Tale of the Jackalope

Roman Mars [00:00:01] This is 99% Invisible. I’m Roman Mars. There’s a place in South Dakota, just off Interstate 90, that’s one of those tourist attractions that you see hundreds of signs for as you approach. They count down the miles and list the reasons to stop in. 

Fil Corbitt [00:00:18] Cowboy boots, donuts, cheap coffee 60 miles ahead. Souvenirs, fun for the whole family. 

Roman Mars [00:00:25] That’s reporter Fil Corbitt from a podcast called The Wind. 

Fil Corbitt [00:00:29] And a few months ago, while driving across the wide stretching grasslands of South Dakota, I aimed the wheel off the freeway and followed the signs to the ultimate roadside stop. Wall Drug.

Sarah Hustead [00:00:44] We are a fun roadside attraction. We’re a slice of Americana. You know. 

Fil Corbitt [00:00:51] This is Sarah Hustead. Sarah owns Wall Drug with her dad, and she is the fourth generation of Hustead to run this place. It’s in the small town of Wall, South Dakota, which sits right at the spot where the badlands crumble up. Above, the Great Plains silently sprawl toward a distant horizon. 

Roman Mars [00:01:14] Sarah’s great grandfather bought this place as a simple, small-town pharmacy during the Great Depression. And over nine decades, the family expanded this small drugstore to take up an entire city block. And in addition to its restaurant, soda fountain, donut shop, and Travelers Chapel, it is a remarkable purveyor of Western kitsch. 

Fil Corbitt [00:01:38] And that is why I stopped. Not for the cheap coffee, but because Wall Drug is synonymous with one of my favorite examples of Western kitsch. 

Sarah Hustead [00:01:49] We are looking at a full wall of jackalopes. 

Fil Corbitt [00:01:54] The jackalope. 

Sarah Hustead [00:01:55] It looks like we’ve sold some here, but we have four rows of solid jackalopes, and they have their nice wood plaques and the beautiful jackrabbits with the real antlers. 

Fil Corbitt [00:02:12] If you’re not familiar with the jackalope, this magical mythical creature is a horned rabbit. And though I’ve seen many lone mounted jackalope heads, I am struck by the variety, seeing them side by side in rows. 

Sarah Hustead [00:02:28] I think his lips are kind of pursed and he’s looking quite perky here. I would call this guy a little more wiry. And then you have the nice kind of more wintery jackalopes that are nice and white, super fluffy. And I think those ones are extra cute. 

Fil Corbitt [00:02:49] The antlers are of different sizes and shapes. The rabbits all have different expressions–some wry and knowing, others calm and wide-eyed–but all of them with a certain straight-faced charm. Do you have a jackalope? 

Sarah Hustead [00:03:06] At home? 

Fil Corbitt [00:03:07] Yeah. 

Roman Mars [00:03:07] Of course. 

Fil Corbitt [00:03:09] For the past 70 years, Wall Drug has been central in the spread of this iconic creature. 

Sarah Hustead [00:03:17] I wouldn’t want to say Wall Drug is responsible. I wouldn’t want to get too big of a head. But we do see a ton of people from all over come through, and here is probably the first time that they’re seeing the jackalope. 

Roman Mars [00:03:33] But the story of how the jackalope became a mythical mascot of the American West, inspiring an absolute river of trinkets and songs and whiskeys and postcards and tall tales–that story goes back much further than Wall Drug. 

Fil Corbitt [00:03:49] The way most people encounter the jackalope is not in the wild, but instead on a wall. 

Michael Branch [00:03:55] Yeah. A pool hall, a bar, a greasy spoon diner, and maybe your grandfather’s basement. 

Fil Corbitt [00:04:01] This is Michael Branch, who wrote a book called On the Trail of the Jackalope. He spent years driving around the American West, talking to everyone who knew anything about jackalopes, in a quest to understand where this creature came from and why it stuck around for so long. According to Mike, the first documented taxidermy jackalope was made by two young brothers in the early 1930s. 

Michael Branch [00:04:30] Ralph and Doug Herrick lived on a little homestead outside of a tiny town called Douglas, Wyoming, out on the edge of the prairie. And those kids had been taking a taxidermy course as a correspondence course through the mail. 

