(I apologize for the title….really, it was the best I had at the moment)

Linus the emu in his barnyard home-sweet-home

It all started last Wednesday when – scratch that.  Actually, it really started when Linus the emu earned his funny farm membership (what we affectionately began calling our farm after its chief inhabitants were largely outnumbered by strays and almost brainless “we can’t kill it!” victims).  He was what we liked to call the “4-H project gone wrong,” as these things often do.  Sort of like the calf program here in Vermont, 4-H members within the state were chosen to raise an emu into adulthood.  Unfortunately, my sister was the only one that managed to keep hers alive ‘til the end of the year (needless to say, the state police were on the look-out for runaway emu’s putting dents in pickups twice their size).  Upon completion of the program, my sister was the only one with a full grown emu – that no one would take back.  So, twelve years later, a happily comatose, six-foot tall chicken strutted its stuff in the pasture behind our barn. (on a side note, the emu is not to be confused with the ostrich, which is most likely a smarter breed).

            Now, back to last Wednesday.  After we (as in Poultney residents) experienced tornado like weather with the power out for days and a number of our maple’s significantly toppled, we discovered that Linus had indeed escaped his little sanctuary.  As I have mentioned, he is not the brightest bulb in the pack and images of car wrecks on the nearby interstate were quick to surface as we searched for him throughout the week.  Finally giving up hope, this Monday was spent picking up the left over debris from the storm, that is, until a townsie dropped by to say he had an oversized turkey in his garden that he believed belonged to us (you see, having an emu doesn’t really go unnoticed in a small town).  So, a decision had to be made – keep harboring an oversized chicken in our backyard or….emu burgers anyone? Which, by the way, are incredibly dry – there is practically no fat content…or for that matter, much of anything else when you get down to it……which, I have to say, we did.  By all means, stop reading now if you don’t like where it’s going – I can’t say I’ll blame you. 

            A neighbor and good friend of ours did the honors and, as is customary in Vermont, received half the meat, of which there is……well, basically, two legs – no, really, that’s about it.  Not exactly what we had planned for our memorial day, but as you’ll come to realize (if you haven’t already) it’s never a dull moment in my neck of the woods. 

What most people don’t realize about farming and the unfortunate, yet necessary, actions that follow is that something amazing happens when death is a little closer to home. Though it will sound odd and perhaps a bit cruel in its blatancy,

I always wondered what God must have been thinking with this one...

it brings reality a few steps closer when you literally “strip” away the confines of our similarities.  I am not saying that all it takes to see an animal as nothing more than meat and bones is to remove a few essential parts….but, in a way, that is exactly what I am saying.  We have butchered our own chickens, sheep, and now our one and only emu.  It is humbling in a way to realize that an ethical responsibility exists not just in its treatment during life and after death, but in understanding that when it comes right down to it, what makes us different really isn’t all that much.  I know it may seem a strange way to come to this conclusion, but there is not a much quicker way to face your own anatomy and mortality than to take part in someone elses.  

My lesson for the day:  Never underistimate what one can learn from your pets – no matter the circumstances.  

Thanks Linus, we’ll all miss you, in a strange way.

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