By Candy Hankins, Director and Life Member, Wisconsin
My first look at a Cinnamon rabbit was at a club meeting the winter of 1979-80. It was my first year in the club, and a budding rivalry was about to begin between me and a young lady named Luella. I remember she walked into the meeting with a carrying cage of brown rabbits, proclaiming they were the only Cinnamons in the state, and no, they were not for sale to a rank beginner like me!
Then it was the spring of 1980. The big news that summer was the eruption of Mt St. Helen out West. But closer to home, the news was my mom wanted to get away to see a childhood friend in Shelton, Washington, and my first thought was that Missoula, Montana, was on the way. In early June we loaded my 1968 Volkswagen mini bus with the flip-up top and set out from Solon Springs, Wisconsin, for a five-week trip across the country. Strapped to the back seat were two carrying cages— and, in my hand, directions from Ellis Houseman on how to get to his home for a trio of Cinnamons.
Without going into the details of traveling with my mother (who did not drive) in a micro bus with a top speed of 53 mph and a four-speed manual transmission through towns covered with volcanic ash, I can safely say that the trip was memorable. I did manage to spend a day at a large rabbit show in Washington, where I volunteered to help write remarks for a judge. I remember the remark cards blew away in the wind and someone turned on a water hose by mistake and sprayed the angoras while they were on the table, but that’s another story. When we turned east after visiting Portland, our next stop was Missoula.
Ellis and Rose invited us into their nice home and shared all the Cinnamon stories that over the years have become part of the history of the breed. I picked out a pair of Cinnamons and a second junior doe that Ellis said needed one more generation before having a full pedigree. I liked her, though. She was big, friendly, and looked just like the Cinnamons I couldn’t have back home. It was one of those afternoons that stay with you long after the fact. Thirty years after, actually, with more to come, I hope.
The trip with Mom was starting to wear on me after several weeks on the road, and I found that taking a break to pet the rabbits improved my patience. I’d take my doe out of the cage, and she’d put her nose up to my face. I didn’t know it at the time, but that habit would carry through to her offspring. Several generations later people would tell me their Cinnamons would do the same thing.
Well, we all made it home, the rabbits settled in, and a few months later I found myself on the way to my first ARBA convention, which just happened to be in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Ellis Houseman was there but did not show rabbits. Dan Berdechowski, Jerry and Colleen Gaddy, and the secretary for the Cinnamon RBA, Donna Heigl, showed Cinnamons. Sixteen rabbits were entered, and to my surprise, my 6/8 doe, “Pet,” won BOB. Ellis and I had a good laugh over that one— and for years talked about the rabbit that made me a Cinnamon breeder.
“Pet” lived for many years and raised too many bunnies for me to remember. Luella had a few nice rabbits, and she did show her Cinnamons for awhile. She never did sell one to me, though, but I guess I did all right without her!