Jake had set out to find a safe place to dig a winter home for him, Hattie and the baby bunnies. It was a job he had put off and now it was late in the fall season. The first frost had passed and snow showers had become a daily happening. He had searched the banks of the river finding every possible place already had someone occupying it. It was impossible to dig near the mountain with all the tree roots so he set out towards the mainland where the humans lived.
Days came and went, the weather turning much colder. Jake was hungry now, unable to find anything not frozen to eat. He was feeling sick and weak. He had to dig a hole for them and he had to find a place to do it, now! He knew he had to stay away from pastures because the humans would plow them up early in the spring, destroying the hole and possibly trapping them inside. He came to a wire fence and worked his way through a loosened end. He could see the house and barn clearly now. Although it was dangerous to get this close to the humans it would be possible to get food from the barn and water. This would have to do for this winter. They would just have to be careful until they could return to the river bank in the spring. The ground would be soft near the barn to dig a quick shelter for his family.
Before he could do another thing he had to make it past the cows and into the barn where he might find food. He quickly ran across the field, just missing being trampled by a huge cow. Just as he was about to enter the barn he heard the voices of the humans inside. Shaking from the cold and lack of food he huddled in some hay just outside the door of the barn, waiting for all to be clear and safe for him to enter.
He fell asleep from his exhausting journey and awoke to darkened skies. The cows were already in the barn and the door was closed. Jake slowly searched around the outside looking for an opening to squeeze inside. He was in luck this night. A small hole made by another animal appeared in one corner of the building. He peered inside and slid his body through the hole.
He made his dinner out of the dry fresh hay and oats laid out for the cows and horses. It felt good to not be hungry anymore or cold from the wind and snow. His nose picked up the smell of a sweet apple, most likely dropped by the horse or the humans. He began to look for it, the sweetness drawing him closer to it. He was one step away from having this wonderful find. As he hopped forward, about to sink his teeth into it, a flap of steel wire clamped down closing him inside a walled cage.
Franticly he tried to open the door. It was no use, he was trapped. The apple no longer interested him. He had heard about traps from his neighbors. Those caught in one, never returned to their families. All his happiness of being warm and well fed sunk with the memories of his babies and Hattie. He was sure he would become dinner for the humans the next day.
It was a long night for Jake. All he could think about was his poor decision to wait too long to make a winter home. He didn’t think Hattie would be able to make it through the winter alone with no male to protect her and the babies. It was not full daylight when the door to the barn opened. The man and his children tossed about fresh hay and opened facets that filled tubs with fresh water. Soon the horses were led outside followed by the cows. The humans were busy cleaning the stables until one child’s eyes feel on the trap. She shrieked with delight in her voice when she saw Jake scrunched in a ball of fear.
The trap was carried outside of the barn. Jake kept his eyes closed, fearing what was about to come next. Soon the door of the trap was opened. He found himself being shaken out of the trap into a large cage separated into sections by wire. At the end of the cage was a wooden box with a hole in it. The cage was filled with fresh hay. The human’s had filled a bowl with oats and cabbage. There was a bottle of water attached to the wire wall. Jake just sat still wondering what would happen next. Soon the humans left. Snow swirled around the cage.
A nose poked out of the wooden box in the section next to Jake. It was another rabbit named Ben. He told Jake to get inside the box before he froze. Jake found the box to be warm with a bed of straw. Soon he fell asleep. At least he was still alive and that would give him a chance to find a way out.
As the days passed he found Ben to be a pleasant old fellow. He had been in the cage for a long time, although the humans often took him out and held him. They were well fed and warm but this new home couldn’t be enjoyed with thoughts of Hattie and the babies on Jake’s mind. Jake couldn’t wait to tell Hattie that being caught by the human’s didn’t always mean they would be on a dinner menu. He was really surprised at how kind the children had been to him.
The wind was beginning to feel warmer. Jake could see some greens beginning to emerge on the ground. He wasn’t like Ben. He had a family to find. Getting out of the cage became his daily issue. He gnawed at the wire constantly, hoping to break it enough to slide out of his jail. Spring was here. The snow had turned into heavy rains. Jake kept chewing and pulling at the wire without any results.
The human children came often and took Ben out of his cage, holding him and letting him jump about the ground and eat the new growing greens. They would open the door on Jakes cage and pet his head and back but he was not taken out and had no chance to run away. He began to think of ways to run past their hand and jump out the door. One day while chewing and pulling the wire, the rain swollen wood that held the wire broke off in one spot. This gave Jake new hope. He worked day and night, pulling and twisting the wire, hoping the humans didn’t discover the rotted wood.
Soon Jake had managed to break away a second and third piece of wood. He pushed against the wire, poking his head through the opening. He wasn’t sure if it was large enough to get his body through. He didn’t want to chance getting stuck but now the humans could clearly see the break in the cage. He couldn’t wait for morning. He had to do it and hope he could get out.
Jake pushed the wire out as far as it would go. He slid his head and front legs through and pushed and pushed and pulled. He was stuck! There he hung, half in and half out. He stopped wiggling to think. He had seen mice flatten themselves and get through holes half their size. Like the mice, Jake sucked in his belly and stretched out his legs behind him. With one small wiggle Jake sent himself falling to the ground!
He was FREE! He didn’t stop to say goodbye to Ben. He headed in the direction of the river where he hoped to find Hattie and the babies.
Soon to come:
Hattie leaves the cave