The 24th Annual Southwest Missouri Hare and Rabbit show was held in Anderson this past weekend. People from all over the country came and brought their prize rabbits. One man there was John "Jack" Matejczyk, of Little Rock, Ark.
Jack has been a rabbit breeder for the past 15 years and has attended the show in Anderson for five years running. His speciality is Chinchilla rabbits, a big heavy breed. Many of these rabbits reach 15 or so pounds and are somewhat rare, especially in the south. Chinchillas are a Heritage breed and are on the protected species list.
"A young person starting out to raise rabbits should not choose this breed," he said. "They are too heavy for young people to handle. My arms just give out with them and I get a lot of scratches. But I love the Chinchillas."
Jack and his wife, Shannon, raise the rabbits and show them several times each year. They attended rabbit shows in Ohio, Oklahoma, Kentucky and of course, Missouri.
A retired veteran of the US Air Force, Jack now is a rehabilitation therapist. After getting a college degree in English, he went into the military. When he retired from the military, he went back to school and got a degree in rehabilitation therapy.
Jack and his wife have 48 rabbits at home. Not all of them are show animals. They have some breeding rabbits and some just rabbits. One of his favorite mother rabbits "Filly" made her last show in Anderson. Jack said she had been a good breeder and he loved showing her off.
"But it's getting harder to get her ready for shows. It's kind of like taking Betty White to a beauty pageant. It takes a lot of makeup," he laughed.
When Jack and Shannon come to the show in Anderson, they always stay at the Boonslick Lodge in Neosho. After the show ends on Sunday, they come to the Neosho National Fish Hatchery. There, the rabbit cages are set out of the trailer and the animals have a chance to get some fresh air and sunshine. After being cooped up in the trailer and at the shows, the rabbits seem pleased to enjoy the fresh air, even if they have to stay in their cages.
Jack and Shannon also enjoy this little time at the hatchery. They, too, get cooped up.
"And what more lovely place for all of us to be," Jack said. "It's beautiful here."
Two years ago, there was a rabbit show in Carthage. Jack and Shannon came with his rabbits. At the end of the show, there were reports of bad weather moving in. They didn't linger as the storm was brewing. When they got back to Little Rock, they heard of the devastation in Joplin. "We did not imagine it was as bad as it was," he said.
This year, Jack took home trophies in both the senior and junior division. And, just as important, he took home the title of "good neighbor."