LINTON, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — “He flopped over the fence and just took off.”
Sam Messmer said he was out of town on a backwoods hiking trip when one of his two pet emus, Rigby, got loose from his enclosure. When Messmer got cell service, he found out the bird was still on the loose.
Rigby, affectionately called “Turdbird” by the Messmer family, ended up on a two-week-long adventure around Greene County.
“He went obviously all the way down the highway and went all the way into Jasonville,” Messmer said. “He circled back a couple times pretty close to here (the Messmer farm in Linton) and then he took off down towards Lone Tree, in the woods, through corn fields and soy bean fields.”
The search for Rigby became a county-wide task, with locals reporting sightings of him regularly. But emus like Rigby can travel up to 30 miles per hour, making it hard to wrangle them.
Messmer said he convinced some friends to join him in the attempts to get Rigby back home.
“We had all sorts of traps and contraptions that we came up with,” Messmer recalled, laughing. “Eventually just a good ‘ole rope laid on the ground; lead him into it, snagged him.”
Messmer said he was worried initially about the local response to Rigby being loose, but said the community was not only helpful, but turned the bird into a local celebrity, requesting shirts be made that led to the creation of an Etsy shop.
It helps that Rigby is a friendly emu and was not interested in starting any trouble.
“The only thing I ever said to anybody was just don’t stand directly in front of him because when they get spooked they just charge straight forward,” Messmer explained. “Other than that you can pet him and feed him; he likes grapes, that’s kind of the big thing.”
Rigby’s mate, Eleanor, also enjoys grapes. The Messmer family is hoping to have baby emus born on the farm and expects Eleanor to lay eggs this fall.
When she does, Rigby will really need to learn how to stay still …
“Because the males are the ones that take care of the eggs,” Messmer explained. “When they lay on the eggs, they can sit for I think it’s 20ish weeks or something.”
In the meantime, Rigby can be found roaming his enclosure and munching on his beloved grapes.
And the Messmers? They said they will eventually be getting a higher fence … just in case.