This is a variation on my Uncle James’ story about a little bird, which I have rarely retold because I’m not very good at these things. Recently I discovered that these kinds of stories are called ‘Shaggy Dog Stories‘. I was reminded of my Uncle’s story that always makes me giggle, and I’ve found a good version of it here, I have changed the names to protect the innocent*
Please do not expect to giggle, just groan
One day, in the midst of the Peruvian jungle, an intrepid explorer called Mac found, on a log, a very small, squishy, red bird with lots more legs than you would normally expect for a bird. Now, Mac had never seen anything like this animal before, and so, taking care in case it was poisonous, he carefully put the bird into a small matchbox that he had.
He was so excited about his find that he decided to return to Ireland immediately. So he started the long trek back through the jungle to the river, as the first step towards going home.
After a couple of days of struggling through the jungle, Mac noticed that his little red squishy bird with lots of legs had got larger. In fact, it seemed to be about twice as large as it had been when he caught it, but he decided that it probably wouldn’t get any larger.
After hacking his way through more of the jungle on his way back to the river, Mac noticed that the little red squishy bird with lots of legs was now much larger and featherier than it had been before, and was now almost completely filling the matchbox that he’d put it in, so he carefully took the little red feathery bird with lots of legs out of the matchbox, and put it into an empty tobacco tin that he’d just finished, and carried on working his way towards the river.
On the day that he reached the river, Mac found that the little red feathery bird with lots of legs was larger again, and would need a larger container soon, if it kept on growing. Luckily, he had a small carton which had contained food, and so he carefully took the little red feathery bird with lots of legs out of the tobacco tin, and put it into the food carton. Mac then built himself a raft, and started sculling down-river, back to civilisation.
The little red feathery bird with lots of legs kept growing, and after a few days on the river, it was getting too big to keep in the food carton, so Mac had to empty out his last remaining cardboard box of supplies, and put the little red feathery bird with lots of legs into the cardboard box, and he kept on sculling down the river.
Eventually, of course, Mac reached civilisation. By this time, the red feathery bird with lots of legs had grown until it was almost filling the cardboard box that he’d put it in on the river. Not wanting to waste any time, he immediately booked passage back to Ireland, with the red feathery bird with lots of legs, so that he could have it examined by the experts back in Ireland.
So that the ship’s captain would accept it, Mac had to put the red feathery bird with lots of legs into some sort of cage or box. He decided that the best thing to put it into would be an old tea-chest, of which the shipping company had many for packing small quantities of goods, so Mac took the red feathery bird with lots of legs out of its cardboard box and put it into the tea chest.
Now, sea voyages aren’t very quick, and so the journey took a couple of weeks. During this time, the red feathery bird with lots of legs kept growing, nearly forcing its way out of the tea-chest. After consulting with the captain, Mac decided to empty one of the larger packing crates and to put the red feathery bird with lots of legs into that instead of the tea-chest.
By the time they got to Ireland, the red squishy thing with lots of legs had grown bigger again, and was nearly too big to fit into the packing crate. With a sigh of relief, the captain saw it being lifted off his ship, and onto the quayside, where Mac met with a group of experts from Dublin Zoo and from the Natural History Museum from London.
The experts all looked at the big red feathery bird with lots of legs, and ummed and erred over it, and eventually concluded that none of them had seen anything like it before, but they all took pictures of the big red feathery bird with legs, and wrote out descriptions, and went away to see if they could find anyone who knew about it.
Mac didn’t know what to do with the big red feathery bird with lots of legs, so he hired a storage unit at the dockside, and moved it out of the packing crate into the storage unit, because by now it was getting a bit too big for the packing crate.
After a few days, Mac received a phone call:
`Hello, Mac, this is Professor Emetriusolous of the Natural History Museum in London. We’ve been looking over our records, and we think we know what your big red feathery bird with lots of legs is.’
`Yes, and what is it?
`Well, we’ve only got records of one other creature like this being found, and that one was blue, not red, but we think it’s the same species. It’s called a rary, and as far as we can tell, it’s never going to stop growing. The only thing you can do now is to kill it.’
`Kill it? How? We can’t starve it to death — I haven’t fed it since I found it. It just keeps on growing!’
`Well, rary’s are very tough creatures. The only way you can kill a rary is to tip it off the top of a very high cliff.’
`Off a very high cliff?’
`Well, thank you, Professor.’
So, Mac chartered a cargo ship to take the rary to the cliffs of Moher (The bird was far to big to be carried by road by this time). Before they set off, they moved the rary into the largest shipping container they could find for the voyage.
Despite this attempt to keep it contained, the rary grew too large for the shipping container, and by the time they passed Cork, the container was bulging, and even before they saw the entrance to the Shannon, the rary had burst out of the container, and was sitting on the foredeck of the ship.
The rary kept growing, and after rounding the southern tip of Kilkee, the rary was large enough to cause problems on deck. By the time they reached Galway, the rary had taken up all of the available space on the deck of the ship. However, they had radioed ahead, and had people ready at the dockside to push the rary off the ship onto the land.
Mac hired many Mercedes trucks to drag the rary across the countryside to the foothills of the cliffs of Moher. He then hired hundreds of local farmers to drag the rary to the top of the cliffs.
Just as they were about to tip the bird off the top of the cliffs, Mac saw that it was shaking all over. Being intrigued as to why, he walked around to the front of the rary, and said, `What are you shaking like that for?’
The rary replied, `I’m scared!’
`Why are you scared?’
`Well, it’s a long way to tip a rary.’
* Uncle James does not deserve his name changed, he was far from innocent!