Fil Corbitt [00:04:43] Like many Depression-era families, the young Herricks hunted and fished to help stock the family dinner table. 

Michael Branch [00:04:51] And they had been out hunting one day and they’d bagged a jackrabbit. They came back and threw it on the floor of their shop and, as the story goes, it slid up against some deer antlers from a deer that had been dressed out not long before. 

Roman Mars [00:05:04] I’m not totally understanding the physics of this scene, but it’s okay. Let’s continue. 

Michael Branch [00:05:08] And that gave them the idea in that moment when they saw that weird hybrid thing sitting on the floor of their shop: “Let’s mount that thing.” 

Fil Corbitt [00:05:16] And that was the first jackalope head mounted on a plaque. This was the hoax mount that started it all. 

Roman Mars [00:05:25] These two kids, taking a taxidermy class through the mail, apparently did a pretty good job because they brought the mount down to the local pub where the bar owner paid them ten bucks for it. 

Michael Branch [00:05:37] And that particular first jackalope hung in the old LaBonte Hotel in Douglas, Wyoming, over the bar from the 1930s, all the way through the 1970s. And that was– That was the rock that got thrown in the pond, and the jackalope ripples went out from there–across the country and across the whole world, really. 

Fil Corbitt [00:05:59] The Herrick brothers kept making these things. And they probably would have remained just a local Wyoming oddity, if not for Wall Drug, which has been selling jackalopes for at least 70 years. 

Michael Branch [00:06:13] The reason Wall Drug is such a vital part of the story of the jackalope is that it was probably the first place that ever commercially sold jackalopes, and they have never stopped since. 

Fil Corbitt [00:06:25] Long before the internet, Wall Drug helped the jackalope go viral. Tourists and road trippers from all over the world would stop in at this roadside emporium and see on the wall this rabbit with antlers. 

Roman Mars [00:06:42] As more people came into contact with the antlered rabbit, a torrent of tall tales followed and elaborate mythology sprung up around the creature, dreamed up by many different storytellers. 

Michael Branch [00:06:54] Nobody owns the jackalope. No corporation or person is entitled to control its distribution, its consumption, its interpretation. It is truly part of the folk process. 

Fil Corbitt [00:07:06] According to jackalope lore, the creatures are smart and considerably dangerous. They only mate during lightning storms. And if you put out a bowl of whiskey at night, a passing jackalope may finish it off. And in his drunken bravado, he’ll believe he can catch bullets in his teeth, which is the only way hunters can manage to bag them. 

Roman Mars [00:07:30] Also, jackalope milk is supposedly a powerful aphrodisiac. And even though the jackalope sleeps on its back, it’s incredibly dangerous to milk one. 

Fil Corbitt [00:07:40] And finally, the jackalope is the only animal that can throw its voice like a ventriloquist. 

Michael Branch [00:07:46] If you’re out camping and you sing around the campfire, you’ll hear that voice, coming in from the sage, of the jackalope harmonizing with you. 

Roman Mars [00:07:55] Throughout history, people have told stories about Chimera. The original Chimera from Greek mythology was a fire breathing monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail. Over time, the word has come to mean any hybrid creature made up of different animal parts. Horses with wings, cats with eagle heads, fish with fur. When inventing something new, the oldest trick in the book is to smash two existing things together. 

Fil Corbitt [00:08:23] But the jackalope chimera distinctly fits into the American West. And it emerged at a particular moment in the West’s history. Early in the country’s Western colonization, frontiersmen and settlers were often seen from the East as bumpkins–uncultured and immoral people living in a wild land. 

Roman Mars [00:08:45] But going into the 1900s, pop culture started to romanticize the West. People loved stories about heroic cowboys living on the prairie–the stuff that you’d see in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Over time, the diverse and complicated reality of the West was slowly flattened into a simpler and more whitewashed myth. 

Fil Corbitt [00:09:08] Part of that romantic retelling included an interest in the actual Western tradition of tall tales. 

Michael Branch [00:09:15] That language of hyperbole, of exaggeration, of larger than life. So, that’s part of what we associate with the American West, right? This wonderful tradition of extravagant folk humor. 

Fil Corbitt [00:09:27] Settlers, as early as the mid-1800s, used humor and embellishment to subvert the narrative that they were ignorant. 

