Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pumpkin and the Janitor: The Story of a Flightless Victim and a Forgotten One

This morning’s Lincoln Journal Star reported an incident of adolescent hi-jinx this morning in Gretna, NE.  Apparently, a trio of young men placed an emu in the commons of the local high school ten days ago. Understandably, this caused quite a ruckus when the janitor found it the next morning.

Now, I have never encountered a six-foot emu in a school commons area. As a matter of fact, I have only encountered an emu of any size when each of us was standing on opposite sides of a fence.  And, for all I know, that emu could have been an ostrich. So, I can only imagine what the unnamed janitor did when he opened the doors of the commons and saw a bird staring him down from across the feather-and-feces-strewn room. If he were smart, he gently closed the door, walked out to his car, drove to the nearest open bar, and had a shot or two. Then, were he still using his brains, he would have called Animal Control.  I am not advocating drinking as a way to steel one’s courage or cope with one’s situation; one has to suspect that, when Animal Control receives a call about an emu in Gretna High School, the operator’s first question will be, “Have you been drinking, sir?” Why not temper the news by being able to live up to someone’s expectations, especially since the janitor’s were surely not met that morning?

However it was performed, after a bit of a struggle in which our emu (real name: “Pumpkin”) was lacerated on his neck, the bird was apprehended and is now living at a company that puts on wildlife shows for schools and parties. Most likely, Pumpkin spends his days in the pasture wondering how his once-promising life came to this: a six-foot, flightless circus clown.

For Pumpkin once lived the life of the proverbial Riley, living in Iowa, killing chickens, and most likely scaring the hell out of the kids who foisted upon him the less-than-masculine, far-from-noble name of Pumpkin.  But, as the article informs us, the Iowegians put Pumpkin on Craigslist for thirty bucks, and some Gretna boys came a-calling.  When they told the emu’s owner that they were buying it for a friend who raised emu, he took a shine to the boys and let Pumpkin go for free, which was probably good for him to do, since the boys then proceeded to drive the emu over the state line with the intention of causing mischief.  This might be considered illegal animal trafficking, and the previous owner might have been implicated.  As it stands, he appears to be out of the woods.

The boys, however, are not. They have been charged with criminal trespassing and animal cruelty. Their fate hangs in the balance.

It is too bad that these young men, thinking at first to release Pumpkin onto the football field, found the door to their school unlocked.  Would it have been less cruel to leave the bird outside?  It is also too bad that this seemingly “harmless” prank is being punished with criminal charges.  After all, there was a time when these boys would simply have become part of small town lore, like the guy who carried a goat to the top of the water tower in Columbia, Missouri, and tied it up overnight thirty or so years ago.  Is it necessary to mar the record of these three youngsters for what they have done?  Some might say yes, the kids need to learn the lesson that no creature should be treated poorly.  After all, the experience of being carted over state lines, locked up in a school overnight, and apprehended by armed officers in the morning (I am assuming) most likely caused an amount of trauma on this creature that was entirely unnecessary.  This is true.  However, I think maybe having them volunteer at an animal shelter or some sort of experiential punishment might be better, without any need of the courts or legal authorities.

And, really, what about the janitor?  He’s been traumatized—perhaps worst of all.  Not a day will pass from here forward, when he doesn’t have at least a mild flashback as he unlocks a door.  What will be in room 123?  A boa constrictor? A velociraptor? A grizzly bear?  What will lurk in the gymnasium’s darkened corners?  Sasquatch?  A zombie?  The Loch Ness monster?  What restitution does he deserve? He is truly the forgotten victim.

Finally, what about all of the people in the Lincoln area, reading this tragic story and the effect this TRIO of boys has had on man and beast alike, who finish the story on the back of the A section, and then return to the headline, which they quizzically remember as: “Emu in school lands 6 in trouble”? Once again, it looks like the media is not telling the whole story: what about the other three kiddos?

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