The one thing Florida hares appreciate the most is a lone woman and her daughter, a lone woman desperate to see her daughter matched. In fact, the marsh hare of the Keys, named S.p. Hefneri for playboy founder Hugh Hefner, rather overshoots himself with conquests which is to be expected. Often when a daughter goes missing detectives check the protective briers, dense clumps of magnolia trees, and the mangroves along the shore. These are the places where the handsomely sleek hare with dark brown fur and greyish white belly makes his home. And what the little playboy lacks in size he more than adequately makes up for in charm and persistence. Many a young lady has become ensnared.
S.p. hefneri meet women of the island on their garden patches. “Wanna play?” they say, “wanna come out and play?” Usually the hare of the Lower Keys are nibbling a piece of sawgrass or clover, their eyes gleaming with predatory spirit, their mouths secretly watering with the capture of a young woman. Their endangerment has them thinking irrational mating outside the species. They sit in yards, the sound of the surf burrowing into their long ears , the breeze ruffling their coats, their noses twitching to the smell of salt, dead marine life, and fresh grass. They hop. They hop some more. They spring about, stretching their sleek bodies for the benefit of their observers, admiring young women so they hope. Someone will take note. That is their confidence.
Hugh number 121 observes wife number 16 come into the yard. Only 150 of the S.p. Hefneri exist on the island but this one is not worried. What a wonderful tail she has, he thinks. He will make her his. What a wonderful ride she will enjoy on his tail.
“Stop eating our sawgrass. Mother is not pleased,” the black haired beauty Brynn Violet scolds. She has a nice fire in her dark brown eyes. He knows she has only made an excuse to come outside and talk to him. In typical hare fashion, he says to himself, “She is in love, she is entranced, she protests in abundance.”
In fact, Brynn Violet’s mother, being a religious woman, had been worrying the hare was a portent of a hurricane. It was a witch’s familiar, she reminded her daughter. “Go out there and tell the tatty thing to go away.”
The old mother was old enough to remember tales of her great, great grandmother swept out to sea by a category five, when people were whipped about like rag dolls and drowned in the bay. She had survived it, and the only explanation: She was a witch. Brynn Violet’s great grandmother and grandmother were also said to be witches, with nary any patience for Christian fears about about hares and black magic.
In fact quite a few female ancestors in Brynn Violet’s family could enter the form of a hare and were keepers of other familiars suck as crows and magpies. Her mother reminded Brynn Violet that all of them died eventually, they were not all powerful, lest the child fall prey to what those poor on the island were susceptible to – practices and beliefs, evil, shortcuts to hard work.
“Take a ride on my tail,” the hare says. “Let me take you to my home where you can stroke my warm coat and drink my tea.”
She refuses him. And again he comes the next day and she refuses him yet again. On the third day, however, she breaks down at last and leaps on his tail. Her mother, observing what is happening, races from the house. But she cannot catch them. Police and detectives cannot find them. Another island daughter, taken prisoner.
When Brynn Violet returns home on her own conniving and strength, she tells her mother the tale of how the dirty thing tried to make her his sixteenth wife; tried to force her to entertain the wedding party of a crow and magpie by having her cook the wedding feast. She managed to steal large bundles of mangrove twigs just outside the window and make a huge doll standing by the hot stove, cooking wedding stew and tea.
It was later told in town the impatient hare approached the doll, ordering it about, and lopped its head off in frustration thinking to goad his soon to be bride into action. When the twig head rolled off, the hare cried out in shock, alarm, and grief.
“I was so alone,” Brynn Violet says to her mother when she was safely tucked away at home, enjoying her mother’s best stew. She cries as she describes how demanding the hare was and how the crow looked at her with black eyes, how the magpie cocked its head and pecked her arms and hair.
“Well you are home now,” says her mother, kissing her on the forehead.
And that is how the clever Brynn Violet, who is named for the island of Islamorada, meaning purple island, restored herself to her happy life with her mother in their humble abode by the sea.