Michael Branch [00:09:36] I think the tension between the East and West in the United States from the 19th century forward is a really important part of the story. You know, people in the American West–who maybe are seen as frontiersmen or bumpkins or uneducated–they say, “Oh, yeah. Well, guess what? I know more than you do about something–and it’s this. I’m going to fool you with this jackalope.” There’s a great satisfaction in taking someone who is condescending or elite and exposing their ignorance when they’re busy trying to expose yours. 

Fil Corbitt [00:10:08] Some of the jackalope’s allure is that it sets up this ruse. There are people who know and people who don’t. And a lot of the satisfaction comes from playing with that line: telling people a long, just barely plausible story–all the while pointing to the evidence right there on the wall. 

Michael Branch [00:10:28] Like all good humorists, the jackalope always keeps a straight face. It refuses to acknowledge that it’s funny in any way; it takes itself perfectly seriously. 

Roman Mars [00:10:38] But there’s a curious thing about horned rabbits. While we know the origin story of the jackalope– 

Fil Corbitt [00:10:44] Douglas, Wyoming, 1932. 

Roman Mars [00:10:46] There are illustrations and descriptions of this specific creature going back much, much further. For instance, there’s a renaissance illustration of a squirrel and three rabbits, the central one sporting a crown of antlers. 

Fil Corbitt [00:11:01] Or there’s a Flemish painting from the 17th century that shows a wreath of fruit and flowers surrounded by birds, deer, and a small horned rabbit. 

Roman Mars [00:11:12] And this is not just in Europe. Horned rabbits show up all over the world. 

Michael Branch [00:11:16] Indigenous people from Mexico and the Americas. There are horned rabbit tails in the folklore of many African peoples. Certainly all across Europe and then in Asia. 

Fil Corbitt [00:11:28] A horned rabbit is even invoked in early Buddhist texts as a way to talk about the very nature of reality. Basically, the Buddha says to his students: 

Michael Branch [00:11:39] “If you think a horned rabbit exists, then you don’t understand anything about the world or about human consciousness, because obviously it doesn’t exist.” 

Fil Corbitt [00:11:48] And then he’d ask his students to picture a horned rabbit. 

Michael Branch [00:11:52] And he’d say, “Well, the horned rabbit is real to you now, isn’t it? So, if you think the horned rabbit doesn’t exist, you don’t know anything about reality or the nature of the mind.” So, he used it as a tool to kind of break down this binary thinking. The specific lesson was that the horned rabbit both does and doesn’t exist. 

Fil Corbitt [00:12:12] And that line between real and not real blurs with the horned rabbit because they don’t only show up in art and mythology. 

Michael Branch [00:12:21] Early cosmographies in natural histories will depict the horned rabbit. And then throughout the late medieval and renaissance periods in Europe, the horned rabbit was actually taxonomized as a unique species; it was called lepus cornutus. 

Roman Mars [00:12:35] And so, if rabbits with horns are depicted all over the world in art from nearly every continent and in natural history, is there actually a lepus cornutus? 

Fil Corbitt [00:12:46] A taxonomized distinct species? No. They were wrong on that. But…

Michael Branch [00:12:52] Horned rabbits actually exist in nature. 

Fil Corbitt [00:12:56] The horned rabbit is real… Sort of. 

Roman Mars [00:13:02] Most of what we know about the existence of horned rabbits is thanks to a pioneering virologist named Richard Shope. Shope was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1901–and by the 1930s he was working at the Rockefeller Institute at Princeton University. That’s where he discovered what caused the pandemic of 1918 by linking the influenza virus to one he observed in pigs. So, he was well-established in his field, and he was an expert on animal to human disease transmission. 

Fil Corbitt [00:13:32] Shope has two living children. And though neither could do an interview for this story, his daughter, Nancy, shared some of her dad’s unpublished letters, which were incredible to read. Here is Richard Shope describing his own work in a letter he sent in 1932 to his mom. “February 22nd, 1932. You asked what to tell people that asked you what my work was. Just tell them that I work with diseases–the causes of which are unknown–trying to find the cause, and to study the pathology.” 

Roman Mars [00:14:12] At this time, Shope had conducted research that convinced him that viruses could cause certain kinds of cancer in mammals. The scientific community hadn’t caught up with him yet, but that would change starting in 1932. 

