Billy Bronk's Big Story
That Got Him In Trouble

Reprinted from Ink Spots
by Harold Aardema
Doon Press, June 22, 1989

Doon's past is rich in stories. Billy Bronk lived many of them.

Billy Bronk was not his real name but the story is just as true as though it were. As true as the storyteller who told me could recall it.

Billy was a young family man in the terrible thirties in Doon. Like most of his fellow townsmen he had to struggle to keep food on the table and a roof that didn't leak over the heads of himself and his family.

He took life as it came. It was his way. He was a stoic without knowing it. Billy asked for little, expected less. He never shook his fist at the sky and he was at peace with his neighbor. There was humor in Billy Bronk, a stoic kind of humor, often at his own expense. Billy didn't have a mean bone in him and he didn't have an enemy in the whole town.

One spring day in the thirties, on an afternoon when he had no work, he bethought himself of the wild ducks and geese that winged daily overhead for parts northward. And he thought how just maybe some might spend the late afternoon and night down by the Big Rock River north of Doon and how he might bring home a bird for meat for the pot. It wasn't right according to the letter of the law. He knew that, but he reasoned that these were hungry times and God would understand and man should at least look the other way.

Billy left on foot with his two-dollar single shot 12-gauge shotgun. He was walking about halfway across a plowed field when he spotted two official looking men sizing him up. Billy knew they were game wardens on the hunt for two-legged game. He had no license to hunt and anyway the season was closed. The two men cleared the fence and started to run after him. Now Billy was a small guy, agile, and he had a stronger reason to run than the two lawmen that were handicapped also with big bellies.

Ho, ho, did Billy Bronk run. He now cleared a fence like he never thought he could. He was in corn stubble yet he went faster than before. A jackrabbit was scared out of an afternoon snooze and it leaped ahead in great hops as though inviting Billy to a race. It was at this point that Billy Bronk uttered these now famous words, "Get out of my way jackrabbit and let me show you how to run!"

Billy cleared another fence and now was in river pasture country. Ahead lay the Big Rock, swollen from late winter run-off. But good fortune was with him for there was an ice jam across the stream. Billy Bronk was not known as a daring man but this situation called for bravery. He eased his way across. He stashed his gun in a hole in the ice.

At the same time the game wardens pressed on in pursuit but the couldn't see Billy because of a hill that blocked their view. And good luck was again with Billy for he found a straw stack near the river. He crawled in and hid himself, seeing but unseen.

Some moments later he could see the fat-bellies at the river's edge. They swept the area with their field glasses, talked with their hands, then finally turned back for the long walk to the car.

By night Billy recovered his gun and walked back home. A half-hour later he was home safe.

Home safe. By and by Billy began to feel a measure of pride in his escape and it was this pride that did him in. One Saturday afternoon while sipping a cool and foamy mugful at the Cosmo he was heard to mutter something strange, "And I said to that Jackrabbit..."

There was a leak out of the Cosmo. A dastardly rat ran to the game wardens and told all that Billy said and shortly after the two game wardens came to call on poor Billy Bronk. He was found guilty, fined. Billy didn't have the money so they put him in jail.

But it wasn't long after that Billy Bronk was back in the Cosmo, now telling prison stories.


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