Sweet Ramona – we met somewhere in Africa. What a ‘gal’; What a ‘chick’, wild and free. Not often you meet a ‘bird’ like Ramona.

I met Ramona on a hot summers day when we arrived at the campsite. As we drove in I spotted Ramona – she was a stunner.   Besides her there were a few impala, grazing with a few ostriches, a blue car and a small dome tent close to the ablution block. Other than that the campsite was deserted - just thay way we like it.

Ramona was something to look at, I could not take my eyes off her, and there was something about her that spelt trouble! Even Libby, my wife remarked, “I don’t like the look of her.”
  (Just what a wife would say if she suspected that her husband might be interested in another bird.)

We found a large shady Marula tree and decided to camp in its shade. First things first, out with the chairs, grab a cold beer and sit back and relax and watch a lizard with a bright blue head peek at us from behind the tree and of course Ramona who slowly began walking towards us. Just then a man darted out from the ablution block and ran for the blue car. Ramona saw him out of the corner of her eye, spun around and gave chase. He made it to the car just in time, snatched open the door, dived in and pulled it shut. Ramona was annoyed and walked around the car tapping at the windows.

Now if you are wondering who Ramona is and how I knew her name, let me tell you the story. Ramona is a female ostrich and her name is what I gave her shortly after we met. I called her Ramona ‘cause she looked like she deserved such a name. I have never known a gal called Ramona but she looked like she should be a Ramona. Don’t ask me why – she just did. Great figure with the most unbeleivable legs, they just went up, and up, and her long sultry eyelashes.

The man in the blue car got it started and drove towards us, meanwhile Ramona had moved off to stand near the dome tent. The blue car stopped close by, the driver wound down his window a fraction and said, “Please help, my wife is trapped in the tent. The ostrich won't let her come out.   It will not go away!” From his accent I guessed he was a very stressed foreign tourist, although he spoke English well.

They had arrived a few hours earlier and had no sooner put up their tent when this fearsome avian creature came charging towards them in a cloud of dust. No doubt they had seen a picture of an Ostrich before but had no idea of how big it was, nor in their wildest dreams expected this to happen. The man escaped to the ablution block while his wife remained sweltering in the tent too terrified to come out, and all dear Ramona wanted was a friend.

I relieved the siege by offering Ramona the hand of friendship which held an apple. Meanwhile Libby got the poor woman from the tent. She was in tears, gaunt with fear and half dehydrated.

Once I lured the bird away they quickly packed up their tent and left for the main lodge, about three kilometers away, probably to complain to management about the dangerous ostrich and ordeal they had suffered.   They did not return.

We were now Ramona’s new friends whether we liked it or not. Libby got most annoyed with the bird as it kept thinking her toes were a tasty snack. Libby hates her toes been pecked and finally gave it a good whack with the book she was reading. In a flash Ramona retaliated by grabbing the book. A merry chase ensued around the camp in an attempt to retrieve the book before it was swallowed. Chasing Ramona was useless, instead I had to resort to bribery with food. Ramona was more than willing to drop the book in favour of a Chelsea bun.

I just had to call, “Ramona” and she would come running and peck away at the laces on my boots. There were other ostriches in the camp, but they kept their distance. Ramona was the undisputed queen of the camp.

Then we discovered that Ramona was partial to the odd tipple. She loved beer and went wild over Libby’s G&T. The best fun we had was when I discovered that Ramona thoroughly enjoyed a shower. She would patiently stand while I'd pour a bucket of water over her. She would then vigorously shake herself like a dog then flop onto the ground and fluff up the dust with her wings.

As much as we enjoyed her company she did become a nuisance. The preparation of lunch was almost impossible as she was determined to take what she could and I had to stand guard and be quite firm in keeping her at bay. A clout with a wet tea cloth did little to dissuade her. Lunch we had to eat inside the truck. This was actually a good option as we could at least eat in an air-conditioned atmosphere.

Later that afternoon a young fellow arrived on a scrambler with three workers and started to round up the birds; no doubt because of the complaints made by the campers who had been besieged.

Now the fun began. The other birds were easily herded away, but not Ramona. She was not going to give up easily and ran rings around her pursuers. It was a wonderful sight to see her at full sprint with long legs and feathers fanned. Her speed and agility was remarkable. The young fellow on his scrambler soon had bloody legs from thorns as Ramona led him through the thickest bushes and on two occasions the bike slipped from under him. The workers had their tongues hanging out and looked as if they were about to call a strike.

We watched for awhile then I finally flagged down the fellow on the scrambler and lodged my complaint at the dust and the noise and the fact that they were traumatizing the bird. Not quite true as the pursuers looked far more traumatized than the Ramona. He left and the workers flopped down in the shade to get their breath back.

Ramona called round for another shower. I even offered her a drink of beer, after all she deserved it. After a mug she sauntered off looking a trifle unsteady – but still queen of the camp.

A short while later a Land Cruiser arrived with someone more senior than the young fellow on the scrambler. I explained that I objected to the noise also telling him, “Ramona does not like being chased; it upsets her. She is very sensitive.”
He looked puzzled and asked, “Who’s Ramona?”
“The Ostrich,” I replied.
“She has a name?”
“Of course, didn’t you know?”
He looked at me in disbelief, “No I didn’t know she had a name! Well if you don’t mind having her around we will leave her now but tomorrow we will have to move her as there have been a number of complaints – we cannot have her in the camp, she is scaring the campers.”   He loaded up the three workers who glared hatefully at Ramona and left.

Ramona became quiet and lay down as the afternoon slipped away, the shadows lengthened and cool breezes began to stir the leaves. A male ostrich arrived but he kept his distance. Ramona stood up and walked across to him and together they sauntered off into the sunset.

The next morning Ramona was not there, nor did she arrive during the day, we never saw her again.
I sighed - I sure missed Ramona.


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