Page 7


Aunt Sally’s Little Used Book Store 504 West 24 Austin MOTOR INN RALBERT CYO 20 The Texas Observer fi mmiream sus= I Call. PIC K 1 Before You Pack FOR HOUSTON Enjoy real money-saving value, and relax at the 3301 Southwest Freeway at Buffalo Speedway Color TV in every room Restaurant 4 Lounge Heated Pool Family Plan Free Parking Meeting and Convention Facilities for up to 375 ALL AT MODERATE RATES RESERVATIONS: CALL TOLL FREE American Express Space Bank 806-AE 8-5000 41PM ON Me IIIIII NM MO Mal MIN an THE TEXAS OBSERVER on microfilm. The complete backfile, since the first issue in December 1954, will be available. For prices and other information contact: Microfilming Corporation of America d subsidiary of THE NEW YORK TIMES 21 Harristown Road Glen Rock. N J 07452 201447-3000 underrabbit. Attorneys attacked the beast as a rodent and a pest and not deserving of the legislative protection afforded cattle and horses. The judge was not a Legionnaire, but he could see the logic of the argument and he ruled the Legion could rope rabbits to its heart’s content. Sheriff Webb accepted the verdict quietly. It was the judge’s decision and he would abide by that decision. Also the judge happened to be his father and he had already promised to help the Legionnaires round up their rabbit herd. To a nation in depression Judge Webb’s decree was one of those last straws and his anit-rabbit inclinations were a page . one feature for several days. The heretofore ignored jack rabbit became a national controversy praised and protected by friends it never knew it had. Letters and telegrams sympathized with Sheriff Webb for his ill treatment in Judge Webb’s jack rabbit court. Other letters and telegrams described the judge as a barbarian and a blood-thirsty beast. From Albany, N.Y., the American Humane Society pledged support to Sheriff Webb and an official of the Colorado State Bureau of Child and Animal Protection wired him that roping rabbits was a crime in the state, punishable by a five hundled dollar fine and two years in jail. Undeterred by advice like this, the Legion proceeded with plans for its rabbit roping. Sheriff Webb and a number of die cowboy members contrived a trap in the rangeland southeast of town. Their. bow legs proved a curious hinderance, but eventually the cowboys corralled a: dozen jack rabbits and shepherded them triumphantly to the rodeo grounds. Significantly not a single one of the rabbits was captured with a rope. Surprisingly for an event every West Texan realized was preposterous there was no shortage of challengers for the wily jacks. One published estimate said 75 contestants paid their fees and prepared to become the world’s first rabbit roping champion. An old-timer still around Odessa recalls that although the entries included “a lot of new people, those oil field people” they also included some very competent cow punchers like “the Duncan boys” from Pecos and some veteran hands from around Fort Stockton. RODEO DAY dawned good and hot and the crowd began assembling early around the lake north of town. \(It should be noted here that in West Texas lake does The ‘natural amphitheatre was surrounded by a quarter-horse track and equipped with the traditional trappings like chutes and corrals. It was equipped also with the very first rabbit roping arena an area approximately the size of a suburban living room, fenced in by chicken wire. Sheriff Webb opened activities astride a striped-legged cow and after the usual flurry of bronc riding and calf roping the great rabbit roping event began. The first stepped gingerly into the pen. Admittedly he had no tradition or experience to call upon. After first one jack rabbit and then a second and finally a third had flashed by him he stepped back out, embarrassed, and left the second roper with no more experience and tradition than he had. While the crowd jeered, cowboy after cowboy stood helplessly while the furry, frustrating animals skipped around them. At first the confident punchers would rely on their old skills with the rope whirling above their heads in a dandy fashion. All these attempts failed and as they became desperate they turned to pure blind chance, hoping a hopping jack rabbit might blunder into their loop. One version of events says not a single jack rabbit was ever roped, but another vows that the sheriffs from Mentone and Pecos were successful and that a number of women cast aside their ropes and captured a prize with their bare hands qualifying themselves as history’s first jack rabbit bulldoggers. Rabbitdoggers? Rabbit roping was done, forever, as a rodeo sport at that time and dusty place. The arena, far from being declared a site of historic interest, is now occupied by the Shadows Night Club and the Navajo Freight Lines. An odd little statue of a jack rabbit, across the street from the Chamber of Commerce building, commemorates the event and provides a keen place for today’s drugstore cowboys to scratch their initials. Reeder Webb, ‘the rough and tough sheriff, retired from law enforcement many years ago. He lives around the corner from the jack rabbit statue’ in a white frame house on Sam Houston Street. He is the last of the principals in the rabbit roping ruckus. He declines to comment on the desecration of the court house \(“People do a lot of things nowadays and get away with “People around here didn’t pay any attention to the rabbit roping,” he says. “It was people away off and newspapers. There was nothing to it. A buch of silly Easterners tried to raise hell, but it was ignorance on their part. They didn’t know what they were doing. Not one time in a hundred thousand could you catch a jack rabbit with a rope. It’d be like roping quail.” There is, in that last sentence, the hint for a new ruckus.