The Rabbit That Jumped The Avon Gorge. Part 1.


On Christmas Day 1812 a strange incident occurred in Bristol. It was the strangest incident that had occurred in Bristol since the previous strangest incident, and it would remain the strangest incident until the next occurrence of a bizarre happening. That was how much it rated on the scale of strangeness. Unfortunately, nobody recorded, at the time, exactly what had happened so we can only speculate, or rather you can, if you so desire, as personally I can’t be arsed.

What I can do for you is provide details of an interesting story, from about that time, where facts have been preserved. It might, upon initial reading, seem a trifle frivolous, but when one examines it in greater depth a profundity is revealed that goes some way to explaining the presence of Bristol’s most iconic structure. I’ll be bush-whacked by a yorker delivered by Harold Larwood if I can see it, but if you can then more power to your elbow, and I’d greatly appreciate it if you’d contact me with an explanation. All I can do is lay the facts I have at your disposal.

Document 1

Advert From The Baltimore Comet in the Livestock Section, March, 1813:

For Sale: Young white rabbit capable of jumping the Avon Gorge if it possessed the desire so to do. Offspring of the prodigious leaper Firework Heels William winner of the Long Jump at the Maryland State Fair in 1811. Genuine reason for sale, $5 o.n.o. Apply to Grover Knox Box 79.

Document 2

Private Letter written by Genius Picton to his sister Mary Kingsholm and received by her in Trenton, New Jersey on or about March 29th, 1813 (the date cannot be definitively verified as there had been a strike by calendar manufacturers in the Eastern United States in 1812, the effects of which didn’t kick in until the following year). 

Dear Sissy,

I realise this American sojourn was intended to revive me from this state of melancholy but until now none of my experiences in the new world has raised my spirits at all, that was until a chance encounter last Saturday that has subsequently infused me with such a passion for life that I cannot wait to return to England to fulfil my destiny. I dare say sissy, when I relate this to you you will no doubt dismiss this as one of my harebrained schemes, such as selling European tourist attractions to American tourists and offering them 50% off if they thought that would make it easier for them to fit it into their luggage.

Where do I start, I suppose the beginning is as good a place as any. I happened to be perusing the streets of Baltimore when I had occasion to step into a newsvendor’s stall to avoid the gaze of someone to whom I owe a considerable sum. I wish I hadn’t agreed to help him with that complicated equation now.

Low and behold the first ‘rag’ I picked up was The Baltimore Comet and amongst the copious adverts on its front page one leapt out at me advertising the sale of a rabbit that was capable of jumping the Avon Gorge if it ever possessed the desire to do so. My heart itself leapt at mention of home pastures across the ocean and the opportunities afforded to me. Something had seized me – it was the newsvendor because I was on my way out and I hadn’t paid for The Baltimore Comet.

I managed to extricate myself from this predicament and having made contact with the talented rabbit’s owner, it was with some foreboding that I approached the abode of Grover Knox, pessimistic in spirit that this opportunity to better myself would go my way. Imagine my unqualified joy, therefore, when I approached the Knox abode and discovered that nobody else had secured the services of the rabbit. The nearest offer he had received was from about 90 feet away, and unlike the rabbit, he was unable to traverse such distances with ease owing to suffering from severe arthritis of the spine.

I offered $4 from a distance of about 6 feet away, any nearer would’ve risked contracting consumption one of the fatal diseases poor Knox evidently suffered from. This was the nearest offer he’d received by quite some margin and thus ownership of this most exceptional of long-eared creatures passed to my custodianship. As we concluded the deal he also offered the explanation that there was no point hanging on to a rabbit that can jump the Avon Gorge if one had no intention of allowing it to fulfil its destiny. And besides hanging on to it would also add extra weight and make it more likely to fall short of reaching the other side.

Sissy, I have now booked passage to Bristol upon The Moist Dependable sailing out of Baltimore this coming Friday. I am determined that this opportunity will enable me to at last make my mark on this world, failing that I will at least be responsible for making a small mark somewhere on the Portway beneath the Avon Gorge.

Your Most Obedient Brother,

Genius Picton.


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