Story of the Month
As told to Tamara
Use View and Text Size to enlarge print
She said "Tell me a story"
And I told her about
The Emu Who Went To Africa
One day our friend the hippo in Africa met an emu. What's an emu? Its like an ostrich which is the largest bird in the world, but only a little bit smaller. And it is native to Australia, and although it has wings, it cannot fly, but it can run up to 50 miles per hour which is pretty fast. So now you might say "What is an emu doing in Africa?"
Well, it just so happens that this emu was very
You see, she had been minding her own business way over
in Australia when a dingo (that's the wild dog of Australia)
started chasing her and she ran so fast and in such a
panic that she ran right up the gang plank of a banana
boat from Africa just pulling away on its return trip.
Well, by the time that the poor
frightened emu could get her head out of the dirt,
(she had found the one potted plant on the ship and had plunged
her head into it (since all emus know that what you
can't see can't hurt you) at least that is what all the
emus had said before they disappeared.) And now, all she
could see around her was water - as far as an emu's eye
can see (which is pretty far). To make a long voyage
short, she was the first one off when the boat hit the
African continent and here she was - in a strange country
surrounded by strange beasts.
And our friend the hippo said - "Who are you? You are the
strangest creature I have seen in all my days." And the
emu replied - "Why I'm an emu of course - but
I don't know where I am." "Why, you are near my lake" said
the hippo. "Yes, yes" said the emu realizing that the
hippo who had probably never traveled before, just would not
understand. "Understand what?" said the hippo (and the emu had
thought that she was just thinking to herself.) "That
I come from a place way across the water and I was on
water all around as far as you can see." The hippo - not
buying any of this because he knew that he could see to
the other side of his pond and that wasn't far away -
thought that the emu must be VERY short sighted.
"I am not" said the emu picking up immediately on the
thoughts of the hippo. "See that herd of funny creatures
over there with the long noses? How many do you say
there are?" The hippo tried to count but since he
could barely see his toes, he wasn't being very successful
at keeping tabs of how many he could see. So to put
a brave face on it, he said "Oh lots - maybe more than
I can count" (wow, what a save). "There are 67 said the
emu. Now do you believe that I can see far away."
And since the hippo had to accept this number or accept
defeat, he said as much as "Well I guess you are not
short sighted but I still do not believe that water-
all-around and as-far-as-you-can-see stuff."
It was getting on towards dark and the hippo was about
to head for his pond when the emu said "Hey where
are you going?" as she was about to lose the only friend
she knew here. The hippo turned and said "I'm going to sleep. Where
do you sleep?" - thinking that this funny bird would say
"Oh in a nest or in the reeds on the edge of the lake
or in a tree." But no, the emu said "Like this" and
promptly stuck her head in the sand and instantly fell
asleep. The hippo just stood there first on one foot than
on the other and then on the other and then on the other
(four you know) well you get the idea, and this bird didn't
move. Finally he gave her a nudge and the emu immediately
brought her head out of the sand and said "What did you do
Now our hippo had seen some pretty dumb behavior by all
sorts of creatures but this was the dumbest. "You can't
do that" he said. "The lions and the cheetahs and the
hogs and the vultures will pounce on you first chance.
You have to keep an eye out."
Well, not knowing what an 'eye out' meant and not knowing
what all these creatures were, the emu picking up on
the gravity of the situation in the voice of our friend the
hippo, and said "what am I to do? That's the only way I
know to sleep." "Well", said the hippo and temporarily he was
lost since he only did his serious thinking at the bottom
of the lake, and here he was on dry land, "Tell you
what. I like you, so I'll make a deal with you. You do what
ever you do - put your head in the dirt or whatnot - over by
the lake and I will keep an eye on you at night, if you will
fly over me during the day and keep the other male hippos from
attacking me, because this is mating season and it gets pretty
crazy around here."
"But I can't fly" said the emu. "What do you mean you can't
fly. you have wings don't you? those things you have tucked
up there on your sides?" "Oh yes", said the emu "but I
never use them to fly." And as if to prove a point, she took
a running leap into the air, beat her wings as hard as she
could and fell flat on her face - well, flat on her beak.
"I see" said the hippo "Deals off". And with that -
having never seen a creature with wings that could not fly,
was suddenly plumb out of suggestions as to how they might
strike a deal. "I have it" said the emu. "Do you like
eggs?" The hippo thought and thought and thought - once again
he was not at the bottom of the lake - and seeing the hopeful
look in his new friends eyes said "Why, yes I do" without knowing
whether he did or not. "Well said the emu, I will give
you one of my eggs to eat every week" - because she knew that
if she pushed it she could do it that often - at least until
she found a better way. "One egg?" said the hippo, not knowing
whether eggs were good or not, but thinking of the eggs he
had seen around in the reed by the side of the lake, and they
were tiny - "What will I ever do with something
that small?" "No, no" said the emu, "You are thinking of small
birds, but eggs are proportional (big word for an emu) to
the size of the bird, and mine, if I do say so myself, are huge."
- and she made a big circle with her wings (see wings on an
emu do come in handy - aside from other things which we
will get to at another time). The hippo's eyes popped wide open.
He could hardly believe what he was being told but since he
had no evidence to the contrary, he said "OK".
