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Jack Rabbit Trading Post

Most trading posts try to bait drivers off the highway with phrases like Sand Paintings – Buy Direct or Indian Jewelry – Stop and See! But unless you're already in the market for turquoise, these billboards really don't hold that much exit appeal.

Then your windshield frames a more unusual invitation: Ride the Rabbit. It's a proposal you probably never considered before. Should you decline, you at least have to know what it means.

The only way to find out is to pull off Interstate 40 at Exit 269, then just swing over to an old ribbon of Route 66 and there it is. And you know that's where it is because there's a big sign there that tells you HERE IT IS. It's a rabbit, all right. And yes, he's wearing a saddle. Welcome to the Jack Rabbit Trading Post!

It's a gimmick that's worked for nearly 60 years now. The outpost was opened in 1949 by James Taylor––an entrepreneur, not the singer-songwriter of bittersweet folk rock––during the Mother Road's heyday. Taylor bought out a snake farm in Joseph City, remodeled the building and, much to the locals' distress, let all the snakes loose. (Another source says it was simply a Santa Fe Railroad building, but the snake story is far more interesting.)

To pull in shoppers, Taylor put up signs for miles along the highway. The signs said very little, but featured an intriguing, though small, iconic hare. As drivers closed in on the trading post, the hare grew larger, eventually reaching the size of a full billboard. That's all it took to pique people's curiosity. Then, that climactic phrase … HERE IT IS! Taylor's teasers worked like a charm.

When drivers stopped, they discovered a version of the jack rabbit very similar to the yellow-eyed creature on the billboards. It was just big enough to sit on, so visitors adopted the practice of photographing each other while riding it. Eventually, they wore him out and he had to be replaced in the mid-'80s with the version seen today. Though completely different from his predecessor, he remains just as popular.

The big sign across the road, however, remains the same. Although most of Taylor's roadside billboards are long gone, the two-sided HERE IT IS stands as it has since 1949. It's been reinforced with guy wires and extra lumber, and it has to be repainted every few years, but almost all of it is original. Today, it's arguably the most recognizable Route 66 sign in existence. In fact, the trading post sells more souvenirs sporting images of the sign than it does of the jack rabbit.

Weird Arizona


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