The Great Emu Takedown
The warm spring afternoon breeze wafted gently around, blowing the strands of my long messy auburn hair around my face. I ignored it. I was sitting up in the Figtree engrossed in my latest Alistair MacLean novel and I didn’t move an inch, until finally the sound of my mother calling me in for dinner pierced through my foggy consciousness. I slowly dragged myself back from the Russian Submarine encounter I had been reading about and looked around me for the first time in what seemed to be hours.
We lived in a standard three bedroom house with a single garage in a city suburb. There were houses each side of us and behind as well as across the road. Our own property had sturdy side fences and gates that were always shut, keeping the front and back yards separate. The yard was lined with some trees near the back fence and right up in the corner, where I could almost imagine I was in another world, was my Figtree.
I grudgingly climbed down the tree and walked down the yard into the kitchen and sat at the table, facing out towards the back yard, my lamb chops and vegetables already set out in front of me. The back door had been left open to allow the breeze to freshen up the house, which was thick with the aroma of mum’s cooking. Mum and dad came and sat down opposite me and Cathy was sitting near the wall facing the stove. All was quiet as we began to eat our food.
Dad believed in eating and no talking at the dinner table. So mealtimes were always quiet and boring as far as I was concerned and I would pick at my food, staring out the back door, longing for it all to be over so I could go back outside and explore some more.
I tackled my chops with my knife fork and looked outside as I chewed my food and contemplated life. Then the most amazing odd and bizarre event happened.
An Emu ran along my backyard in front of my swing set.
I blinked and shook my head and looked again. It was still there. My mind struggled to grasp what my eyes had seen. No way. Emus are wild, this is a city and this is a locked gated backyard. The sensible fairy jumped on my shoulder chattering away, denying what my eyes had seen.
“Umm dad” I said, “An Emu just ran across our backyard”.
“Will you just eat up and be quiet”. He said.
I didn’t blame him, I was the one that had seen the Emu and I wasn’t sure whether I believed it either.
“No dad, turn around, there is really an Emu in the backyard”.
Mum raised her eyebrows and glared at me, as if I was making up stories and went to silence me again but curiosity and the dumbstruck look on my face caused Dad to turn and peer out the back door into the late afternoon sunlight.
There staring back at him, not six metres away was a huge rag tag, exhausted looked scared Emu. It just stood there, staring and panting, with it’s huge eyes blinking warily at us. Dad and I both started to stand up and all of a sudden two men ran across the backyard towards the Emu, who of course bolted towards the side fence. Hot on their heels followed a fat out of breath, grey haired police sergeant with a young eager eyed rookie constable tagging by his side.
By this time mum had poked her head around the door to see what the commotion was and then promptly screamed when she saw the hive of activity in the yard. More people began wandering in the side gate and spilling into my backyard. I ran to the front window and was amazed to see police cars, fire engines and about fifty cars pulled up outside in my suburban street. People came piling out of the cars and out of the houses around us and they all streamed on into our backyard, where the Emu was by now backing into the corner with a terrified look on its face.
My next door neighbor Kylie, who was a close friend of Cathy’s and Mine, stood at the side gate greeting the people streaming into now opened side gate with her usual classic dry humor.
“welcome, come right in ladies and gentlemen, make yourself at home. Cup of tea and cookies while you are here?” I don’t think they quite appreciated her dry sarcasm. They stared at her blankly and keep on streaming in.
In the kitchen our meals were left uneaten on the neatly laid table, Mum and dad had moved over to the kitchen window to get a better view of the proceedings and Cathy had long since disappeared into her bedroom, probably hiding under the bed by now, as far away as she could get from the Emu. She hated them. I grabbed my old camera and walked out the back, deafening myself to mum and dad’s half hearted attempts to call me back in.
I called out to Kylie over near the side fence as I walked out. ‘Doesn’t seem to be working, try charging them a dollar each admission”.
By now our backyard was absolutely trampled and distinctly overgrown with police, fire officers and hundreds of sightseers everywhere. All of those sightseers had one mission, to see the apprehension, arrest and takedown of one sore sad sorry assed Emu.
The two police lined up the Emu in their sites around the clothesline, that still had mum’s towels wafting around in the breeze and they charged. The Emu stepped sideways and hopped off to the far corner of the yard as the police landed in a heap with half the towels torn off the line and scattered around them on the ground.
I had a big smile on my face at the whole event. It was surreal, one minute I was sitting eating my dinner in peace and quiet and now the next, there was more action than on an Indiana Jones Movie Set.
The police got up from the ground and with added determination from the embarrassment of being outsmarted by a bird who can’t even fly, set off towards the Emu who stood shaking with his head darting around for an exit.
