The Time a Bird Nearly Took Over the World

The Top 5 Things You Will Learn If You Read This Entire Blog

  1. Jeopardy buzzers suck.
  2. To rule the world, you must start in Australia.
  3. Emus are the perfect killing machines.
  4. When you send out the military to kill birds, always send a cameraman.
  5. When nothing else works, build a wall.

It’s time for Blog Jeopardy! Or as I like to call it, Bleopardy (RIP Alex Trebek). I’ll take “Animals That Almost Took Over the World and Subjugated Humans” for $800, Ken.

“This is the only bird to have calf muscles.”

Clickclickclickclickclickclickclick. Dang it! Why doesn’t this clicker thingy work! Oh great. The doofus at the end of the row buzzed in.

“What is the the spiny lumpsucker?”

No, you idiot! It’s not the freaking spiny lumpsucker! That’s not even a bird! (Although thank you for the idea for another animal blog.)

Clickclickclickclickclickclickclick. Dammit. Screw this buzzer and screw Ken Jennings. Now the woman next to me buzzed in? She’s wearing a mu-mu, for God’s sake. My grandmother wore mu-mus (and wore them well, I might add).

“What is the tasselled wobbegong?”

Why do I share the spotlight with such stupidity?

C-l-i-c-k. Oh, screw it. I’ll raise my hand.

“What is the emu?”

“Did you say ’emoo?'”

“No, I said ’emew.'”

“Why did you say ’emew’ and not ’emoo?'”

“Because I’m smart. And I’m right. And Paul Hogan told me to.”

Ding freaking ding. Give me my $800.

Same category. A thousand.

“This is the only animal to have caused a war.”

This is mine. All mine. Clickclickclickclickclickclickclick

For. The. Love. Mu-Mu Mama beat me.

“What is the satanic leaf-tailed gecko?”

No, you moron, it’s not the satanic leaf-tailed gecko. We’re not talking about a holy war. We’re talking about a real war. Kinda. We’ll get to that.

“Ken, your buzzer sucks, but I got this, so dude at the end, shut up. What is the emu?”

“You mean ’emoo.'”

“No, if I meant ’emoo,’ I would have said ’emoo.’ I meant ’emew.”

“OK. We’ll give it too you.”

And bam! Just like that, I’m $1,800 richer because of this flightless bird that almost took over the world.

Own Australia and You’ll Own the World

First, let’s set the scene. Emus are native to just one place: Australia. And as anyone who has ever played more than five games of the board game Risk will tell you, if you want to rule the world, you start in Australia.

Yes, you start in Australia, fortify the hell out of it, advance carefully into Southeast Asia, head west and then southwest into Africa, take over Africa, jump to South America and then push northward from your southern stronghold. It’s not rocket science, folks.

It’s fun to play Risk with newbies. I taught my wife, Flaca, to play the game while we were dating. Being of Mexican decent and having been spoon-fed that Manifest Destiny bullcrap while being educated at the prestigious Orme School in Arizona, she believed it would be a good idea to load up her initial troops in eastern North America and, like Lewis and Clark, head west (exterminating the natives as she went, I am sure). When she had doomed her men to die by starting there, she went on to put troops in China and other Asian countries.

Meanwhile, I loaded up in Australia. Because that’s what Risk playas do.

She lost in a half an hour.

Riskophiles know that beating anyone in a half-hour is a major accomplishment or a sign that you’re playing someone who has no clue about orchestrating world domination. Flaca has never played me again, leaving me to teach the game to our three children, Franz, Hans and Helga. They last more than a half-hour, but I’ll be damned if they have ever come close to beating me. The only person who has ever come close to defeating me is the owner of this site, my Missouri relative, John, who, if he hadn’t crapped out trying to advance from South America to North America after doing the March From Australia Through Africa, might have given me my first “L.” Alas, sometimes it comes down to the roll of the dice.

All of this is to set the scene. Emus had the right starting spot: Australia. And when they linked up with another powerful ally, they were almost unstoppable.

This is truth.

Emus: The Perfect Killing Machine

When I was a kid, my brother and I were with our grandparents going through a drive-thru animal park. You know what I’m talking about… the kind where you open your window, hold out buckets of feed and animals with disturbingly long tongues assault your car and leave boogers that harden into concrete all over the vehicle before you can get home to wash them off and you are forever reminded of your venture by the booger streaks.

This wasn’t the time I went with my friends through a different drive-thru animal park and watched in my rear-view mirror as a baboon jumped up on the hood of the car behind me and stared curiously at the occupants inside while casually squeezing out a log that must have been close to a foot in length before hopping off and running away.

