I was paying attention, and not speeding.
But I couldn't stop the car fast enough, and ran over the rabbit.
The event was slightly disturbing for me, especially considering that I got out of the car to see if I could save the rabbit, and witnessed the last few seconds of life leaving it's body.
It was even more traumatic because of the memory that it resurrected.
A kid growing up on a farm in the mountains of central West Virginia can't help but get close to nature on an almost daily basis. And part of getting close to nature, especially in deep Appalachian Mountain culture, involves hunting. I did my fair share of hunting, with my Dad and also by myself when I was a bit older. I don't think I enjoyed killing animals, but I didn't think too much about it as a pre-teen.
It was what it was, and it was what we did.
Besides, we lived next door to guys like these. Guns and hunting came easy.
One summer day in what I would guess was 1978, my family and I were taking a nice weekend drive through Jerry's Fork, along a very rugged mountain ridge near a place called Peach Orchard. The truck had to travel slowly, so my brother and I rode in the back of the flat-bed, goofing off mostly and looking for trouble. Suddenly, a groundhog shot across the path, and headed over an embankment into a creek bed about 40 yards from the truck.
My brother Jeff and I let out a holler and jumped out of the truck. As my dad tried to figure out what we were doing, we began chasing the groundhog through the creek, screaming and tossing rocks at it as we ran. We cornered it, finally, against a hillside just beside the creek.
In some type of hypnotic blood-lust, we stoned that groundhog to death.
After the groundhog died, my brother and I were sort of unsure how we should feel. We spent our childhood playing Cowboys & Indians, idolizing John Wayne and begging to go hunting with our dad; we had a romantic ideal of killing, and expected it to make us feel heroic, or strong.
Instead, it made us feel ashamed, and sick to our stomachs.
We talked about it a lot of times during the years that followed. It was a defining moment in my life, one in which I began to recognize the abuse that can come with power and authority, and how cruel and thoughtless the actions of people can be, even when it's unintentional.
I understood it, because I lived it. Even just for that silly, insignificant little moment.
Damn, I never saw that rabbit coming...