Sing, o terrestrial muse, of the jackalope (Lepus cornutus Leidy 1873). 1 Its existence, while improbable, is not impossible, but it follows that the extinction of such a creature is likewise unprovable, unverifiable, unfalsifiable. When the English first set foot upon the shores of this vast shaggy continent,2 the jackalope roamed in infinitely large herds through the deciduous forests of the East, the bunch grass prairies of the Midwest, the wrinkled edges and scrub deserts of the West. Every February 26th, shortly after the datura seeds had begun to ferment on the bough, the skies would ring out with the clash of bucks wrangling for the right to mate, the cooing that signified that a doe had chosen her partner, and the ecstatic giggling of the couple. So passionate were their comminglings that, despite the small size of the participants, their wrestling and wrangling excited the globe itself into creating geomagnetic anomalies such as the Mima Mounds, earthworks, and as-yet undiscovered tunnels and secret passages that crisscross this continent, like nodes in an electric net, coiling and roiling like a slow-motion lightning along fault lines, pulsing like heartbeats along certain barely-recognized runways across the land.3 These otherwise inexplicable phenomena are the legacy of the cornute lagomorph whose ghosts only, alas, haunt this now sadder land.

One can shoot a bison from a train, but one can kill a jackalope just by building a railroad. Lepus cornutus may be the only species wiped out by the Protestant work ethic. Without someone to admire their antlers, these fine ornaments drop away; without hunters to catch them, skin them, and convince their beloved to wear that skin, the jackalope’s kin grow infertile, impotent, become extinct. Invisible from the windows of the speeding train, the jackalope’s population dropped precipitously shortly after the machine, like some phallologocentric juggernaut, crashed through the garden gates, and not even an infinity of windbags full of purple prose can resurrect them from their common grave.4

The jackalope graveyard, when found, will doubtless make some speculator rich, but that will not make up for our common loss. The earthworks mentioned above, the environment in which the jackalope lived, and the creature itself—in short, wonder, wilderness, and whimsy, the very finest elements of the American mind—are being replaced by empty eyed tract houses, sterile and uninviting to this capricious creature, and where in the stony hearts of skyscrapers could the jackalope find a home? Only in the spaces under mobile homes, perhaps, those inadvertent Reichian orgone collectors, could these creatures find a temporary hiding place—but even those are probably not sufficient.5 This marvelous species, alas, has lost its niche.

Perhaps if the jackalope had not become extinct, we would not be dying of heart disease and cancer. Perhaps we would live with a song in our hearts and a smile on our lips. Perhaps this nation would not be governed by fat men over fifty with faces like canned ham.6

Still, no one has ever found a jackalope body, and while I have submitted blueprints to the White House for a proposed monument, in the form of an earthwork, to be located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., until the administration sees fit to build it, I have created this placeholder in cyberspace. Perhaps the jackalope is not extinct.7 Let us hope not. Let us take a moment to celebrate its possible existence, and hope for a future in which this nation is once again governed by men and women raised on jackalope milk.8

Yours in wonder, whimsy, wilderness, and weirdness,

Hermester Barrington

For those looking for more information on this elusive creature, I heartily recommend Professor Michael P. Branch's alternately humorous and wise analysis of this myth, On the Trail of the Jackalope: How a Legend Captured the World's Imagination and Helped Us Cure Cancer. The link leads to an independent bookstore--a phenomenon rarer these days, alas, than the jackalope itself.

On a related tangent, here are a few of my ficciones available on the web:

Dragon Writer's Tracks: A haiku, with footage of Balch Creek and its mostly invisible inhabitants, dedicated to the memory of my fellow microscopist Ursula. (August 12, 2018)

Sleepwalkers at the Falling Wall (Kzine no.25)

Mystery of the Living Spook Lights (Fate Magazine no.735)

Inside the Surface (Peculiar Mormyrid no.9)

My Amoeboid Romance (Mythaxis no.28)

The New Valkyrie (Tales from the Moonlit Path's Valentine's Day 2022)

Madame Chanterelle’s Scourge, or, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Foolish Consistency (Defenestration, March 2nd, 2022)

Willoughbuoy (Underland Arcana 6)

Lucas v. Lucas (Robot Butt)

A Tree’s Response to Joyce Kilmer’s Poem, on Hearing the Sound of an Approaching Chainsaw (Little Old Lady Comedy)

JohnBear, Janine, and I (Mythaxis no.32)


The Power Of Imagination: Q and A With Author Hermester Barrington (Popular Culture Beat)

(Im)Permanence, a Short and Long Story, manifested jointly with Fayaway (Underland Arcana 9)

LOST! Have You Seen Our Uncle Charlie? (Robot Butt)

On the discovery of a most marvelous species of Angiosperm, Sarraceniarafflesia taurua (Maraetoa 1863), from the Flitcroft Isles, manifested jointly with Fayaway (Hyphen Punk)

The Mallow Dryad, or, Memoir of a Fragile Paradise

An Even Newer Refutation of Time, Written on the First Day of Daylight Savings Time by Jorge Luis Borges

This site on the Wayback Machine

1. The specimens on which Dr. Leidy based his monograph on the American species are housed in the jackalope exhibit at The Museum of Jurassic Technology.

2. I have received much praise for the phrase "vast shaggy continent," but it is not, of course, my own invention; rather, I borrowed it from Frederick Jackson Turner's Frontier in American History.

3. This idea--indeed, much of this site--is derived from the writings of Jim Brandon, as other pages here will make clear.

4. In the rough draft of Walden, Thoreau wrote: "We ride upon the railroad, but it rides over the empty warrens of jackalopes, driven mad by the incessant shriek of the engine as it rolls heedlessly toward the west." This was later changed to his much more apt sleeper metaphor.

5. This may not appear as exact as Sappho's lines, but I had in mind the 'longshore' or 'dory' fisherman, who returns at nightfall.

6. You are what you eat, I suppose.

7. Perhaps Helen Mirren, Salma Hayek, and Merle Oberon will finally accept the invitation that Fayaway & I extend to them, annually, to attend our our annual bacchanal.

8. The preceding lines were stimulated by the account of one of the Antarctic expeditions (I forget which, but I think one of Shackleton's): it was related that the party of explorers, at the extremity of their strength, had the constant delusion that there was one more member than could actually be counted.

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