I regret that I wasn’t able to make the trip to Nevis, MN to see the birds at Heart of Minnesota Emu Ranch. They’re giant and very odd looking, have brains the size of peanuts which incline them to peck at any shiny thing they see, and are one of the few animals that people have outright declared war on. (Great Emu War of 1932. Belligerents: Royal Australian Artillery, emus. Victor: emus.) It was fortunate then that the ranch’s proprietor, “Chatty” Patty Constans, was able to meet with me at a coffee shop near my home.
Patty and her associate Blinky entered with an enormous cardboard box and proceeded to cover the tables around us with every piece of emu paraphernalia imaginable: hides representative of every stage of the bird’s lifespan, speckled emerald eggs the size of large sweet potatoes, a vestigial wing the length of a pencil, and an entire leg that Blinky had decorated with beads. From the box Patty also produced some bottles of her EmuMagic line of emu oil products, including Ahh-MaZing. Patty anointed my back and forehead with this unguent, a potent combination of essential oils brimming with omegas three, six, seven, and nine, and then held her hand under my nose so that I could breathe in its minty and relaxing aroma. If I’d had a headache then, I’m certain I wouldn’t have for much longer.
Patty and her late husband George were accountants before they decided to get into the emu ranching business, which is an uncommon enough change of career path that it begs explanation. “George and I were selling security systems at a fair in Perham back in 1993,” Patty explained, “and we had a piece of plexiglass that needed cleaning. Another vendor at the fair, an emu rancher himself, helped us out with a duster made of his birds’ long double feathers. After striking up a conversation he found out about the arthritis in George’s thumb, which he offered to rub emu oil on. George’s pain was almost gone in two hours.”
Patty showed me a photo of her George holding down an irascible emu, which brought to mind a marble statue of Hercules dominating a centaur. “As soon as we witnessed what it did for George’s thumb, we were fascinated by emu oil,” said Patty. “We wanted to make and sell it ourselves, so we studied up on the birds for a year, and finally bought two adults and four chicks for the meager sum of $80 thousand.
“We just fell in love with them right away. The babies go ‘peep peep peep peep,’ and the females make a drumming call like ‘boom boom boom boom’ — every night Nevis sounds like a symphony of timpani. They’re rascals, and they do escape our ranch sometimes. Once a man reported a six foot tall bird running down the road to the police. They just asked him what he’d been drinking.”
Emu escapes aren’t altogether uncommon. On one occasion a woman who lived near the ranch sensed a presence outside her window, so she went to go check on it. One might only imagine how she reacted to the atavistic russet eyes that stared back at her. Another time Patty and George looked on in horror as Shadow, a $40 thousand bird, decided to treat herself to a swim in the lake by the ranch. (“Like a feathery Loch Ness Monster,” as Blinky put it.) Shadow eventually decided better of it and swam back home before a paddle boat rescue had to be launched on her behalf.
Patty compelled me rub another of her potions, called Ultimate Pearls of Emu, on my hands, and to taste some as well. “When my husband created this, he was looking for a burn treatment. He didn’t know he was inventing a facelift in a bottle,” explained Patty. “I put it on my face every day — I’m 63, and my face is as soft as a baby’s butt.”
Patty showed me photo after photo of emu oil’s dramatic effects: a neglected dog whose neck had been sawn through by a chain, restored back to full health; a rash caused by an allergic reaction to a poorly executed henna tattoo of a tiger, disappeared in spite of the doctor’s prognosis that it would never go away; a little girl’s eczema that had gotten so bad her mother had been suspected of child abuse, reduced to the point where it was barely noticeable. Far from some snake oil cure-all, emu oil appears to be the genuine article.
“Taken internally, our odorless and tasteless OmegaMagic may contribute to cardiovascular and joint health, maintain healthy cholesterol, and enhance the immune system — and that’s not even all,” said Patty. “Our company is regulated by the FDA, so we’re not at liberty to delve in to all of emu oil’s awesome health benefits. One of our customers did sum it up pretty well when she said ‘Now I understand why you call it EmuMagic — your products work like magic!’ Our business has never been about making money, though. Our priority has always been to help people, and we’re blessed with so many stories about how we’ve done exactly that.”
I asked Patty why one strange and giant bird from Australia, of all things, should be the source of so potent an oil.
Patty welcomes you to come visit her ranch in Nevis, where you may witness 200 emus cavorting around firsthand and learn more about the miracle they store in their fat. You had better call first, though, to make certain that Patty, Blinky, or the ranch’s office manager Lisa will be on hand to receive you. Visit emumagic.com to plan your visit, as well as to order EmuMagic products.
By David Scheller