A sign at an entry gate reads "Bird Sanctuary" so the passing emu had made herself right at home. We called the friendly and curious creature Big Bird. She followed us everywhere like a six foot, feathered shadow and eagerly helped with chores. As we pulled tape markers off protected trees, she pointed out the ones we missed. She pulled up and ate ragweed. Under the hose she would shower, then roll in puddles kicking her lanky legs in the air. When she shook, mud flew 10 feet in all directions. She ate berries from our grandchildren's hands and befriended our dog, lion-and-the-lamb style. After a busy day, she liked to fall asleep with her head in my hand. Sadly, a pack of stray, half-starved hunting dogs ran her off.
Local newspapers reported that there had been 19 exotic bird farms registered in the Florida Panhandle, but gourmet meat market prospects failed to pan out. Disreputable farmers simply turned their flocks loose to fend for themselves. People here were unaccustomed to huge birds wandering the countryside. Along with displaced ostriches and rheas, docile emus were gunned down by the fearful and ignorant. Ever since she disappeared, we have referred to Big Bird as the “Mythical Emu.” Perhaps, one day, she shall return.