A small flame

A small flame

Down Memory Lane - First Grade

This is the third post in a series of 12 posts scheduled by Mommy's Piggy Tales, which encourages women to record stories from their childhood for future generations to enjoy.


When I was in first grade, our furlough ended and we returned to Papua New Guinea.

The home my parents found to rent was half of a large duplex. Our landlord, a slightly eccentric German man, lived with his family in the other half of the duplex. We shared a back yard - a long, somewhat narrow strip of grass, surrounded by a chain-link fence - with our landlord, his family . . . and his pet, a large cassowary bird

photo from Wikipedia

The cassowary is similar to the Australian emu. The cassowary or, as we called him, muruk (the native word for cassowary, pronounced moo-ROOK . . . and be sure to roll the 'r' ;o) was as least as tall as my Dad, with a sharp beak and long legs. And he moved incredibly fast. One minute he would be at the far end of the yard, and the next he would be roaming the territory near our back door. The things that makes a muruk dangerous are his powerful legs and the large, very sharp spikes on the back of his legs near each foot. Cassowary birds defend themselves by kicking hard enough to break bones and by slicing and cutting with that knife-like spike. The Guinness Book of Records classifies them as the world's most dangerous bird

Needless to say, we were rarely allowed to play in the back yard! Sometimes, my Mom would be hanging out the laundry and here would come the muruk. She would retreat to just inside the back door and wait until he moved back to his side of the yard. One day, she called us to 'come and see!' The muruk was sorting through the basket of clean, damp laundry; picking up underwear and socks with his beak, one piece at a time, and flinging them across the grass. We had a good laugh, and then my Dad grabbed the broom and shooed him back across the yard to our landlord's side so my Mom could finish hanging up the wash.

That muruk gave us lots of laughs! At our end of the yard was a palm tree with fronds that hung down over the fence line. One of his favorite activities was to run, full-tilt, across the grass from his end of the yard to ours. When he reached the fence line and that palm tree, he would kick his feet up into the air at the palm leaves. Sometimes, he would get ahead of himself and kick the second foot up before the first foot was back on the ground, landing with a thud on his backside. My brother James was a toddler, and he would run through the house yelling "Kick the 'ruk!" and bicycle-kicking his feet in a successful attempt to mimic that crazy bird.

As funny as he was at times, that muruk made life a bit nerve-racking for all of us. I can remember having nightmares that I was being cornered by the bird, who was advancing toward me with those menacing eyes glowing. I would wake up screaming and my parents would come sit on my bed and comfort me. Now as a parent myself, I can only imagine how scary it must have been for my parents to live with 3 small children in that environment! So we were all relieved when our landlord decided to sell his pet. The buyers spent almost an entire day luring the muruk into a large cage they had constructed before carting him away. It was great to finally have a back yard to play in!

The day they caught the muruk.
It drew quite a crowd, as nearly everything does in PNG.

If you're just joining me and would like to start this walk down memory lane from the beginning, please stroll on over here.



Zempel Family said...

Was this the PNG equivalent of a pit bull? Why on earth did he own the world's most dangerous bird? Crazy!

Lolli said...

The world's most dangerous bird?? Yes, crazy. It's pretty, though....I'll give it that!

scrapbookeasy said...

That is kind of funny, I would have been petrified! How else has an over-sized, dangerous bird in their back yard? Very interesting!

MrsH said...

Isn't it funny how we now look back on our parents' actions and just think about situations so differently? Thanks for sharing this story, it had me both slightly worried about what was next, and laughing!

coolestfamilyontheblock said...

When I first saw the photo of the bird I thought, "Wow, what a beautiful bird!"...and then you said how big and dangerous was and now I'm just afraid of it! I might not be able to sleep tonight...

I love the picture of you on the porch with the muruk in the backyard. Who has pictures like that? haha That's so cool!

Mom2three said...

I really enjoyed reading your post today. My kids talked about Cassowarys after they came back from Australia. Said they were horribly mean and very scary. Can't imagine living with one in your back yard. Glad you could find a little humor in having such a horrible "watch dog" there. I can't even imagine your nightmares.

Janna said...

Okay, I just love your stories! I can't imagine having such a dangerous bird in the backyard!?