud. Doesn’t work.

"Further, guys, the whole concept of freeze is predependent upon camouflage. Let me re-iterate bunny training 101: to wit, even a perfectly done crouch and freeze is rather pointless if you are attired in brown and white fur on a brilliantly green lawn. Further yet, even if every square inch of that lawn is covered with a blood relative, half of whom are still chewing breakfast and who are so terrified they restrict themselves to less than four clumping ear scratches a minute, your freeze only makes you stand out. Think, bonehead.

"You may note that cousin Charley, whom the owl carried away yesterday, was probably not one of your breed's intellectual triumphs. Nevertheless a disconcertingly large number of you still don’t understand that attackers are not restricted by natural law to wait until you have finished your mouthful before hitting you. Further yet, Charley seemed to have heard the owl, and was still looking up at its rapidly enlarging form when he was squashed flat and carried away, no doubt still munching the grass. I agree, who would have thought an owl would attack something so near a human, but Charley wasn’t even aware of the human, who was having a sneezing fit, but was sitting bolt upright watching the sunrise.

"Perhaps he thought he was safe because he was closely surrounded by about twenty others, but those worthies were at the all-you-can- eat salad bar and never even looked up. Eh? Charley gone? Do tell.............

"Think, people - eh, Lapines Look what Charley will miss because of his carelessness. He won’t know how Speaker Gingrich will pay his fine. He won’t know how the McVeigh trial will end. He’ll never know that rabbits, once famous for their caution and reflexes, now seem to be as sharp and honed as a bunch of couch potatoes at Ranger School. On the other hand, he’ll be able to profitably spend his time nursing his wounds. I mean, when the owl - famous for his night vision - hit the telephone wire and dropped Charley on his post attack ascent, he at least had the dignity to be embarrassed and continued to fly away. Charley, I think, just finished his mouthful.

"You know, I suggest you all become survivalists. Worry about coming catastrophes, stock up on food in your burrow, and fear your neighbors. At least it makes sense for you.