Fil Corbitt [00:14:25] That year–the same year the Herrick brothers mounted their first jackalope in Wyoming–Shope started hearing about some strange horned rabbits in the Midwest. Not the ones the Herricks were making, but real rabbits that hunters had come across on the Great Plains. 

Michael Branch [00:14:44] And so he asked these hunters, essentially, to start mailing him these weird rabbits from the Midwest. 

Roman Mars [00:14:50] When the rabbits arrived at his lab, Shope could see that the rabbits didn’t actually have horns. They had these gnarly, disturbing growths that were caused, Shope thought, by some kind of disease. 

Fil Corbitt [00:15:01] Shope collected samples of the growths. Then he pulverized them, did some–you know–science stuff, and as a result, he would get a mix of organic material all contained in a fluid. 

Michael Branch [00:15:15] And that fluid would be strained through a porcelain filter. When it was strained through that filter, lots of genetic material and lots of bacteriological material would be filtered out. 

Fil Corbitt [00:15:26] Shope applied that filtered fluid to healthy rabbits, who then developed these same growths. 

Michael Branch [00:15:33] So, whatever this disease was, it was transmissible. But because of this filtration process, he was able to prove that all the other things it might be had been filtered out. And the only thing small enough to go through that porcelain filter was a virus. 

Roman Mars [00:15:48] That virus that Shope extracted is what’s called a papillomavirus. 

Michael Branch [00:15:52] And that can cause these really grotesque growths on the animal’s head, which can look a lot like horns. 

Fil Corbitt [00:16:00] They are pretty terrible to look at. I do not recommend googling it, but basically these growths are carcinomas that sometimes grow quite large and often on the rabbit’s face and head. 

Michael Branch [00:16:14] I would definitely say that a rabbit stricken with papillomavirus is likely to look more grotesque and less stylized than an actual jackalope. 

Roman Mars [00:16:24] In most cases, growths emerged from the rabbit’s face or the back of its head. But in some instances, they grow right out of the rabbit’s forehead and look uncannily like antlers or goat horns. 

Fil Corbitt [00:16:38] It’s hard to say for sure, but it is certainly possible that these rabbits with horns and antlers that were showing up in Renaissance paintings and naturalist field books were depictions of this disease observed in nature. 

Roman Mars [00:16:55] Now, at the time, the scientific community didn’t believe that viruses could cause cancer. As Shope wrote in a letter to a colleague: 

Fil Corbitt [00:17:02] “If it’s true, the observation would hurt lots of people’s feelings that have for a long time considered tumors as invariably of a noninfectious nature.” 

Michael Branch [00:17:11] Cancer isn’t contagious, right? Well, Shoppe, by studying those horned rabbits, was able to prove that those weird growths were caused by a virus. And that was a major breakthrough because proving that a virus could cause cancer in a mammal opened the way to all kinds of research that was going to turn out to be important to human beings. 

Fil Corbitt [00:17:34] By the 1970s and eighties, researchers were starting to explore the link between papillomaviruses in humans and certain kinds of cancer. It took years to prove the connection, but eventually researchers did, and they won the Nobel Prize for the discovery. We now know that HPV can cause various types of cancer in people. 

Michael Branch [00:17:58] But the most prominent example is cervical cancer, which was a huge, huge killer. 

Roman Mars [00:18:04] Over 90% of cervical cancer is caused by HPV infection. But decades after the work on papillomaviruses by Richard Shope, scientists used that early research to develop a vaccine. 

Michael Branch [00:18:16] If you connect the dots, this leads eventually to development of the human papillomavirus vaccine–the HPV vaccine–which is the safest, most effective anti-cancer vaccine we have ever created. It saves millions of lives every year, and it would not exist without horned rabbits and without a person who was curious enough to ask, “How did these weird rabbits come to be the way they are?” 

Fil Corbitt [00:18:50] Mike lays out in the book that there is something charming and inexplicable that Richard Shope’s work on horned rabbits began in 1932. 

