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The Ostrich
A. B. Earle
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TOPIC: Pride, False Appearance, Superficiality, Great Plumes, Small Head

TITLE: The Ostrich!

In going down into Southern California I visited an ostrich farm, containing one hundred of those long-necked, altitudinous-legged birds. Standing in their sock feet their mild, simple-looking, flat heads were poised from seven to eight feet above the ground. Some of them had not been stripped of their plumes, and were walking around perfectly satisfied if not delighted with themselves, and doubtless feeling they were greatly impressing all beholders, when the combination of those luxuriant feathery ornaments and that silly-looking little head was such as to keep a number of us continually in a broad smile.

We found it simply impossible to keep certain lines of seriousness and gravity straight on the countenance. We had seen the big plume and the little head go together so often that Brother and Sister Ostrich that morning brought in remembrances of the past like a flood.

Once, in approaching a castle in Scotland, we saw a soldier standing guard before the main gate, or portcullis. The thing that impressed us as we drew near was the tremendous shako on his helmet. It was three times the size of his head, towered high, drooped low and covered one-third of his face. I almost trembled as I got nearer to this fearful military spectacle, and was expecting to behold a fierce, iron-like front, with bronzed cheek and grizzled moustache, when, glancing timidly upward, I encountered one of the mildest, emptiest-looking countenances I had seen in many a day. The fierce appearing soldier was a smooth-faced boy of about eighteen!

Who of us have not felt an awe stealing over the soul as we beheld the uniformed officer of the militia company, or regalia attired, grand mogul of some fraternity, both crowned with a feather duster, walking backward and giving fierce commands to the tramping battalion or procession, suddenly turn and reveal a meek, adolescent-faced baker or prescription clerk of the town, who never was in a battle, and, what was more, had no idea or intention of ever being in one.

Then, upon the street, in the shopping time of the day, we again see the ornamented skull apparition; and that unbroken combination, the big plume and the little cranium is still beheld. Nor is that all; a strange law seems to be at work pushing some fact or principle farther along, so that the smaller the head the bigger always is the plume!

When a boy we saw a third lieutenant bedecked with gold lace, brass buttons, and a plumed hat, whom we thought to be a general. A few minutes afterward we had our attention called to a person dressed in a plain gray suit, who brought an armful of wood from the porch of the hotel and threw it upon the fire in the office, and was told that this man commanded twenty thousand cavalry, and his name was N. B. Forrest.

The marshals of France used to fairly glitter with their decorations and orders, and looked about like the feathery top of a palm tree; but the man greater than them all put together, stood in their midst wearing a gray overcoat and a three-cornered hat that had not a single mark of ornament or description about it.

We have a little girl at home who in preparing her Sunday school lesson, was asked how God made the world? She dropped her eyes in reflection a moment, and then raising them with a bright expression, replied: "Nobody knows".

There was a burst of laughter in the room over the answer for reasons that need not be given.

After visiting the ostrich farm we do not think that anybody with a pair of thoughtful eyes need to puzzle over the question, Why did God make ostriches? The answer might not have in it the unconscious wit of Josephine, but it would possess the merit of being more definite. Indeed, several replies could be given. One is that the ostrich is made to give a full length view of a being whose wealth is on the outside and not the inside.

A second answer is that it is a picture of a person making up in dress what they lack in brains.

A third definition is that it is an object lesson of a little head tolerated because of a richly-clothed body.

A fourth explanation is that the beautiful, bushy, waving plumes and the diminutive cranium were put together that men might see and understand what is meant by the words, the power of contrast. — A. B. Earle, From: Incidents Used… In His Meetings, published in 1888.

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