No, this was the time my brother ignored the sign that said to close your windows for this section of the park and was bitten on the thumb by an ostrich hard enough that it sliced it open and left a deep-purple bruise. My brother is as dumb as Mu-Mu Mama.

I tell you this because, if I asked you for the name of the bird that you thought was most likely to take over the world, you’d probably say the ostrich in one of your first five answers. And it would appear to be a good guess. Ostriches are more dinosaur than bird. They’re huge, they’re fast and they are perpetually pissed off. No one has ever seen a happy ostrich. Hell, no one has ever seen an ostrich that was only mildly angry. All ostriches are always like the anger guy from Inside Out.

But the bird that almost took over the world is not the ostrich. Why? Because ostriches never band together in groups of twenty-freaking-thousand. No. That distinction goes to the ostrich’s smaller but equally pissed-off cousin, the emu. And do you know what a group of emus is called? No, it’s not a school. Or a flock. Or a gathering. Or a Tupperware party

It’s a mob. A mob of emus.

Most people who encounter emus encounter them in a zoo, where there might be, oh, about five other emus in the same tastefully decorated prison cell. We look at these things and think, “Wow, that’s a weird animal,” and we move on to the lions or gorillas or giraffes. And that’s exactly what the emu wants you to do. Because the emu knows how close it once came to ruling the world and is planning for another attempt someday.

So let’s look at the real emu. The real emu is, indeed, doofy in appearance. It is flightless, with wings that measure about only 8 inches. Yet when it runs, it extends those wings as if it were dreaming it could do what birds are meant to do. It’s kind of like when I was a kid and wore the way-too-expensive original Nike Air Jordans.

Where we start to see something is evil about the emu is when we look at the end of those wings: A claw. A freaking claw at the end of a useless appendage.

That’s only a claw, you say. It can’t do anything with a claw.

Well, first of all, it’s two claws. Two wings. Two claws. Math is essential to everyday living.

But that’s not all. Let’s go to its legs.

As mentioned in Bleopardy, the emu is the only bird to have calf muscles. This should raise major red flags. Though I am no gym rat, I have been in enough weight rooms to know that dudes who are so into lifting that they have time to have a “calf day” are jacked and will beat you up if they think you even breathed on their Trans-Am. Life lesson from good-ole Q.F. Agliata: Never trust anything that has anything special about its calf muscles.

Emus use these calf muscles to do NBA-style jumps, soaring more than seven feet in the air, a fact that will come into play later. These muscles also come into play in accelerating these flightless birds to top speeds greater than your grandma will go on the highway — 31 mph! This, also, will come into play later.

But let’s move on from the emu’s freak-of-nature calf muscles. Now, I’m assuming you’re not homeschooled and have seen Jurassic Park. In that movie, we learned about the velociraptor’s toe talon that was specially designed to eviscerate its prey. Just sink that big nail in, pull down and, look ma! Instaguts! All over the floor!

Yeah, the emu’s got that.

And it doesn’t take much to trigger an emu to use it. Now, the government will tell you wild emu attacks on humans are rare, but the government also told you we really landed on the moon. What we do know about emus is that they have really tiny brains that are hardwired not for higher thought like the meaning of life or the historical impact of Oprah Winfrey, but rather to act on instinct.

So when an emu sees something flashy, like, say, a belt buckle or a gold necklace, it will kick up its feet, sink in that velociraptor toenail and spill your guts. Well, at least that’s what it could do. In theory.

Emus also are really good at one thing:

That’s right. Emus rock at producing more emus. This means that, left to their own devices, the Emu Army at some point will grow exponentially, with a seemingly infinite number of reinforcements ready to join the fight.

Emus Amass

As I previously mentioned, one emu is not going to scare many people. Five emus maybe … maybe … will make you raise an eyebrow.

But say you are farmer in the very Tattoine-like Western Australia in the late 1920s. You are one of about 3,000 residents living in a vast expanse of wasteland. Why are you living there? Well, you came home from World War I, damaged by nerve gas, and the government basically begged you to move there. They gave you free land, free equipment to attempt to farm the land and a Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Ring. (Be sure to drink your Ovaltine, mate!)

So you and your wife, Martha, move out to this fresh hell and try to farm. Soon enough, you realize the only thing that will grow there is wheat. And at first, that’s OK. This is the pre-gluten-free days, and the world wants wheat. A lot of wheat. So wheat you grow and wheat you sell. Martha is happy. You are happy.

And then one morning in 1932, you wake up and step out onto your front porch and see twenty-freaking-thousand emus that are alternating between eating your wheat and giving you the stink-eye.