Michael Branch [00:19:03] 1932 is the year that the Herrick brothers, in that little town in Wyoming, claimed that they made their first jackalope hoax mount. I don’t think there’s any relationship between those two things, but I love the idea that in the same year, this river forks. And one fork is a kind of hoax that is going to become a staple of popular culture–and the other fork is this legitimate scientific research that is going to lead to the saving of millions of lives. So, the jackalope’s story turns out to be so much more complicated than we would ever guess when we stick a stamp on a tacky postcard or we see a taxidermy mount in a pool hall. 

Roman Mars [00:19:43] The Jackalope so artfully inhabits this space between the fake and the real. It is a true boundary crosser. 

Michael Branch [00:19:50] Name your incongruity, right? Is it a rabbit or deer? Is it timid or vicious? Is it funny or serious? Is it ironic or genuine? 

Fil Corbitt [00:20:01] Back at Wall Drug, I amble across the courtyard. I pass a taxidermied buffalo in the threshold of the back building and duck into a hallway filled with remarkable historic photographs. Young cowboys on the Great Plains hold tight to bucking broncos. Settlers traverse the windswept grasslands. Indigenous families and chiefs, posed together in traditional garb, standing on the land that they’ve inhabited for millennia. And this sincere, quiet collage of deep American history is interrupted every 12 minutes by a giant animatronic T-Rex. The American West can be a weird place–beautiful and ugly, sincere and commodified, serene and absurd. And overseeing all of it–up on the wall–is the antlered rabbit always with a straight face. All right. I think just one final question: is the jackalope real, or is it myth? 

Michael Branch [00:21:22] Yes. 

Roman Mars [00:21:41] Coming up after the break, I talk with Fil about the jackalope in pop culture and how it connects with the long tradition of the trickster. So, Fil, you’re back to talk with us a little bit more about the jackalope and its relationship with arts and culture. And since your own podcast, The Wind, is about listening and sound and music, let’s start with some examples of the jackalope in music. 

Fil Corbitt [00:22:22] Yeah, the jackalope has inspired a ton of pop culture. In Mike Branch’s book, he devotes about two pages to listing music that mentions the jackalope. So, I just started listening through all of those bands. 

Roman Mars [00:22:38] Okay, great. So, what did you find? 

Fil Corbitt [00:22:39] There are a ton. But just a couple quick highlights to play for you. One is Creepy Jackalope Eye by Arizona cow punk band Supersuckers. Or here’s one from your neck of the woods. This is an extra noisy track called Jackalope Rising by the Phantom Limbs. 

Roman Mars [00:23:10] And they’re from beautiful downtown Oakland, California? Maybe not downtown, but they’re from Oakland, California? 

Fil Corbitt [00:23:16] Exactly. The list goes on and on and on. But I started realizing that a lot of these musicians were using the jackalope in their song titles and their lyrics and they were bending genre in these really interesting ways. 

Roman Mars [00:23:38] Okay, so what do you mean by that? 

Fil Corbitt [00:23:39] Like a lot of the songs just don’t neatly fit into, you know, pop or punk or black metal or whatever. But we’re instead combining all of these different elements into one song. 

Roman Mars [00:23:51] Like the jackalope itself is a hybrid creature. It sort of evokes a kind of hybrid musical style as well. 

Fil Corbitt [00:23:57] Exactly. And so, one of the bands that caught my ear was simply called Jackalope. 

Roman Mars [00:24:03] Okay. 

Fil Corbitt [00:24:03] A lot of their songs have this kind of, like, eighties new age jazz fusion thing going on. And they describe themselves as, let’s see, “SynthacousticpunkarachiNavajazz.” 

Roman Mars [00:24:27] Okay. You might need to break that down for me a little bit more, but yeah. Go on. 

Fil Corbitt [00:24:32] So it’s co-fronted by a very prominent Native American flute player named R. Carlos Nakai. And, like, when I say prominent, I mean, you know, if you’re imagining what Native American flute sounds like, there’s a chance you’re imagining his music. He has, like, multiple gold albums, etc., etc. And so, I called up R. Carlos Nakai to talk about the image of the jackalope and, you know, what it means to him. 

Carlos Nakai [00:24:59] I think the first time I was ever made aware of the jackalope was when I was visiting with friends down at the Mojave Community in Parker, Arizona. And there was a rabbit with horns in one of the shops. And I said, “What is that?”

