Your name is Peter Cotton? Really? What was your mother thinking?

Your name is Peter Cotton? Really? What was your mother thinking?

I was 47 years old when I arrived in USA and discovered that I was named after a rabbit. I could not understand why shop people and others fell over laughing when I gave my name, and started singing about hopping along a bunny trail at Easter.

But surely Beatrix Potter was English and wrote about Peter Cottontail? NO, she did not, as I have explained several thousand times to many people. She wrote (beautifully) in the early 1900s about Peter Rabbit and his friends Flopsy, Mopsy, Benjamin bunny,  Cottontail and others, but never condensed them into Peter Cottontail. That was an American invention not connected to Beatrix Potter at all. Wikipedia tells me that “Peter Cottontail is a rabbit in the works of Thornton Burgess, an author in Massachusetts”. And I read that “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” is a popular secular Easter song composed in 1949, by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins. They also wrote “Frosty the Snowman” in 1950. Isn’t that interesting?

To add to the saga, my middle initial, B, stands for Benjamin (after my uncle “Benjie”).

After my initial frosty and somewhat indignant English response to these repeated expostulations (whatever they are), I decided to embrace my new rabbit heritage. I had a nice sign made for my initial bachelor house in Chapel Hill, and shared it with a pet rabbit for a while, until the rabbit-sitter got fed up with my frequent travels and decided to keep him (or her?).

Happily we were able to update the house sign in 1991. Very happily actually.

Friends kindly gave us rabbitty gifts, and we may have bought a few. They multiplied as rabbits do and started to overrun the house. One young person tried to count them in Raven’s Run and quit at 800. Here is a small selection…..

The obsession followed me to work

And also to play, including the golf trophy with our NZ friends

I gave a medical talk (a very long time ago) sporting a bunny tail that I borrowed from “Bunny Mother” at a Playboy club near Chicago (honest). I hope no one took a photo.

There was a special ice sculpture centerpiece at the seafood buffet on my 60th birthday party, which pleased our Australian friends when it started to melt and looked like a kangaroo.

To assuage my guilt at my complicity in embracing a deviation from Beatrix Potter’s creation, we visited her house as part of my 80th birthday tour in England.

And we can certainly recommend the recent Peter Rabbit movie(s). Great fun.

My elder siblings tell me that they actually named me after a seal they saw at a zoo.

All part of life’s rich tapestry.