Pause for a second. Twenty thousand emus is a lot of emus, considering the tallest is more than 6 feet tall, the average is around 4, and, as I mentioned, they are all perpetually pissed off.

Your response?

“Martha, get my gun.”

That’s a great instinct! But the emus are ready for you. First, emus are incredibly hard to hit. They’re fast. They’re agile.

Beyond that, they are thick. So the first time you plug an emu, it looks at you as if saying, “Can I help you?” Meanwhile, its 19,999 brethren take off, zigzagging in every direction until they are safely out of range of your piddly little World War I era rifle. And the one you shot? Well, you reload and shoot it again. Now it has gone from pissed off to owning an intense hatred for you, your family and all your ancestors. So you shoot it again. And again. And again.

And finally, on the fifth shot, it falls down, extends that eviscerating middle toenail up at you, and dies.

Five bullets, one emu.

Let’s do the math. Even if all the emus stood still and you could somehow bring that bullet average down to, say, three, you’re talking 60,000 rounds of ammo to eliminate the Emu Menace. Now, in ordinary times, you might be able to afford 60,000 rounds of ammo. But this is the early 1930s, and you are in the midst of a global economic meltdown. You might be growing high-quality primo wheat, but no one wants your stupid wheat. Not for the prices that would allow you to buy food and 60,000 rounds of ammo.

Let’s also talk about time. One emu a day is a really bad pace if you’re attempting to eradicate a mob that is eliminating the only means of income you have. In addition, let’s remember what emus are good at:

So for every emu you kill, there are plenty more to replace it. You think you’re reducing their numbers, but the Emu mob is growing.

You and your nearest neighbor get together, agreeing to make the five-hour journey to a midpoint. And you both realize one thing: We’re screwed.

So being the war veterans that you are, you come up with a solution: Machine guns. The problem is, you don’t have any machine guns and, unlike modern day America, you can’t just go to the local Piggly Wiggly and buy one. So you go to your government and say, “Hey, we’ve got an emu problem, mate. Can you lend us some machine guns?”

“No,” they say. “But we’ve got another idea.”

The Great Emu War Begins

The government is smart to not hand machine guns to a bunch of war veterans whose brains were addled by nerve gas and who have spent too long in a desert wasteland. But the military is the military, and whenever there’s an opportunity to use the big guns, they are all-in.

Why?

First, there’s a succession movement afoot in Western Australia, and helping out these hayseeds might help buy their loyalty. Second, the boys need target practice, and no, like, human beings are volunteering for the job, so what better way to keep those skills sharp than blowing away some birds?

So the military sends three, count ’em, three soldiers to Western Australia. And a cameraman. Never forget the cameraman. With them is a Lewis gun, much better than your typical farmer rifle, and 10,000 rounds of ammo that the farmers had to buy as a condition of getting the military’s help. It is gas-powered, can shoot up to 500 rounds a minute and, prior to being commissioned to kill a bunch of birds, was most commonly mounted on airplanes.

This is some Jesse-Ventura-In-Predator shit.

These soldiers roll up to the emu hangout with their Lewis gun and they find … 50 emus. So they drive a little bit to the west and find … 50 more emus. Rinse and repeat. This mob of 20,000 emus, having heard via a stolen Little Orphan Annie Decoder Ring that the military was coming (with a cameraman, no less!), split up into tiny guerilla units!

But the military had a Lewis gun and, by God, they were going to use it. They park their cars and set up the gun, target an emu, and WHAM! Fifty emus go down.

Except, no. They don’t. One emu takes one hit and stands there with the same “Can I help you?” look that it had when you, the farmer, plugged it. Meanwhile, the other 49 emus do what emus do: Run like hell.

This goes on and on and on, and while a Few Good Emus do, indeed, fall in battle, the bulk of the 20,000-strong mob remains strong. You and other farmers decide to help out, attempting to herd the emus into ambushes. But — and this is all caught on camera thanks to the great idea of sending a cameraman — the emus consistently find a way out. And remember, emus are really good at one thing:

So those who fall in battle are being replaced.

Now, military people are not going to keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, right? So someone comes up with the bright idea to take the Lewis gun and mount it a Jeep so that, when the first shot is fired and the emus flee, there will be a Dukes of Hazzard-style hot pursuit in which this mounted killing machine will mow down the enemy and quickly bring them to submission.

Yeahno.

Because Western Australia is a wasteland, not much has been spent on infrastructure. The concept of “roads” is a bit different from a California freeway. The Jeep is able to reach a top speed of about 15 mph. Any faster and the gunner is going to do what the emu can’t: go flying.

Remember what we said the top speed of an emu is? Ah yes… 31 mph!