Fil Corbitt [00:25:17] Nakai was immediately drawn to the jackalope precisely because it is a hybrid creature. It crosses the boundary between rabbit and deer. And there’s something just compelling and playful about it for that reason. Also, Nakai’s collaborator in the band, Larry Yañez, is an artist from Yuma, Arizona, and he works a lot with Chicano imagery and ideas of living on a border, coming from a bilingual family. 

Carlos Nakai [00:25:46] So, we live in two worlds at once. All of us do. Jackalope is that mixture of cultural awareness. So we go, “This is something we can have a good time with.”

Roman Mars [00:26:00] So for Nakai, it’s not just about mixing cultures. It’s also about breaking down this line between what’s funny and what’s serious. 

Fil Corbitt [00:26:07] Exactly. And this is the other thing about the jackalope that makes it so interesting–is that it fits into this whole tradition of the trickster, which, you know, you see in cultures all over the world. 

Roman Mars [00:26:21] Yeah. I’m remembering from the main story how the jackalope is itself a trickster with–you know–they drink whiskey, and they catch bullets with their teeth, and throw their voices, and even the image of them is used to trick gullible Easterners into thinking that they’re real. But you’re saying that trickster figures appear in lots of cultures. So, what are some of those examples? 

Fil Corbitt [00:26:42] This type of character is common in indigenous stories in North America–specifically coyote and, in the Northwest, the crow, who both have major roles in many creation stories. Then Eshu in Nigeria, who is the trickster God of the Yoruba people. Hermes in ancient Greece. Loki from Norse mythology; he changes form and gender. I mean, the definition is fluid–but the trickster just shows up everywhere. 

Roman Mars [00:27:13] And so, I’m familiar with some of those, but you know what makes a trickster. 

Fil Corbitt [00:27:17] One thing is that they are constantly testing what is socially acceptable. Sometimes they bridge different realities as well. So, in some stories, the coyote will be able to pass between the world of the living and the spirit world. And they also often upend power structures, usually through mischief. So, Michael Branch told me that, at the core of it, the trickster is all about crossing lines. 

Michael Branch [00:27:44] Most of us live in worlds where boundaries are set out for us every day. And those lines have been drawn for us. And there’s something exhilarating about breaking out of that, right? So, illicit boundary crossing–that’s the forte of the trickster. 

Roman Mars [00:28:02] Okay. Starting to get some, you know, sense of what the trickster is all about. But do you have other examples of how they operate? 

Fil Corbitt [00:28:08] So, it might help to talk about a couple examples from more contemporary culture. One would be George Clooney’s character from O Brother, where Art Thou? 

Roman Mars [00:28:17] I mean, that is contemporary in one sense–but also, isn’t it based on The Odyssey, which is not very contemporary? 

Fil Corbitt [00:28:22] Exactly. And Odysseus from The Odyssey is one of those ancient trickster figures. So, in O Brother, Where Art Thou? Clooney is constantly using, you know, his wit and embellishment and straight-up lies to get out of all these sticky situations. 

George Clooney as Ulysses Everett McGill [00:28:41] How’s my hair? Damn, we’re in a tight spot.

Fil Corbitt [00:28:52] You know, he starts off in jail, and he lies to his fellow prisoners about hidden treasure so they’ll help him go on this big journey to break up his ex-wife’s marriage. And throughout the movie, he’s super smart and resourceful–but, at the same time, he is totally fallible. 

Roman Mars [00:29:08] Yeah. 

Fil Corbitt [00:29:08] Which is basically how the trickster works. Like, very clever, seemingly all-knowing, but then completely tripped up by lowly desires like hunger or sex or jealousy or even curiosity. 

Roman Mars [00:29:21] Yeah. It’s like the trickster is charming because of its fallibility. I’m curious if you have a favorite trickster. 

Fil Corbitt [00:29:30] So, one of my favorite tricksters is one everybody will be familiar with, which is Bugs Bunny. 

Roman Mars [00:29:39] I never thought about that, but that seems– Yeah, that’s right on the money. That makes tons of sense. 

Fil Corbitt [00:29:43] Yeah. Because, you know, Bugs is constantly defeating this bumbling human hunter, Elmer Fudd. And he does it, you know, not through physical strength, but by outsmarting him and basically playing these elaborate pranks. 

Elmer Fudd [00:29:58] Any wast words, wabbit? 

