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Story of the Month
As told to Tamara

Emu Story  Copyright 2007 Morgan Thomas all rights reserved
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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 confused. 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 that for?" 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.

Fortunately, one 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
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