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Birds of a feather

By HUNTER HILL
Posted 10/30/19

Sometimes you never see something coming. I mean, straight-out-of-left-field, sucker punch, catch-you-with-your-pants-down random as all get-out kind of something. When you live around here, …

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Birds of a feather

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Sometimes you never see something coming. I mean, straight-out-of-left-field, sucker punch, catch-you-with-your-pants-down random as all get-out kind of something. When you live around here, there’s not too much that will make you snap your neck around as though you were witnessing a roadside circus, but once in a great while it happens.

Every day I drive the same commute back and forth to work. It’s only about a 10-minute drive down Callicoon Road, so there’s not even an alternative way to go, unless I wanted to get overly creative. So there I was making the drive home on a Monday afternoon when out of the corner of my eye I spot a seven-foot tall T. rex chicken.

Yes friends, you read that right.

As I glanced in the rearview mirror to make sure there wasn’t anyone coming, I braked and pulled a U-turn before pulling off on a small log landing along the road. I grabbed my phone and hopped out of the car, not two-feet away from a rather unconcerned emu.

As trucks and other vehicles cruised by, this absurd bird preened and browsed the tall grass around the landing. I walked a bit closer to him, noting that he didn’t appear to be fearful, which probably meant he was someone’s pet. The other giveaway to that rather obvious fact would be that emus are hardly indigenous to Northeast Pennsylvania. But hey, when the answer is obvious, it’s fun to reverse engineer a Sherlock Holmes-like deduction to make yourself feel intelligent.

Taking advantage of the moment, I decided to snap a few pictures and try to capture his good side. To be honest, with as social as he was being, I think he was posing for the camera like I was a photographer for the Audubon Society.

I really don’t know where he came from or what he was doing walking along the Callicoon Road, but it certainly added a little color to my week. He reminded me of my late grandmother who had owned a ranch down in Florida. She had some emus for a long time and would treat us on the holidays with their large dark-green eggs. “What? Haven’t you eaten an emu egg before?” she would ask. She was a master of poking fun through strange and interesting things that she herself was quite familiar with. I remember her searching the ground by their pen one day when I was with her to find one of their feathers. She had held it up to me to explain how emus have a split feather; one of the only, if not the only, birds that have feathers like these. Each hair-like feather has a primary and a secondary follicle that grow from the same shaft. Grandma had always been in love with unique animals, and emus are certainly unique if anything else.

I remember the birds that she had cared for living to be nearly 20 before they died. Tall birds, they stand atop long black legs, the likes of which lead me to jokingly refer to them as T. rex chickens. They have very serious black faces too, with deep-red eyes. If you’ve never seen one in real life, you might be easily intimidated by these flightless toupees with legs, and rightfully so. There have been incidents with less wary individuals on the business end of these birds’ beaks.

As I finished taking my pictures though, I paused to enjoy the random moment that God had blessed me with. It’s not every day you get to see an animal like that, especially loose in this part of the world. But it brought with it the ever-pleasant nostalgia of family past and a reminder of what they taught me before they were gone.

The way out here isn’t always predictable, but the twists and turns we follow are the story that may just bring a familiar smile to those who carry on after we are gone.

emus

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