This morning I went to my neighbor's house to do laundry. This is Judy and Lucas Carpenter's summer place across the road and into the trees. The snow is mostly gone from places the sun hits and continues in shaded places like the north side of mountains and the north side of a wall of trees. The parking area at the house was all snow. It had shrunk from seven or eight inches down to one or two, different in different places. I saw tracks in the snow from the car window. Stepped out and had a good look at tracks I'd never seen before, three big toes going forward from a place that looked like the palm of a hand, a pad. The toes splayed out like ten o'clock, twelve and two. Not a bear. It had to be a bird of some sort. Not an eagle's foot, not even close, and not gigantic turkey. The tracks lacked the toe that goes backwards for grabbing and roosting. It is a bird that evolved away from roosting, a bird that does not fly. A big bird. I have heard of people having emus in the county. The only one I'm aware of is across Hwy 21 from the skeletal remains of AM radio station WCOK, the place Lillie Nichols once lived. I don't know who owns the land now. The bird's tracks walked down the drive from the Caudill cemetery. At the parking area it walked around all over the place. It appeared Big Bird wanted to step into the woods among the trees, but could not find an area open enough. Evidently, the bird is not accustomed to walking in the woods. It walked all over the parking area. Twice left it to look for a place to travel on, could not find an opening in the trees to suit it, turned and came back to the parking area. It walked around and around, giving the appearance it was looking for where to go from this space. The driveway makes a U-turn the bird could not see from the parking area.
The bird's exploration's found the U-turn and took the driveway toward the road. It searched along the side of the driveway for a place to step into the trees, but could not find an opening. The tracks went off down the driveway until the snow ended. It could see an opening at the end of the driveway from the last of the snow. I gather from it staying in open places, it lives in a fenced-in field. Driving up the road, earlier, near the turn up the driveway from the road, I noticed a smashed splat I took for bear first, but could tell driving by, it was not bear. On the way back, driving home, I stopped and made a picture of it and examined it. Definitely not bear. Bear is full of seeds. This had no seeds, even favored donkey without the fiber. It dribbled some walking away, the spots of dribble turning to the left toward the donkey meadow the other side of the road. Fence all the way along, I doubt it went into the meadow. My sensing is that it walked down the road past my house. It would not turn in here for all the trees and rhododendron. Maybe. The only place I can see it going if it went down the road would be to turn in at Allan's driveway, the open gate. If it went up the driveway, it would have found meadow, but fence on both sides all the way to the lake. It could turn into the driveway to the barn Gene Dysart built. The bird may have found the meadow to the right along that short driveway. If it took either way, it may still be in Air Bellows. I had not been to Carpenter's house since Saturday, and the tracks were not there. Driving home from town yesterday a little after five I did not see the splat in the road. I would have. I always notice when a bear takes a dump in the road. It looked like it had been run over only once. Not much traffic on the road in this weather. First thought seeing it this morning was doubt bears are out in this cold time.
Driving home, I saw tracks in the meadow across the creek from the donkey meadow. Snow was still on the ground, it being on the north side of the ridge. I walked out into the meadow after giving the donkeys some grain to take a look at the tracks. They were dog. I called Allan just now to tell him I suspect a possible emu may have walked up his driveway toward the lake. I said my feeling is that it was last night. He said there was a time Martha the dog barked for an hour at something, a bark he'd never heard her do before, the quick frequency of barks is what was different. He said the dogs don't bark at bears. Perhaps she saw something she had never seen before, didn't know what it was. He said he had heard about a woman who lives in Whitehead who had an ostrich. I'd guess an ostrich and an emu have similar footprints. Not the same, of course, but to someone who had never seen either, one or the other is the best I can do with a guess. I knew who he meant by the woman with the ostrich, but could not think of her name. I called somebody I knew who knew her. She does not have an ostrich. We talked awhile about who in Pine Swamp and Whitehead had emu. The only two we could think of were close to town. I came to a dead end. I'd put pictures of the tracks on facebook, telling that a possible emu is in Air Bellows, hoping somebody who saw it would know somebody with emus and alert them. I hate for Big Bird to be lost these cold, unforgiving winter nights. I trust it knows how to hunker down in a tight space to sleep. If coyotes are about, it won't live long. I feel an urgency to find whoever is missing an emu to rescue it. I've done all I'm able. I feel like facebook is the best place to post an alert. Beyond facebook, all I know to do is turn it over to God's will with a prayer.
It has been a curiosity since seeing the tracks. My feeling is I guessed its path, confirmed by Martha's barking last night. From there, it could be anywhere by now. I have to mark this a momentous day, 3/3/15. Finding emu tracks in snow on the mountain is as much out of the blue as finding elephant tracks. When something happens that is this odd, I pay attention. For what, I don't know. It is so much like a dream I want to look at it as a dream, interpret it as I would a dream. It brings to mind the time thirty or more years ago I found a turkey egg on the rock resting against the screen door. Dog was in the house. I still have no idea how the egg found my door. More than likely, I'll never know where the emu came from or where it went. Big Bird was here, took a dump, and left. I looked at the facebook post to see if any clues had come in. April Joines said emus have been spotted on the parkway where some evidently were lost and took up there. So we have emus on the parkway now. They're good if they can evade the coyotes. It seems like if this one lived along the parkway it would not be so hesitant to leave an open area. Something that has been in the "wild" for awhile soon learns not to be out in the open so much. My sense of it is the bird was so relieved to find the road it relaxed and let go a bowel movement. I don't think it was marking territory like bears do. What a curious enigma to wake up to this morning. The ghost of Big Bird passed through.