We have just completed a very busy training week, and we are trying to work a little Sabbath rest into some light errands getting ready for our trip to Masaka, Uganda, tomorrow.

One of our students told me an interesting story this week. I found it unusual because it involves an animal, and I do like animal stories. In Uganda the animals are for utilitarian purposes – to be eaten, to guard the house, to catch rats, etc. Most Ugandans don’t seem to keep pets, and many treat the animals around them like a necessary but bothersome part of the scenery. The idea of having a relationship with an animal seems foreign here, at least as far as I have observed.

This is strange to me, an American, who has always had relationships with animals and have found them to be an important and fulfilling part of life. Since childhood I have had personal relationships with many cats, dogs, ducks, chickens, hamsters, domestic rats, gerbils, rabbits, birds of various stripes, a few snakes, lizards and horned toads, frogs, and even a number of turtles and fish. I have treasured over the years even my brief encounters with creatures in the wild – squirrels, birds, tropical fish, sea turtles, deer, otters, marmots, woodchucks, a skunk, and even a bear here and there. Because of this experience with those who share the world with us, I have a great deal of sympathy with the seemingly oppressed masses of critters here in Uganda.

It surprised me, then for this student to tell me that he was down by the lake some years back and found a small bird chick with a broken leg. He told me how he brought it back to his home, carefully splinted its leg, and fed it until it was well and could walk. Now, six years later, this wild bird is a member of the family, staying in the trees at night, but coming when called, mixing in freely with the chickens, even seeming to know it name, which is Jane, and acting a bit the part of the guard for the home, crying out loudly when a stranger approaches the house. This is an unusual occurrence in this area of the world, I think.

Jane, coming for dinner.


Now the really amazing part of this story is that this tiny bird grew up into a crested crane which happens to be the national bird of Uganda. The national football team is named after this bird – the Cranes. These birds are beautiful creatures in the wild. You can see the picture of Jane I have included here and I’m sure you’ll agree with me. They tend to be shy around humanity, and I see them flying overhead every now and then.

The closest I personally have ever come to a crested crane was after spending probably the worst night I’ve spend in Uganda. Because of a disco that broadcast its music from the top of its building into the community until 5:30 a.m. directly next door to our guesthouse, we did not get much sleep. I remember being so relieved when finally the loudspeakers went silent at 5:30, and I drifted off to get a few hours of sleep before I had to teach, only to be awakened rudely at 6:00 when they turned the loud music on again!

Alfred and I crawled to our vehicle and drove to the other end of the village to get away from the awful loud music. I remember we parked and hunkered down in our seats to try and sleep. I looked up through the windshield and there, perched on top of the edge of the building in front of us was a crested crane peering curiously down at us. I was frightfully tired, but even so, I couldn’t miss the beauty of this bird looking down at me.

Typical Crested Crane from Uganda

My student told me that Jane is somewhat famous in their region. They often get visitors to their plot who have come with the specific request to see Jane.  I’m sure no one else has a domesticated crested crane. If we get time in this busy trip, maybe we’ll try to make a stop down that way. I would sure like to meet Jane for myself!