Whoa! Over there! Was that a jackalope? Sure it was, pardner.
That's what some folks of Douglas want you to believe."I never tell anybody it's not a real creature," said Dave Edwards, owner of the old Labonte Hotel.
The idea of a jack rabbit with deer antlers was born, or perhaps hatched, in Douglas about 60 years ago, although Western legends include run-ins with fur traders, Indians and cowboys.
Most people see mounted jackalope heads above taverns, sometimes even when they are sober, but today true believers can get a special hunting license good for just one day a year, June 31. Check the calendar.
Douglas, a town of about 5,000 people 210 miles north of Denver, does a good job playing up the legend, either by word of mouth or on the town's website, Web site, where people can order the hunting licenses.
People from all over the world send e-mail to the chamber of commerce asking if the jackalope is real. Douglas is the "Home of the Jackalope."
The first jackalope was made in Douglas by retired welder and taxidermist Doug Herrick in 1939, according to no less than a proclamation issued by Gov. Ed Herschler in 1985.
Herrick said he got his idea from a friend while rabbit hunting in the rolling prairies outside town. The friend suggested putting deer antlers on a rabbit's head. So Herrick, who was taking a taxidermy course at the time, did.
"It looked pretty good," he said.
Roy Ball, then owner of the Labonte Hotel, wanted to see it. Ball asked Herrick what he called it, but Herrick had not thought of a name.
Just then a little boy called it a jackalope.
The first jackalope was stolen from the hotel six months later, but its image, sitting up, is still used on some postcards.
"I never dreamed it would've taken off like it did or I would have done something different," Herrick said.
People have even created their own histories of the jackalope predating Herrick's. For instance, a Douglas chamber publication contains fictional accounts of pioneers and Indians who claimed to use alcoholic beverages to bait the jackalope, which travels in groups called committees.
Today, Herrick's nephew, Jim, continues the family tradition of making jackalope at Herrick's Big Horn Taxidermy in Douglas.
He makes about 1,500 mounted heads a year. Herrick sells them for $45, but other stores sell them for as much as $59.95.
Recently Jim Herrick filled an order for 200 jackalope for a store in Wall, S.D.
"I think everybody in America should about have one by now," he said.