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North Washington homeowners stick close to roots

Washington Township residents Beverley Bishop and husband, Dan, look after two rabbits named Thumper and Oreo. Chris Kopacz/Butler Eagle.

WASHINGTON TWP — Rabbits might be fluffy, but they aren’t easy beasts to keep.

Retiree Beverley Bishop and her husband, Dan, knew this all too well when a rabbit named Oreo escaped his hutch last winter. Someone had forgotten to shut the door.

The event hurled the family into crisis mode. Grandchildren don’t take missing mammals lightly, and the Bishops have four grandchildren.

Beverley reached out to neighbors for two days, offering a reward to anyone who might find Oreo and rescue him. Sure enough, she received news that the cream-hided creature crouched beneath a car a short distance away.

“It had been probably all over North Washington, just hopping around, and I never thought it would get back here,” she said. “I figured somebody would hit it, or it’d run away.”

“But they found it,” she said, referring to the task force her grandchildren and daughter had formed. “They went out. My one grandson — they couldn’t get it out from under the car — so he just crawled under the car and grabbed it. He goes, ‘Here it is!’” she said.

She laughed.

The other rabbit, Thumper, rose on haunches in its cage Friday morning, a squirmy squirt when compared with the giant neighbor Oreo in its neighboring cage.

The two rabbits wove a web around the Bishops and relatives, for whom the couple chose to return to the region after Dan’s Air Force assignment in Texas. But it also linked the Bishops with the township surrounding them, one in which people can count on one another’s kindness.

“They neighbors were all looking for it,” she said, referring to Oreo. “That’s the kind of thing. I mean, people still do that kind of stuff. They’re our people.”

She didn’t hesitate to give the young man beneath whose car the rabbit hid his reward for calling her. She was just so glad to have Oreo back, she said.

The Bishops come from Butler, where they met as high school sweethearts.

But North Washington Township was close enough to the city and to Beverley’s parents to beckon them back. They bought their 150-year-old house from Bishop’s uncle, who in turn would move into the home that belonged to Beverley’s parents after they died.

“A lot of the houses around here have been here a long time,” Beverley said, sitting at her kitchen table with a Diet Pepsi. “But my uncle lived here before and then he was moving. And of course he gave us a good deal for it. But there wasn’t much property, just about an acre with it.”

Autumn decorations of pumpkins and witches peppered the kitchen and the house’s entryway. Outside, a white coat of paint and a long driveway filled with fallen leaves made the home look vast and new.

At first they didn’t have enough room, given the children they were raising at first, Beverley said.

Retiree Beverley Bishop starts a morning in her kitchen in Washington Township. Chris Kopacz/Butler Eagle.

“So this kitchen was about half, and Dan built the kitchen on with the back on it,” Beverley said. “Then we got a back bedroom, what we call a ‘game room’ now and the basement underneath it. So we remodeled everything inside. And just this year we put siding and stuff on it, but it was always white siding.”

The community’s quiet suits the household, she said. It isn’t similar to bustling, urban centers such as Austin, Texas, where the Bishops had lived and where the urban sprawl crowded them.

“I didn’t like living in an apartment,” she said. “I just like to have the outdoors. If we want to have our kids, grandkids they can build a fire, we can have a cookout, you know.”

A firepit outside bore a “STEELERS” inscription around its octagonal edges. Stacked woodpiles offered ample fuel to feed it, and a set of handmade swings welcomed both adult and child visitors. A garden of tomato crops grew along a grove of trees.

The rodeo transforms the whole region each year, Beverley said.

“I think a lot of the time when people think of North Washington is our rodeo that we have,” she said. “I remember 1960s when it started, and I was so young, and we were so excited about having cowboys come to North Washington.”

The township’s volunteer fire department, the North Washington Volunteer Fire Department, was here when the Bishops bought their home. Beverley’s parents had helped out there even in the days when she was growing up.

“We have a wonderful fire department, great people who work so hard, because out here, it takes a while to get help,” she said. “If your house is on fire, it’s nice to have them. They’re right up the street.”

Beverley added that those services are crucial for safety and stability in the area.

Dan returned after a short excursion outside to feed Oreo and their other rabbit, Thumper. Winters make this ritual hard, but Dan doesn’t just come out every morning to feed the rabbits because of the grandchildren alone.

“He likes them,” said Beverley. “He just don’t want to tell you.”

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