a muse on emus

The road is long and, it must be said, not particularly winding from Melbourne to Dubbo.

Traveling like so many during the Easter break, we managed to hold out until the still-flooded plains around Jerilderie.

I spy with my little eye … Ooh, look there’s an emu! And another, and another.

Clearly this was very fertile territory for the bird popularly assumed to be the avian emblem of Australia, but why do we hear so little about this distinctive native.

No one worries about emu facial disease, no one gets accosted by people in emu suits collecting for the wilderness foundation and emus have never once been cited as a reason to hold up a wind farm development.

There are no chocolate emus at Easter or larger-than-life emus in the essential tourist guide to gi-normous fibreglass landmarks. Even Ossie, the most celebrated big bird on Australian television, was an ostrich.

Sure there may be 600 gazetted places named after the emu, but how many of them are places you’d actually want to wind up?

Even the emu’s place on the national coat of arms seems to be prosaic than philosophic.

Accordingly to popular mythology it was chosen as a shield bearer because it can’t walk backwards. But how many birds can?

More likely it got the gig because it was the only creature of sufficient standing to counterbalance the kangaroo. Really, think about it – a koala would get tired having to hold all that weight above its head.

“Perhaps they got the job’, the driver suggests as we near Narrandera “because they are ‘armless!”

Ha! How very emusing.


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