Listen to the Jackalope Factory teaser audio here.
A Novella by Oddtoe
The Jackalope Factory
A Story of Mystery
A Fictional History
A Comedy of Characters
A Fun Page-Turner
The Origin Story of a Taxidermy Studio
Excerpt from the Jackalope Factory
The physical plant of The Jackalope Factory was, in fact, a factory. Constructed in 1917 and purpose-built for manufacturing tank parts in the First World War, the three-story brick structure stood atop a tree-less Pocono mountain outside of the town of Blakeslee, Pennsylvania. By 1927, the challenges of a peacetime economy were too much for the factory’s workers and politicians to overcome. After ten years of forging tank turrets, the owners refitted the plant for the production of women’s garments, specifically corsets used by larger women. The transition was not a smooth one.
The machismo of the factory spot welders sabotaged any attempt of a placid production line. The welders were, after all, in the business of grit and grizzle, helping the American soldier on the front line.
In 1928, after years of shop talk about smelting practices, alloy
strength, and gun size, workers now shared after-work stories of petticoat production at the taverns and guest houses in town. Moral sank. Numerous strikes and work stoppages pock-marked the factory’s record with retail customers. Then the Great Depression hit. Those lucky men still employed after the factory’s last round of firings earned their wages embroidering undergarments and fastening brassiere loop latches.
Still though, workplace saboteurs kept imperfections a signature feature in the factory’s corset line, a chauvinistic constant that ate into the business’s bottom line. Management displayed these imperfections, hung on thick steel hooks outside the factory walls, for the workers to see, to shame them for their insubordination.
The imperfections consisted of the one-breasted corset, the
three-breasted corset, and the seven-breasted corset which sported seven large frilly cups, side-by-side and continuous from back-to-front. The iron works manager during the tank days designed the record-breaking corset and was later fired for it. Even the local union didn’t contest his dismissal. It was as if they agreed that six breasts on a corset were a political statement, something akin to freedom of speech, but seven breasts on a corset were insulting. Too much even for the union bosses.
The ironworks manager wasn’t the last firing. Fashion trends eventually took their toll on the factory’s finances. Expanding into girdles in the mid-1930s only prolonged the inevitable. The garment factory closed its doors in 1940.
Except for a brief spell during the war when it manufactured prosthetic limbs for the military,
the factory stood vacant for over 20 years until a young taxidermist by the name of Johnny Moreau purchased the property at auction in 1961 for a sum of $12,200. He retained only a few pieces of equipment, such as the industrial sheet iron and a few of the sewing machines that were re-equipped with the larger needles needed to pierce animal skin. Workers installed new windows in the great brick archways that reached upward to the factory’s red tile roof.
At ground level, removalists saw to the broken glass, rubbish, and animal and human excrement, hauling them off in bags from the once-bustling factory floor. Workmen poured a new floor, a concrete slab that buried, once and for all, the old tank parts and many-breasted corsets in a sad and unlikely stratum of steel, lace, and dirt.
Johnny Moreau opened the doors of his taxidermy business in April of 1962.
Excerpt from the Jackalope Factory
Maestro of the Muskrat
The regular audience that filled The Jackalope Factory with Johnny Moreau’s grandstands could feel success just beyond the next broadcast. After Johnny appeared on the Jack Parr Show and returned from Los Angeles, magazine photographers loitered inside the television studio, a vast amphitheater Johnny converted from an under-utilized wing in the factory, waiting for their cover shots.
The program’s producers adjusted the shooting schedules to honor requests for Johnny in the Mid-West and New England and pushed the daily staff meeting an hour earlier to accommodate the growing number of autographs, interviews, and photographs sought by fans and journalists just prior to air time.
Often at times like this, while writers, prop managers, and the camera crew hurried across the sound stage, barking orders, moving equipment, and adjusting the set’s visuals, Johnny could be found among the gaggle of admirers seated in the studio audience.
Johnny was a baby-kisser and a crowd-pleaser,
a man of emotional warmth and ease, confident in his choice of words and his deeds. Seat by seat, he engaged the crowd, handing out lucky rabbit foot key chains and kissing enough newborns to worry about the political future of the local councilman, enough babies to chap his lips. It was a fertile audience, all potential, and Johnny Moreau, frolicking among the adoring audience of his television show, calculated with each handshake and autograph that the blessings of stardom were his to reap.
Johnny shook the last of the hands put to him and walked backstage to prepare for the day’s broadcast. Morty Kipps, Johnny’s sidekick on the television program, took over entertaining the audience soon after.
Mortimer G. Kipps resembled a manatee with its first job. He was a buoyant and non-threatening foil to Johnny’s straightforwardness on the show. Morty stood an unathletic 4’ 2” tall, a dwarf in medical terms. He was intensely chubby for his size: one-hundred-and-sixty-three pounds of girth that the Wardrobe Department held in with a belt meant for a large woman.
Backstage there were racks of vests and velvet-elbowed jackets, size 0. Comfort to Morty was being cloaked in tarps of tweed and cotton sweater vests. Morty’s hair was thin, blond, and rapidly receding. He kept the sides shaved, much like a soldier’s, but allowed the top of his head to engage in as much hair-growing as possible. Like a patchwork quilt, Morty combed these sections of his scalp in varied directions, depending on the need of the head. All follicles lent their length to cover the ruse of Morty’s hairstyle. The result was a Caesarian nest of hair, waxed forward in the front and sides, and ear-to-ear thereafter. Under his clothes, his body was peppered with scrapes, bruises, and unintended stains and burns that had their origins filmed live on The Jackalope Factory. But that was part of Morty’s charm: he was a clumsy extrovert with an intense loyalty to Johnny that viewers so often admire in their television sidekicks.
Morty bellowed to the furthest seats in the studio. “’The Jackalope Factory with Johnny Moreau’ goes live in thirty seconds, folks. Please take your seats.”
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