Charlie the Ostrich

Many find the ostrich charming, but as anyone who participated in the quixotic enterprise of ostrich farming that was popular during the 1980s and ’90s will tell you, these are vicious birds that are very strong and dangerous. Dave Campbell had a close encounter of his own, with an ostrich dubbed 'Charlie.'

I recently saw a commercial with an ostrich in it, and it reminded me of Charlie the Crazy Ostrich and an experience I had with this 400-pound African import. Many find the ostrich charming, but as anyone who participated in the quixotic enterprise of ostrich farming that was popular during the 1980s and ’90s will tell you, these are vicious birds that are very strong and dangerous.

I was on an industry hunt in south Texas back in 2004 for nilgai. Since we all filled out on nilgai on day one we had to find something to do for day two. I allowed that I had never had an opportunity to shoot a javelina and would really like to, especially if I could do it with a handgun. The guide said that was definitely possible, but we would have to contend with Charlie the Crazy Ostrich. It seemed that the 700-acre pasture that held the most javelina was also the proprietary home of said bird.

We set out for the pasture in an old CJ-7 Jeep—’80’s vintage—with me in the back, and the guide and a hunting companion up front. I was warned that Charlie—again one with challenged intellectual capacities—might, in a fit of amorous compulsion, attempt to join me in the back of the Jeep. It would be imperative that I not allow him to be successful in that endeavor. As we entered the pasture, Charlie spotted us immediately and made haste to intercept us. Charlie—despite his diminished intellectual capacities—was a Type A personality of the first order, and he wasn’t about to take “no” for an answer.

During the next half hour we raced around the pasture in a desperate—but futile—attempt to outpace this over-sexed, outsized chicken. If we stopped to glass for javelina more than a few seconds, Charlie would be right there, hissing and spitting, trying to peck at me and climb into the Jeep. I retaliated with a plastic stick that had been left in the Jeep, swatting at him furiously about the head and neck. My companions up front were laughing so uncontrollably that they nearly fell out of the Jeep. Presently, we came across another male ostrich, a bit younger and smaller than Charlie, who was, by the way, suitably enraged at the young interloper and temporarily turned his attention from me to the insurgent bird. We enjoyed for a few moments the spectacle of a 400-pound cock fight.

I offered to shoot this dang bird in the interest of genetic cleansing, but the guide said that ranch rules stipulated that anyone who shot Charlie would be forced to gut him. That alternative jettisoned, we attempted to sneak off from the dueling pasture chickens and see if we could save the javelina hunt. It was not to be, and soon Charlie rejoined us reaching amorous rapture, a condition that culminated in a disgusting hydraulic release.

Undaunted, he continued his pursuit of the Jeep across the pasture. He began kicking at the Jeep, his rage erupting further as the events unfolded. Finally, he kicked at the front of the Jeep up where the hood cowling curves toward the top. That metal is pretty thick, and the curvature of the metal strengthens it. His claw dented that metal.

An ostrich’s foot has the general profile of the human hand contorted in a universally known vulgar position that puts one’s social finger at the focal point. That is where an ostrich’s nail is, and Charlie had just sacrificed that nail on the Jeep. Nonetheless, he was determined to finish the fight and continued to kick at the Jeep and its contents, showering us in a fine mist of ostrich blood.

We came. We fought. And we were beaten by a bird with a brain that is smaller than its eye. To hell with the javelina.

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