Randy Chapman: Rabbit tale leads to search for answers


Rabbits are on my brain. I cannot avoid it.

It's more so since Sheryl is decrying their presumed yard-side profusion this spring. My wife's rabbit torment is second only to that of my neighbor, Stephen Lehmkuhle, chancellor of the University of Minnesota-Rochester.

I neither wish to portray my even-tempered friend, Steve, nor my normally sweet-natured wife, Sheryl, as rabid rabbit-haters. Yet, when impudent cottontails devour newly planted annuals and torment our pooch Max into howling fits merely with their bunny-hoppin' presence, I myself come down on the side of Elmer Fudd.

Thus, with rabbit reality lurking in the warrens of my mind, it is small wonder that a little bit of a notice published in the Post-Bulletin last week caught my attention.

Hares at the hunt


Addictions, I have a few. One worthy of confession is reading the bitty Day in History feature tucked daily into the B-section of the Post-Bulletin. Writer Loren Else scours the catacombs of local history to cite events that occurred on this year's date some 25, 50, 75 and 100 years bygone. It's fun stuff, curious stuff and well-I'll-be-damned stuff.

Here's a scrap of 75-year-old stuff I read a week ago that got me to thinking:

"A bright sun and warm winds allowed more than 1,000 children to enjoy a very successful annual Easter egg hunt at Soldiers Field. The winner of the grand prize was 11-year-old Albin Jacobson, of Rochester. The grand prize was two live white rabbits."

So what in those few words got me to thinking? First, in reading the youth's name, I wondered whatever became of young Albin. And, second, in his winning the grand prize – two live white rabbits – I wondered how that turned out.

Let me glide into the second question first.

Maybe back in spring of 1941 when Albin won the rabbits, they may have went right into the stew pot. Or, maybe not.

If hasenpfeffer was the outcome, what was young Albin's reaction? What would have been the consequence at the family dinner table? I can imagine, and here's why:

Young Sheryl Hawkins and her sisters would take bunnies from her father's rabbit hutch, dress them in doll clothes and then give them baby carriage rides around the neighborhood. One evening, the Hawkins sisters asked what they were eating and burst into tears when told. Sheryl's father, Floyd, sold the rabbit herd the next day, dismantled the hutch and ended a sorrowful tale often told at Hawkins family gatherings.


Maddening math

If the two live white rabbits were not served for dinner at the Jacobson dinner table, then what became of them? Please permit me to speculate.

Not unlike Floyd Hawkins, perhaps the Jacobson family decided to raise rabbits. After all, it was 1941. Resourceful folks with large yards back then typically had a large vegetable garden, a few fruit trees and a grape arbor. They raised a few chickens and often had a bunny hutch. I know this because my grandparents and their contemporaries had grandchildren solely for weeding and hoeing and harvesting.

So, in my over-thinking rabbit-raising options, I wonder how many offspring could come from just two live white rabbits, presuming they were of different gender. Googling, I came across a website – H.A.R.E. – Houserabbit Adoption, Rescue and Education Inc. Here are computations from H.A.R.E. and, fair warning, its scary when rabbits are left to their own devices:

"A single female rabbit can have 1 to 14 babies per litter, but let's be conservative and say that the average litter size is six. We'll also make the assumption that only half of those are females, and we will calculate the potential fecundity of our bunny population only from hypothetical three females per litter, since females are the limiting factor in a population when it comes to making babies.

"Rabbit gestation is 28 to 31 days, and mother rabbits can become pregnant again within hours of giving birth to a litter. This means that Mama Rabbit could, hypothetically, have one litter per month if she is constantly with a male rabbit."

If Albin's "starter bunnies" began reproducing at age of 6 months, by the end of the first year, one mother rabbit will have borne an average of three female babies per month times 12 months, which equals 36 female babies.

I can get my head around 36 female babies. What I could not conceive is this:


By the end of seven years, computing average life span and reproductivity, those two live white rabbits that young Albin Jacobson won at the Rochester Easter Egg Hunt of 1941 would have produced — drumroll— 94,852,569,180 rabbits. In case all those digits are hard to read, permit me to write them another way: almost 95 billion rabbits in seven years.

Now, I do not presume Albin Jacobsen kept rabbits for 75 years. If he did, and if I could compute the progeny up until today, there would not be enough room in this column for all the digits.

Beyond bunnies

I would be remiss if I did not end my column with this:

It took me less than 60 seconds in an Internet search to learn what became of lucky 11-year-old Albin Jacobson since he won live rabbits 75 years ago. It wasn't too difficult with an unusual name, an approximate date and place of birth and a robust Post-Bulletin obituary archive.

Albin "Jake" Jacobson, Jr. was born March 14, 1930, and died in Rochester on May 19, 2010, at 80 years old. I wish I had known him, and you would too, as you read on about the life of the young rabbit-winner.

Jake served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean conflict. He married Anita Thompson on June 24, 1950, in Rochester.

Jake enjoyed being outdoors and taking in the wildlife. He liked watching birds, especially the bald eagles, which are abundant in his area. He took time to go fishing, hunting and to play golf whenever he had the chance.


Jake was known to be a huge joke teller, sharing jokes with anyone willing to listen. One of his favorite pastimes was sitting around the campfire with his family where many of those jokes were shared.

Knowing that Jake was a joke-teller, I am confident that neither Jake nor his heirs would mind him being the reason for my column today. He was survived by his wife, Anita; children Mike (Linda) Jacobson, Cindy Jacobson, Jeanine (Bob) Cody, Dora (Steve) Bauer; grandchildren Jon, Matt, Jenny, Josh, Bryan, Jeremy, Ashley, Emily, Jordon, Madison and Billy; 12 great-grandchildren; his sister Ione (Jerry) Jensen; and his Yorkie, "Babe," along with other relatives and many friends.

I paused at the number of Jake's great-grandchildren; in 2010, they numbered 12. Who could know how many generations will stream from one little boy who long ago won the 1941 Easter Egg Hunt and two live white rabbits.

Randy Chapman is publisher of the Post-Bulletin. He welcomes feedback to his column at

Albin 'Jake' Jacobson Jr.

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