Emily and the Emu roadkill

By Barbara Weir, story collected and edited by Victoria King

Once we were coming to Adelaide, me and Aunty Emily Kngwarreye and Violet and Joy, Lily’s young sister. We were doing paintings but we came in for a holiday one year and there was an army truck that hit an emu. And Aunty Emily said ‘There’s an emu that’s just been hit by a truck. Woop! Woop! Woop! Pick it up! Pick it up!’ And I said ‘I’ve got no room, Aunty Emily.’ And she just said ‘Pick it up! Pick it up!’ So I reversed, got this big emu and said ‘Where am I going to put it?’ ‘In my lap! In my lap!’ So I put the emu in Aunty Emily’s lap ‘cause we had no time to cook it and we couldn’t just cook it any old way, we had to keep driving.

Feasting on the emu Tammy Petyarre, Glory Ngarla, Fred, Emily, Joy Petyarre Port White 1995

So we went to that big lake, Lake Eyre on the highway to Alice, and we pull up there for the frst time. So we’re cooking and she’s pulling the feathers ‘cause the feathers had to be pulled out properly, too, and me and Joy couldn’t do anything. All we could do is get all the wood. And she told us how to dig the hole and she’s standing up and it has to be dug a special way for the emu to be sitting. And she cleaned out the guts and everything was done in a perfect way. And I said ‘We can’t take all of this to Adelaide ‘cause we’re going to the city.’ ‘No! No! No! We got to take him. I’ll eat him. I’ll eat him all.’ So frst we flll my car up with this bloody emu, gets to Port White about eighty kilometres down the road, and bang goes my tyre. And what are we going to do with all this emu? We’re all going to go to jail [emu is a protected species]. ‘No, I’ll eat him. I’ll eat him. That’s sacred. You’re not allowed to throw him away.’ So I said ‘All right.’

So I was driving with a fat tyre to this place, pull up on the side of the road, pull everything out, put the canvas so they can get out and lay down, take all that emu out and start eating this emu. I go across to this service station and I’m thinking any minute we’re all going to be in jail with all this meat. And I ring up Fred and said ‘We’ve got no tyre. My last tyre went on me. We’re at Port White.’ And he said ‘Wait. I’ve got work tomorrow, so I’ll come now.’ So this mob is just sitting there, just eating, eating, eating emu. So Fred pulls up and when he gets out of his car she passes him the emu and I said to Fred ‘It’s off.’ ‘Nah, nah, nah. It’s good one, good one,’ she says. So Fred ate some (he couldn’t not eat it without her nagging him), he goes and eats with her. And I say we have to leave it, dump it after we put the tyre on. And we follow Fred that night along the bushes, there’s a lot of bushes. I say to Aunty Emily Kngwarreye ‘Can we dump this emu?’ ‘Nah, me want him. Me want him.’ So I wrapped him in a plastic bag and we brought this emu to the house of my daughter and my son (they were going to college).

We end up with all this emu meat in the plastic bag. And I said ‘I’ll put it in the fridge for you’ and she said ‘Nah, him all right.’ These are her famous words: ‘Him all right.’ So she keeps all this emu and I thought she kept it outside, but no, it goes back into the plastic bag again. And I had this kind of sleep-out room out the back and that meat goes in there. And I start to smell this funny smell and I say ‘What’s that funny smell?’ And I pull this emu out and I say ’Aunty Emily, you can go to jail for doing this. I have to get rid of this.’ ‘Him all right’ she said. And she put him back under the cover and it’s stinking. We have to get rid of it. I couldn’t get her to do it. So I say to my son ‘Well, once she goes to bed we’ll dig the biggest hole at the back in the yard and we bury it.’ So that’s what we did. She comes to the door and she’s peeping ‘round the corner ‘cause she’s short and she says ‘Atyemey, eh, atyeme, come here, my grandson.’ So Mervin comes to the door and says ‘What, Nana?’ ‘Aker, aker’ [meat] and he said ‘No, we bury it in the back yard ‘cause it was stinking.’ ‘No, good one, it’s good one, you have to dig it up.’ ‘No, we can’t dig it up ‘cause we’ll get into trouble, so I’ll cook you chops. I’ll cook you a big stew.’ And she was happy with that. So that was the end of that emu of hers.

Also visit the Emily Kngwarreye page to view some of her paintings for sale.

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