Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Emu Central

I was wandering around the internet and landed on the Law Dog Files. He has a story there about getting a perpetrator out of an emu coop. Go read it, then come back. I'll be right here.

Done? good.

I remember when emus were a big deal. Ranchers and farmers and everybody with a spare acre was fencing it and putting those big damned birds into it. An emu is a big flightless bird from ... Australia or New Zealand, or some damned place. Anyway. They are big ole birds, and the idea of raising them was that their flesh is good to eat, and healthy, with no cholesterol and very little fat. The skin is good for boots and belts and other apparel. They are a bird with everything.

Like most other ponzi schemes, people of all stripes bought these damned big birds because it looked like the market was going hot for emu. The only problem is that the damned birds are mean. Did I mention big? A full grown emu will look a man directly in the eye, then try to bite him or hit him or anything to get the man out of the way. Two emus will send a pack of coyotes packing. A flock of emus will hammer the hell of just about anything that gets in their way.

And people were raising them by the flock. The market never materialized. The world can only absorb so many emu boots. Emus went from a market value of about $500.00 per bird to a market value of zero dollars per bird. The market evaporated overnight. Folks who thought that they had $30,000 worth of emus in the back yard were depressed to learn that their birds were worthless.

Those birds were still eating.

A rancher doesn't keep anything around his place that doesn't pay the feed bill. Natchitoches Parish is full of woodland. National forest woodland. Timber company woodland. One night in 1999, the woods were full of pickups towing cattle trailers filled with emus. A dark country road, a long stretch of timber. The truck would stop, the gates would open, and a flock of emus would be free. The truck rumbled on into the night and someone had just gotten out of the emu business.

Deer season opened a month later. The woods were full of folks talking about large, mean birds that were eating the food in the deer plots. Country folk complained about large, mean birds that were terrorizing the livestock. Entire packs of coyotes left the area. It was an ecological disaster of the funniest order. Hunters learned that one well-placed shot would collapse an emu as fast as the market collapsed.

For a while, the local sheriff's offices were getting emu hazard reports and more than a couple of good laughs were had by all. In time, the hunters and the coyotes learned to deal with the birds and equilibrium was maintained. In the big timber company tracts between Clarence, LA and Calvin, LA, there may still be emus in the wild, but I haven't worked those woods in a long, long time.


Anonymous said...

Heh, so was (is) there an open season on all emu birds in LA, or could they only be killed by landowners when the emu was a nuisance?

Anonymous said...

Few years ago a friend and I dropped off a deer for processing, there was an emu on the floor waiting dressing. The meatpacker said something similar about the owner apparently opening his gate and letting it go, when it showed up in someone else's yard they shot it and brought it in for processing. Owner did not look that happy about it, said they did not smell very good.

Anonymous said...

Got your link from Lawdog's blog page...just wanted to update you that an emu is an Australian bird!