We’re not zoologists or ornithologists here at Midnight Pulp, but we know two certain things about ostriches: 1. They’re kind of assholes. 2. They have no appreciation for country music.
So it’s amusing — but not terribly surprising — to learn that the legendary Johnny Cash almost met his demise in 1981 at the hands of just such a winged menace.
Citing the 2003 autobiography appropriately titled Cash: The Autobiography, Dangerous Minds reports that during a career low point, the Man In Black habitually went on nature walks in an exotic animal refuge he kept outside his Tennessee compound. Thanks to an angry ostrich, the walks took a potentially deadly turn.
It’s important to note that this particular ostrich was assuredly not in his right mind. Cash recounts that the compound’s female ostrich froze to death that previous winter, leaving her mate alone, sad, and likely dangerously undersexed.
With no alternative outlet for his rage, the once affable ostrich turned on Cash.
The singer’s first hostile ostrich encounter ended harmlessly enough — he hissed and made a threatening posture, but Cash managed to psyche the large bird out and finish his stroll unscathed. Correctly predicting the ostrich would strike again — and perhaps a little miffed about being threatened on his own property, even by an animal — Cash brought a big beatin’ stick with him on his next sojourn.
“Sure enough, there he was on the trail in front of me, doing his thing,” writes Cash.
The mythic crooner of “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ring of Fire” attempted to bludgeon the beast, but his initial strike backfired.
“I missed,” continues Cash. “He wasn’t there. He was in the air, and a split second later he was on his way down again, with that big toe of his, larger than my size-thirteen shoe, extended toward my stomach. He made contact—I’m sure there was never any question he wouldn’t—and frankly, I got off lightly. All he did was break my two lower ribs and rip my stomach open down to my belt.”
On the ground, Cash continued to swing his beatin’ stick with enough wild abandon to spook his attacker, who fled into the woods.
While lucky to survive, Cash walked away from the skirmish with five broken ribs total, including the three he broke by falling backwards against a rock.
Sadly, the agony of a gaping stomach wound and broken bones forced Cash to take prescription pain killers, which led to a full-blown two-year relapse into alcohol and amphetamine addiction.
All because of an ostrich. A filthy, rotten, bastard ostrich.
The crucial singer-songwriter passed away in 2003 at the age of 71. But he made sure we all got to hear his sublimely desolate take on Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt” before exiting to the great beyond.
Featured image by Erika Jane