Friday, April 25, 2008

Rusty Pails #36:
Queenie Finds a Home

by Rocky Macy

Living in the country ain’t all sunshine and roses. There’s plenty thorns in the greenery, and I usually manage to find most of them! One thing about country life that particularly galls me is the propensity of stray critters that come ambling down my lane. It seems that when people get tired of their pets, they dump them out in the country so they can lead idyllic lives in some sylvan dell.

I’ve had more than my fair share of strays show up on my doorstep. Generally I feed them and then try to find them a home. Sometimes I wind up taking them to the local animal shelter and pay the fees that their original owners avoided by bringing them to me. Baker, who was in labor when she arrived at my back door, was already part of my family by the time her thirteen puppies were ready for new homes, so she stayed. I also kept Shadetree Mike’s calf, Annie, because he had the courtesy to ask if he could dump her on me – and also because Baker took a shine to her.

But no more! I have taken a vow that I will no longer care for other people’s castoffs. Old Rusty is done with being a welcome mat! Well, at least I was until yesterday afternoon.

It was getting late, and I had fallen asleep in my lawn chair while watering my small garden. My old hose has developed a few leaks over the years, probably because I keep forgetting to take it in during the winter. At the time that I nodded off, a couple of those leaks began to fill a big depression in my driveway.

I was dreaming about making the world’s most delicious Rustwich when a drumming sound began to weave itself into my dream. Knowing that it was about time to go in and start supper, I lazily propped open an eye to see who was beating the tom-tom. There, staring back at me at eye level, were two soft brown eyes and a big beak.

I was suddenly wide awake staring at a monster bird who was plopped down and lounging lazily in the lake that my leaky hose had made. As I struggled to get out of my chair, I fell over backwards. Then fighting my way out of the chair, I managed to trip the trigger on the hose and wound up giving myself a good soaking!

I ran toward the barn with the lawn chair in one hand and the hose in the other. When I thought that I might be safely out of reach, I glanced over my shoulder and saw that the big bird was still enjoying her bath.

Baker showed up about that time, better late than never, and quickly assessed the situation. She ambled over to the monster bird as though it was the most normal thing in the world to find bathing in your driveway. After taking a leisurely stroll around our visitor, Baker decided to gather more information by sticking her nose where most dogs do when they want to strike up a friendship.

That did it! The bird, all six feet of her, jumped up and looked way down on the bothersome dog. I could tell that one swift kick from those mighty legs would send poor Baker flying over the house. The bird really cranked up her noisy chest thumping, Baker began a low growl, and Old Rusty backed up even further. The stand-off was broken when Baker began barking. The bird turned and let Baker direct her toward the gate to the pasture. When she stopped to scoop up a couple of my cherry tomatoes, I rushed over and opened the gate. After a little more direction from Baker, our visitor lumbered into the pasture and I closed the gate behind her.

Today I learned that my new freeloader is an emu. Several years ago people were going to get rich by raising emus, but when that didn’t happen, some turned theirs loose. And, like every other neglected soul in these parts, this one found her way to my house!

I’m calling her Queenie, but the next time the vet is out this way I’ll find out if I need to change the name to King. She is very gentle and likes to be sprayed with the hose, and she has already cleaned out all of the cherry tomatoes within a neck’s reach of the pasture fence. But the best part is that Queenie is quickly bonding with Annie and Baker. If old Rusty can have his friends, I reckon other critters should be able to have theirs!

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