The Mounted-Lewis-Gun plan fails miserably, with the death of only one bird, which one must believe was about 900 years old and just simply sick of running. How do we know that? Because he wasn’t killed by the mounted killing machine. He was run over. In the process, his corpse severely messed up the Jeep’s steering, taking it out of action. Oh, and the emu had four slugs in it that hadn’t killed it.

May We Have Some Bombs, Please?

So the farmers went back to the government and said, “Guns ain’t workin’, bro. How about bombs?”

Thank God someone in the government was smart enough to say that, while a Lewis machine gun might not have been the best of ideas, dropping bombs on emus was a really bad idea. So instead of dropping bombs, the government said, “Why don’t you handle it?” and turned the fight back over to the farmers, offering a bounty for each emu hide.

Meanwhile, the military kept driving around with its three-man army (and the cameraman) shooting at random emus and generally pissing them off further.

The bounty thing worked! Sort of. Citizens nationwide brought in upwards of 50,000 emu hides, drastically reducing the emu population. Success! Right?

Wrong.

Because remember: Emus are really good at one thing:

The Great Emu War was far from over.

Build a wall!

As any great leader will tell you, the key to success is to promise to build a wall that other people will pay for. This is a unifying rallying cry that brings people together to overcome great societal ills and will prevent armed insurrection of places such as, oh, your national Capitol building.

U.S. President Donald Trump raises his fist as he visits the U.S.-Mexico border wall, in Alamo, Texas, U.S., January 12, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The farmers understood that. In fact, they had built fences around their wheat fields long before the Emu mob showed up. Why build a fence around wheat before the emus?

Rabbits.

At one point, Australia was infested by more than 1.5 billion-with-a-b rabbits. And rabbits like wheat. Unlike with the emus, the farmers quickly figured out how to stop the rabbits from eating their wheat. They built that wall and made the rabbits pay for it!

Surely these fences would help stop an emu invasion.

Wrong again!

The emus, using those disgusting calf muscles, could easily leap over the rabbit-proof fences. But that’s not all. When the emus were really pissed off because, say, someone was shooting a Lewis machine gun at them, they wouldn’t even bother jumping. They would just burst right through the fences. And what followed them?

The rabbits!

The Great Emu/Rabbit Alliance was born!

Well why not just build a bigger, stronger fence?

You’re onto something! Except the farmers couldn’t afford a bigger, stronger fence (remember, we’re in the midst of the Great Depression), the emus weren’t going to pay for it and the military was much more in love with shooting machine guns than building fences.

So the cycle repeated itself. Bounty. Lewis guns. Emus playing with rabbits. Poverty.

Finally… two years later, the farmers saved up enough scratch to start building bigger and better fences. While the three-man militia was out in the scrub chasing after birds that openly mocked them, the farmers hammered posts into the ground and strung fence wire all around their fields.

And the emus… gave up. Even though they might be perpetually angry and seriously annoyed at being shot at by idiots, they know a great strategy when they see one, a strategy only some wheat farmers and a failed businessman-turned-celebrity-turned-double-impeachee could think of. Outwitted by the implementation of fences that not only kept them out but also their rabbit allies, the emus surrendered and there was once again peace and harmony in the great Western Australia wasteland. The Great Emu War was over.

But wait…

Emus today

Today, the estimated number of emus throughout Australia tops out at just under a million. Presumably, the military is smarter than thinking that three men (and a cameraman) could deal with any emu insurrection and, if the emus got uppity again, would send a much larger force.

While the Great Emu War has faded in the minds of many Australians (not to mention many emus), there has to be some sort of one-mind thing among these killing machines. It’s been nearly a century since the emu uprising. And while emus have small brains, being chased around with a machine gun for two years is something that you don’t tend to forget. If you’re an emu, you remember the time great-great-grandpa Eddie worked with his 19,999 emu buddies and nearly took over Western Australia, and that from there they would have pushed into Eastern Australia before working north into Southeast Asia and then into Africa and then into North America before the final assault to take over the world.

Oh, yes, stories are told at night around emu campfires to emu children. The emus remember. And they’re planning.

It’s the mob, and what is the old mob axiom? Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Q.F. Conseco is the relative of website owner and Storyteller in Chief John Agliata. He is, in fact, John’s great-grandparent’s son’s son’s son. He lives in Escandido, California, with his wife, Flaca, and their three children, Franz, Hans and Helga. All three are homeschooled and extremely unsocial. Q.F. is a singer, songwriter and poet when he is not working as a trimmer for a large medical marijuana growing operation in Humboldt County, California. He once ate 38 hot dogs in 10 minutes.

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