In 1990, my father bought four ostriches — two breeding pairs. We lived on an old dairy farm, and dad and I had retrofitted the barns and pastures, which were perfectly adequate for habitation by placid bovines, to make them suitable for giant, speedy African avians. Ostrich farming was something of a fad in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, and many enterprising farmers had made a small fortune from hide and meat sales. My dad, being the kind of person who suspects the path to success is cleverly hidden, studied ostrich husbandry with zeal, and eventually arranged to have some delivered to our Minnesota farmstead.
The four ostriches who lived within view of my second story bedroom window represented a welcome maturation of Dad’s financial risk-taking. His previous “investment” misadventure had been as a Greeting Cards Entrepreneur, and boxes of them still occupied a large portion of our homeschool learning space. In theory, my father was supposed to work out deals with gas stations, truck stops, and gift stores for the display and sales of these off-brand greetings, but they never sold very well, because they were awful. These cards were printed on high-gloss stock, and were written with all the humor and sensitivity of an excessively sober art school dropout who might list Jim Belushi as a muse. Every color was too vivid, and every hackneyed sentiment was expressed without a shred of subtlety.