in the Ostrich Race
2005 Fabric Sculpture
27" x 25" x 18"
More than two-thousand years ago, a bronze statue
was sculpted showing an Egyptian princess racing an ostrich, and it apparently
celebrated her victory. I guess a young royal would need to let her hair
fly in the wind, once in a while, and the peasants would probably have
enjoyed watching the royals making fools of themselves, and, like any
good polo players, getting their faces dashed into the sand. I put it
in my "odd but true" file.
Humans and ostriches can each be quite elegant when viewed separately,
but, as rider and mount, they are mostly ridiculous. A horse, with its
long back and four legs can gracefully accommodate a rider, but a bird
cannot, nor does the human derriere have any stable purchase on the round
ratite's two-legged body. The only things one can hold on to are the wings,
which move a lot, and are far apart. An abundance of forward motion seems
to help keep the pair together, but that does add an element of danger
to the silly delight of this sport.
Years later, I discovered that, back in the
30s and 40s, people raising ostriches for the feather industry had gotten
the brilliant idea of turning their farms into amusement parks. Cars were
becoming common, and people were using them to seek diversion. The ostriches
would be fed funny-shaped things, and children would go wild seeing the
odd shapes slide down inside their necks.
Most popular of all was "ostrich wrangling."
Not only would people pay to try and ride them, but their attempts were
often filmed. A lot of this footage was embarrassing, so not everybody
wanted it, and, 60 years later, rolls of it were found still stored in
old barns. Well, when I saw this on TV, I knew I had all the information
I needed to get the princess back in the race, and here she is on her
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