This post was originally published April 6th, 2018 as part of the Farm Oddities segment. The story has been revised for quality purposes because we felt like it and is now a part of Texas Tales and Trails. Deal with it.
Fad Farming: Raising exotic, non-typical livestock because you heard from you third cousin that his neighbor’s nephew has some friends who give a shit about emus.
I am all for people getting out there, toiling away on their plot of land and raising some animals, but that never stopped me from scratching my head. Back home, I’ve seen fad farms come and go. Some led to a nice little payday while others… not so much. I can remember working for my cousin taking care of his herd of white-tailed deer, and I’ll tell you that was such a neat summer job. I’ve also seen a thundering heard of llamas, storming like Norman through the pasture. But Pigeon Handlers, neither of those carry a flame to our feathered friend the Emu.
I can recall that there was one brief period of my youth where a good handful of people bought into the time-share, Kirby vacuum cleaner, snake oil idea that Emus were going to be the next big thing. Emu eggs this, emu jerky that. The problem with emus, like most other fad farms, is that eventually the bottom of the market will drop out. Unlike most other fad farms, and this is strictly my opinion, emus are quite possibly the most God awful ugly and worthless farm animal I’ve ever seen.
“But emus are pretty cool and exotic. They aren’t really worthless,” you say.
Really? Well, when the markets for white-tailed deer and llamas went belly up and no one wanted them, I can’t remember anyone just opening the gates and returning either of those two back to the wild. That being said, life would have been pretty effin’ cool had there been wild llamas terrorizing the farmland.
Fast forward a few years, I recall getting a call from the home place. “We’ve got about thirty emus in the field.” Now, I took a few seconds to gather my thoughts. First off, what a weird way to start off a conversation. Second, where in the hell did 30 emus come from? After a moment to myself, I asked, “Mom, where in the hell did 30 emus come from?”
“I don’t know. Maybe they got out of the neighbor’s high fence.” This was a sound assumption as the neighbors behind the plowed field did in fact have a high fenced exotic game ranch, and I believe that they were a few years late to the emu farming party. “What do I do?”
My immediate thought was to the Great Emu War. If you don’t know what that is, google it. Talk about possibly the most entertaining read I’ve ever come across. However, if you do research said military campaign, you will know like I did that emus must be assumed to always have both the strategic and tactical advantage while also maintaining the superior fighting force. I quickly pulled taking matters into my own hands off the table and told my mother about the only thing she could do was to call the law. That was pretty common for lost and out of place livestock, though it was normally reserved for cattle. Still, the authorities would be able to contact the appropriate parties and let them know that the blundering flock of feathered friends had flown the coop.
At the time, I had moved to a neighboring city and hadn’t been able to come witness the emu invasion. Thankfully, the birds ditched town before the authorities arrived, so there was no further incident. Meanwhile, I now knew that the birds had once crossed territory lines and were likely emboldened by the lack of retaliation. My plan was to get a GoPro and hide in the nearby bushes the next time I had time off from work. If they returned, I’d lasso up one of these lawn raptors and ride off into the sunset. Sadly, or thankfully, none of this came to fruition as I received another call a few days later.
“The ‘emus’ came back.”
I paused, hesitant and wary for the upcoming twist.
“Well, when I saw them in the field, our other neighbor had been in their pasture and drove up to try to scare them off. They all flew away.”
If you have yet to research emus, note that they are of the family of flightless birds. This was a catastrophic miscalculation that could almost have led to a repeat of the Great Emu War, which would likely have just been another victory for the emus.
“What were they?” I asked.
Now if your ignorance to birds included sandhill cranes in addition to emus, then go back to the google and look them up as well. To save you a little time, I’ll tell you this: The only thing Sandhill Cranes and Emus have in common are feathers.