Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Hare Taller


Within the city limits of Odessa, TX you can find the World's Largest Jack Rabbit, a.k.a. Jack Ben Rabbit.  He stands tall in downtown at 8 feet and was named after former Odessa Chamber of Commerce President John Ben Sheppard.  He hopped into place in 1962 and two years later he was joined by a Texas Historical Marker:

The Marker reads:

     "True plains Rabbit. Lives only in the west. Burro-like ears gave him his name. color is protective, blending with sand and dry grass. Very long legs make him a swift runner, clocked at speeds to 45 miles an hour. Object of hunts with Greyhounds.
      Was prized by plains Indians for food and fur. to white man a reminder of desert-hard life. In drouth and depression, meat source for thousands.
      Subject of tall tales. Actual hero of world's only Jackrabbit Rodeo, in Odessa, May 1932.
"

But this isn't just any historical marker, it's the marker that just keeps giving.  Adventurous foodies can find an authentic Texas Jack Rabbit Recipe attached to the back:



On the other side of Ben is a marker placed by the Heritage of Odessa Foundation commemorating the town's former Championship Jackrabbit Roping (Odessa is clearly what you would call a "Jack Rabbit Town"):

This marker reads:

"Contest began as "hare-brained" publicity stunt during 1932 annual Odessa Rodeo. Held at 3rd and Grant Street site despite objections from out-of-town do-gooders. Local sheriff opposed event but mayor and judge ruled no violation of Texas law. Cowgirl Grace Hendricks roped rabbit from horseback in five seconds flat winning over numerous male competitors. Notorious contest revived in 1977 causing coast-to-coast outcry. Midland animal lover delayed action by liberating captive jackrabbits. Event proceeded on schedule when former prisoners returned at feeding time. Seven ropers competed on foot. Jack Torian placed first with a six second scamper. In 1978 Humane Society blocked all future ropings with court order."

So yeah, this is a town that gets excited by jack rabbits...even enough to share.  In 2002 Ol' Ben hopped out of town to take part in the "Best of Texas" Festival at Six Flags over Texas in Arlington:


There he was joined by Old Rip from Eastland, the Car Part Dinosaur from Bertram and many other Texas roadside icons.  While he had a great summer in '02, his traveling days seem to be behind him and now you can always catch him at home in downtown Odessa.



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