Bugs Bunny [00:30:00] Yeah. Those flip flops have been out of style for at least three decades. 

Elmer Fudd [00:30:04] Weally? 

Bugs Bunny [00:30:05] In fact, I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing those things. 

Elmer Fudd [00:30:08] Oh, well, I was just about to take them off. Oh! Oh, gwacious! Oh! The cement is wed hot! 

Bugs Bunny [00:30:16] Yeah, doc. That sun ain’t fooling around. Better put on some sunscreen. 

Elmer Fudd [00:30:23] Ah, my eyes! Oh, now I can’t see! 

Fil Corbitt [00:30:25] And if you think about it, like, if Bugs loses in these episodes, he dies, right?

Roman Mars [00:30:31] Right, right. 

Fil Corbitt [00:30:32] And yet, he’s just super cool, nonchalant, and he pretty much always comes out on top. 

Roman Mars [00:30:38] Right. And now that I think about it, he’s so much like the jackalope. Like, he’s this trickster because he’s constantly trolling Elmer Fudd, but he’s also a bit of this chimera hybrid because he’s this mix between a rabbit and a human. 

Fil Corbitt [00:30:51] Exactly. Yeah. Because he walks on his back feet. He has gloves. He breaks down that line between human and non-human. And like Loki, Bugs also messes with gender in these really understated ways. Like, he’ll just fluidly play a femme version of himself without making a big thing of it. 

Roman Mars [00:31:12] Or sometimes they do make a big deal of it and he’s, like, a femme fatal–really dolled up–as noted by Garth in Wayne’s World. He admits, on a hood of a car, that he’s secretly attracted to Bugs Bunny. 

Garth Algar [00:31:26] Did you ever find Bugs Bunny attractive when he’d put on a dress and play a girl bunny? 

Wayne Campbell [00:31:32] No… No. 

Garth Algar [00:31:41] Neither did I. I was– I was just asking. 

Fil Corbitt [00:31:44] Yeah. And Bugs is just subversive, you know? He’s always upsetting power structures, and that’s part of what makes him such a great example of a trickster. So, yeah, I mean, if you haven’t had a chance to, you know, visit Wall Drug or see a jackalope on a wall, I mean, you’ve definitely got the vibe from Bugs. 

Roman Mars [00:32:06] That’s fantastic. Well, this has been so cool. I really appreciate this deep dive into something that I had– I just had no idea there was so much behind the faux mounted heads that you see in kitschy western shops. It’s been so cool to go on this journey with you. Thank you, Fil. I really appreciate it. 

Fil Corbitt [00:32:23] Yeah. Thank you, Roman. 

Roman Mars [00:32:34] 99% Invisible was reported this week by Fil Corbitt and edited by executive producer Delaney Hall. Fil makes a podcast about listening at a handmade desk in the mountains; it’s called The Wind. And if you liked this story, you might dig the episode Frontier Music, but start at the prologue. Listen and subscribe at thewind.org. Mix this Week by Ameeta Ganatra. Fact-checking by Graham Hacia. Music by Swan Real. Kurt Kohlstedt is our digital director. The rest of the team includes Christopher Johnson, Vivian Le, Chris Berube, Emmett Fitzgerald, Martín Gonzalez, Joe Rosenberg, Jayson De Leon, Jeyca Maldonado-Medina, Lasha Madan, Sofia Klatzker, and me, Roman Mars. Special thanks this week to Elisa Sobo from San Diego State University and Rick Hustead at Wall Drug, who we also spoke to for this story. Thanks also to Tom Shope and Nancy Fitzgerald, who shared their father’s letters. We are part of the Stitcher and SiriusXM podcast family, now headquartered six blocks north in the Pandora building in beautiful uptown Oakland, California. You can find the show and join discussion about the show on Facebook. You can tweet at me @romanmars and the show @99piorg. We’re on Instagram and Reddit, too. You can find links to other Stitcher shows I love, as well as every past episode of 99PI at 99pi.org. 

Singing Voices [00:34:02] You’re listening to a Stitcher podcast from SiriusXM. 

Credits

99% Invisible was reported this week by Fil Corbitt and edited by executive producer Delaney Hall. Fil makes a podcast about listening called The Wind. If you liked this story, you might dig their episodes “Frontier Music” or “Coyote.” 

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