I know I promised you some stories about my experiences with “terror birds.” I’m a little too young, I’m afraid, to have actually seen one, but many tales have come down from my ancestors.
This is the story that used to scare and inspire us the most.
One night, about 3 million years before I was born, a group of what you would call hominins were sitting around the fire, concerned that they had little food. No rain had fallen and the berries and leaves were few.
They heard a terrible crunching sound. It was getting louder. They scampered up the tallest tree and saw the terror bird. It was seven feet tall, weighed 300 points and had a 2-foot pointed beak.
It was moving quickly on its two three-toed legs. These predators could eat an animal twice the size of our ancestors. Our ancestors were as still as they could be.
The terror bird thundered over to the tree. It was steps away from being able to open its hollow beak to pierce one of my ancestors and scoop him up into his mouth.
One of the females in the group, a new mother with a cub clinging to her fur, noticed that a dead log was lying within reach.
The timing had to be just right. She grunted softly to let the others know what she was about to do. She gave the cub to its father and picked up the log with both hands.
Just as the monster’s hollow beak was opened the widest, she rammed the log in as far as she could.
As the terror bird squawked and tried to get the log loose, she took the baby back and with the others leaped from tree to tree to escape. As they swung higher and higher and moved to safety, the universe recognized the courage and cooperation of the mother and her clan.
The sky rumbled and the rain began to fall. It fell for a moon. Once again there were leaves and berries and the clan survived.
My ancestor who spotted the log became known as Mother Who Saves. After she died people continued to make offerings to her.
You probably know there are many theories about how the first terror birds got from South America to our part of Africa. More about that later!