Jackalope hunting on the great frontier
Sweetwater, Texas - The Jackalope is an extraordinary animal. Our cameraman, Pete Murtaugh, described it to me as we rode the Texas Eagle down to Dallas. He says the Jackalope is like a cross between a Jack rabbit and an antelope - a sort of giant bunny with horns.
I was pretty sceptical so I asked the other passengers about Jackalope. Elam and Joe, the two Amish men who taught me dominos (see a brief glimpse of them in this video), had heard of them but said there were none in Indiana, where they are from. Joe gave me his address and told me to send him picture if I did manage to spot one.
A guy transposing music on his computer at the back of the lounge car said he had actually seen one of these elusive beasts. He said there used to be a few Jackalope in the area of California he grew up, but that they are pretty rare now.
Even Pete has only ever seen a dead Jackalope mounted behind a bar in Texas. He says the Great Plains are now one of the few areas of America where there are still Jackalope in the wild.
I hope I will see one. Tom Henderson, one of the local ranchers here in Sweetwater, has invited us over to his ranch tomorrow afternoon. We are going to take a couple of his horses out to look over his land. Tom has a herd of Texas Longhorns and says we may spot a rattlesnake; they have just come out of hibernation. With any luck there will be Jackalope too.
To be honest I am surprised I have never heard of an animal as strange as a Jackalope before, but then America is a big place with lots of weird animals in it.
The size of the country has played a crucial part in developing the American character. Frontier spirit, the belief that a great wilderness of opportunity lies out West, or just over the horizon, is a quintessentially American attitude.
In Europe every inch of land was owned and worked by someone. In America the supply of land seemed endless. For three centuries there was always more land across the next range of hills, the next river, the frontier.
That sense that this country was boundless had a profound effect on people's attitudes to resources. If resources are scarce one takes good care of them, if there is plenty of something there is no need to take care of it.
For the first three centuries of modern American history the frontier was a real entity, a defined geographical line. In my last blog post I talked about how the railroads had drawn people and settlements out across the whole of this continental nation until the frontier was finally officially dissolved.
I suggested that in the last few years a new frontier had been crossed, a clean energy frontier. I got my metaphor wrong.
Just as for centuries America seemed boundless, for centuries we have thought the capacity of the atmosphere to absorb pollution was boundless.
I think that is new frontier we have crossed. In 1890 the US Census Bureau declared that the American frontier had ceased to exist, the country was settled. In a similar way over the last two decades scientists have shown that mankind has pumped so much greenhouse gas into the atmosphere that we have begun to change the climate.
Just as America has, over the last century and a half, had to adjust, with difficulty, to the limits of its land and other resources, now the world has to come to terms with the limited capacity of the earth's atmosphere.
What I have been seeing here in Sweetwater is the first the large-scale attempt in America to begin to deal with the consequences of the end of the atmospheric frontier.
In the next blog I really will write about the energy revolution that is happening here in Sweetwater but first I have to put on my new hat ready to ride out in search of Jackalope. I suppose one thing that is never in short supply here in America is another sucker.
Do you know anything about Jackalope and their habits? If so please comment now to tell me how best to stalk them. Alternatively, join our Facebook group and post up your Jackalope pictures or follow me on Twitter and be the first find out if I do see a Jackalope in the wild.