When Bryce Thornton, now a sophomore at Eagle Point High School, was in the first grade, grandfather Leo Rademacher, brought home a bunny rabbit for each of his grand children. From that day foreword, Bryce has had a passion for raising the fuzzy, long-eared creatures.
The barn at the Thornton ranch is now home to some 33 rabbits, of all sizes and colors, but mostly of a Satin breed. Amongst those are his entry to the Jackson County Spring Fair, part of a litter he bought in Klamath Falls on March 27. In one of the pens are three small rabbits that will be matched for the pen lot sale. The Spring Fair is scheduled for June 3-5 at the Jackson County Expo.
Success came early for this young entrepreneur. In his first year of 4-H, he won a first place and got to sell at auction–the goal of all rabbit raisers. Only top winners get to sell in the auction during the spring fair. He hasn’t matched that early success, but has placed second a number of times, and one of his rabbits did win the grand champion ribbon. Only trouble was, he gave that rabbit to a fellow competitor and she took top honors with it. He finished second to one of his own rabbits.
According to this young rabbit raiser, females are preferred for taking to the fair. He took one male and had a very difficult time controlling it during the judging. Males, he says, tend to be more excitable and move a great deal more than females. Judges like an animal that is well behaved so they can get a good look at it.
Bryce sells rabbits to a local following, some as live animals and some dressed. Normal butcher weight is around 5 lbs, still considered fryers by the buying public. He also bags up the manure and sells it as garden fertilizer at the growers and farmers market in Medford. He has regular customers for both the fryers and for the manure. The manure is used by gardeners who want a rich fertilizer that does not have an overly high nitrogen content.
He has been saving the hides, and hopes to dive into the field of tanning, when he has accumulated enough to work with. Recently he has also acquired other pelts, those from muskrats and raccoons. So far they have all gone into the freezer, waiting the day when he has a chance to start the tanning process.
Bryce credits 4-H leader Deb Brown with challenging members to go further and learn more about the animals. Brown was obviously a positive influence on this young agriculturalist and he speaks very highly of her.
During the years since joining 4-H, Bryce Thornton has taken advantage of quite a number of events that organization has to offer. He shoots in their shotgun, rifle, pistol and archery events held at various venues here in the Rogue Valley. All the while, maintaining a 3.97 gpa at Eagle Point high school, where he is a member of the national Junior Honor Society. Also at the school, he is a member of the skills USA group, currently learning precision machining.
Bryce is involved in the Boy Scout program, and is currently at the Star level, just two jumps from the Eagle Scout level. In that program, he does numerous community service projects. Most notably in that pursuit, he has collected and sent more than 8 tons of food and personal necessities to soldiers serving in Afghanistan and has another load waiting shipment. Each personal box requires some $13 to ship, so there is an on-going fundraiser effort for that project alone. (Anyone willing to help out with can contact Bryce through his father at (541) 944-3626)).
Still not enough? Bryce is involved in Person-to-person and from that he has toured Europe, walked on Normandy Beach and Cemetery and toured Warwick Castle. There he got to see a the largest and still working trebuchet (catapult) in the world and is building a replica with the skills he is learning in the Skills USA class.
Saturdays are spent at Mt. Ashland as part of the 7500-ft. club. This group prepares everything in the lodge, on the lifts and ski schools before the 9 a. m. opening of the facility. That work goes from 8 a. m. to noon, then he is allowed to ski the remainder of the day.
Bryce Thornton is obviously a very busy young man and has accomplished a great deal in a short lifetime.
Though he is very busy, he constantly looks for and accepts new challenges. With this kind of track record, he is going to have a great deal to talk about–and teach–within just a few short years.
By Ralph McKechnie
For the Independent