I watched the Emu and saw his next move as he did. The police moved towards him and I grinned as he turned and quickly jumped over the wooden fence that separated our yard from our neighbors.
Next to the fence with a gap of only about a meter was the neighbor, Mrs. Morgan’s garage. It was old hat for me to jump on top of the fence and shimmy along a bit until the roof was in easy reach and I would climb on their garage roof. Mrs. Morgan and her unmarried daughter were quite accustomed to me poking my head over the other side of their garage and saying hello to them down below in their garden.
So here was the Emu, stuck in the gap between the neighbors garage and the side fence, with only his head visible to everyone in my backyard, his beady big eye peering at us all rather angrily by this point.
The police jumped in front of the garage and started moving up the gap towards the Emu, thinking they had him trapped when I called out to them. They stopped moving and I quickly explained that if he turned and backed up the other way towards the back corner he could easily escape up the back neighbors yard to the next street and traffic chaos.
I ran to the corner and jumped to the top of the fence and squeezed through the gap. It was too small for an adult to even contemplate and I grinned as I thought of the fat sergeant trying to attempt it.
The Emu turned his attention to me as I started waving at it. The two police officers stood out of sight at the front of the garage and the crowd lined up on the fence like they were watching the latest play at a football match. And that is exactly how it played out
The Emu made a kid of chortling sound and turned tail to me and made his run toward the front of the shed. The two policemen made the grab for him, the fat sergeant was just way to slow and ended up grabbing dust but the younger officer managed to get hold of one leg as the Emu ran passed faster than the road runner with the Coyote up his ass.
It didn’t seem to deter the Emus progress, he kicked out and kept running down the yard towards the street, dragging the police officer with him.
In sight was his exit to freedom but just as he lined up his final dash, a group of fire fighters ran in the front gate and piled on the Emu in a rugby tackle and scrum that the great Australian legend Wally Lewis would have been proud of.
The poor Emu struggled hard and got a few good kicks into the guys holding him but eventually the young officer reached down to his belt and after a minute or so managed to get his handcuffs around the Emus legs.
One of the fire Officers then threw a sack over the Emus head and they continued to truss him up with some rope. A couple of fire Officers were almost sitting on him to hold him still and the Sergeant by this time had back his police paddy wagon up to the driveway and opened the rear.
I heard Kylie yell out behind me “Did you read him his rights” and there was a snicker amongst the crowd which had now split, with my back fence still lined with people and even more spilling out in the street around the fire truck and police van.
The police picked up the Emu, by this stage I had got some beaut photos with my old camera and I was right beside the Emu as they walked him down and tossed him in the back of the wagon.
The crowd slowly drifted away, the sounds of doors slamming and motors starting up replaced the crowd excitement of the Great Emu Takedown. My back yard was soon left empty again, with only the masses of footprints and torn up turf to signal that anything so odd had ever taken place.
That was when the curiosity that was my afternoon was explained. A few miles from where I lived on the escarpment, was a tiny native animal park. One of the Emus had made a giant bid for freedom and escaped to travel through peak hour outskirt city traffic, and four suburbs to my place.
The police and emergency services had hundreds of calls out to it, two minor accidents had occurred from motorists trying to avoid it, a helicopter had been called out to respond, traffic had been stopped on two major routes and the poor Emu ended up a bit like the pied piper of Hamlin with a stream of cars and vehicles following him in lineup formation throughout his various wanderings, detours and sidetracks and quite a few miles of humanity and concrete hell.
And he ended up in my backyard. To this day I look back at that mild spring afternoon, I can still picture myself sitting at that table, feeling the breeze on my face and I can still remember the shock registering as that Emu ran across in front of my eyes. Nothing more bizarre could have taken place at that moment in time than did occur.
I stood speaking to Kylie for a moment before going back inside. She was laughing as much as I was and showed me the four dollars that some stupid idiot had given her when she stood at the gate jokingly calling out for $1 per person admission to my backyard. This cracked me up even further and we both shook our heads we left the now quiet yard to go in our respective houses.
I walked inside and sat back at the table. Cathy appeared from her hidey hole in the bedroom and sat down. Dad was already seated and mum placed our reheated food in front of us rather shakily. We ate in silence, each lost in our own thoughts. There was nothing to say. What could you say, though I kept one eye out in the backyard at all times after that day. You never know what is going to wander in the side gate.
*footnote. The pictures are just for show. They are not mine. I took pictures of the Emu but haven’t seen that album in years. i will ask mum about it and whether she still has the paper clippings. I took the film to the local paper and they were published the next day. Hilarious.
oh yeah.. and it’s true.. all of it.. it happened exactly how it is set out here.. hope you enjoyed it as much I did when it happened
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