So each night, the hippo kept an eye out, as he put it, and
each day the emu sat and waited for the egg she knew was
due. One day stretched into the next and then the next and
nothing happened. She didn't know what to do - not knowing
anything about the effects
of jet lag (even though she came by ship), and the effects
of different longitude and latitude on a birds laying behavior
- but then neither do I - but this is my story and that's the
way it is whether it is or not.
Well, we had two increasingly frustrated creatures here - the hippo
not knowing whether he was going to like this egg if it ever
appeared and the emu not knowing what was happening to her internal
system with simply nothing was coming out the way it should.
One day several months later, and the hippo's eye was
getting very tired "keeping out" every night, the emu
felt a mighty unsettling feeling in her and out came
the largest egg every produced anywhere and at anytime
in the history of the planet. It was even bigger than
her. Now you may say that that is impossible, but you
have to remember that this is my story and that's how it
was. Proudly she presented it (more like rolled it over)
to the hippo who could not believe his eyes. He knew, even
without being told, that this was the largest egg he would
ever see. It was so large, that when he stood behind it
the view of Mount Kilimanjaro was completely blocked out, if he could have seen that far.
And then the inevitable question arose in his mind - "How
do I eat this thing?" "Well", said the emu, "that's
simple, I just peck it and it will..." but as she pecked it
she felt that she had hit her beak against a stone wall.
For the longer the egg had developed, the more and more
calcium had gone into the shell until the shell was oh,
some 4 centimeters thick. "Hum" said the hippo "not so simple"
and he hit it, and it only rolled several meters. Finally in
desperation, he sat down on it. And if a hippo sits on you,
you have to know that that's going to be painful. Nothing
worked. Now it just so happened that two rhinos were fighting
it out over some female who had wandered off for the boredom
of seeing two grown rhinos going at each other hour after
hour. The hippo had a bright idea, just before they charged
at each other, he would roll the egg in the middle, and
"voila", the problem would be solved. With perfect timing,
the egg was rolled in just in the nick of time and CRASH
BAM, two rhinos were lying on their backs, each thinking that
finally the other had won. Meanwhile, the female had wandered
back in and seeing both out of commission, left to find a
more suitable mate.
And the egg was just as it had been before,
for, as everyone knows, a round object is structurally stronger
than a square object or almost any other object (witness Roman
Arches). "Now what would you do in this situation?", the hippo
asked all the other hippos who had crowded around. And he received a lot of very good suggestions.
By the time all the hippos had gathered in council around the
egg to discuss the situation, the emu had just collapsed
from her egg laying ordeal and the excitement over the egg
breaking, she weakly said "Roll it over that cliff". But everyone saw that she was out of it and wouldn't be of any more help for a while.
At least that was everyone's opinion, all those who had an opinion
at all, and that was most of the group. Well after a lot of thinking,
and shouting, mainly shouting, they came to the decision that the
egg should indeed be rolled over a cliff.
such cliff was immediately handy (the one the emu had suggested). It was a very high cliff with a plain
below which stretched out for hundreds of kilometers. In the
excitement of decision making, they rolled the egg to the edge
of the cliff and over it went. But our group hadn't really
thought this thing through. Oh, it had broken all right and they
could see it spread out all over the floor of the plain below,
but it would take them two days to get there. What should they
have done? Right. They should have gone there first, hidden themselves
to be protected from flying egg shell, and had one of their members
(the one drawing the shortest straw) push it over. But no, this
was not the way it was now, and by the time they had gotten to
the base of the cliff, the sun had cooked the egg, and some
archeologists had happening along, and on finding it, had sent an urgent
message to the Guinness Book of Records, where it was recorded as
what? Right, the BIGGEST NATURAL OMELETE in the world, and carted it away to be preserved and displayed in all the great capitols.
And videos of it were shown on Youtube and pieces of omelete even sold on eBay. The discoverer was photographed for all of the travel and nature mags and received numerous offers from ornithology, zoology, anthropology (every elogy in the book) journals for articles. It was the find of the century. And everyone was out searching for a 15 foot tall ostrich (because ostriches are the biggest birds in Africa) which no one ever found.
Our emu, not knowing all this, had calmed down and started to lay normal eggs which the hippo graciously accepted for his part of the bargain. At the end of the hippo mating season, the emu, on looking at her eggs realized that she would have to find another emu if anything was to become of them and took the next banana boat back to Australia. And the hippo went back to keeping an eye out for himself during the following mating seasons when everything got crazy.
One correction here: A lot of people think that the ostrich and emu do stick their heads in the sand. But it is not true. Perhaps the myth was started when someone saw an ostrich digging a nest in the ground. The nest is about 3-4 feet deep and when the female is sitting on her eggs, lions and such cannot see her as they look across the plain. When a lion does find the nest, the female will run to distract the lion away from the nest. By the time the lion is pooped out trying to catch this bird, the nest is safe once again. Even though the lion is faster than the emu or the ostrich, in the case of the emu it can use its wings to turn in a totally different direction without changing speed and the lion, which has just leaped to catch it, finds himself headed for an empty space. If you want the references for this, just ask me.
Morgan © Copyright November 2007
All rights reserved
Return to TSingle home page