When farmer Peter ‘Turtle’ Crosby picks over tools at clearing sales, his first sculpture inspired by a beer-drinking emu is never too far from his mind.

Key points:

  • Cleve farmer Peter Crosby’s first large metal sculpture was in honour of a larrikin emu that frequented his local pub
  • Mr Crosby has since made two Clydesdales horses and is working on a wedge-tailed eagle
  • He uses farm machinery and tools donated by other farmers or bought from clearance sales 

To him, the metal tools and old farm machinery could be the bones of his next creation.

The self-taught artist, from Cleve in South Australia, gives credit to cheeky emu for inspiring his fledgling career.

The pet emu called Eric, that turned out to be Erica, often frequented the front bar of the Darke Peak Hotel in the early 1990s.

“The emu came into the pub, weaved his way around all the people in there and then stuck his head in a schooner of the bloke that I was talking to,” Mr Crosby said.

“He had his back to it — he never even seen the emu come in.

“He reached around to grab it and he said, ‘Oh, who drank my beer?’

People in a pub, man and girl seated in foreground, man has arm on emu's back, emu on left faces camera

Erica the emu loved to visit the pub with her family but had a reputation for eating almost anything.(

Supplied: Peter Stone

)

“I said, ‘No, an emu came in and drank it’. And he to this day wouldn’t believe it.”

The story became legendary.

To mark the “funniest thing” he’d ever seen, Mr Crosby made a metal emu for the Darke Peak Legends weekend to stand outside the pub.

Erica become part of the community

Erica was raised from a chick by Peter ‘Stony’ Stone with a short-haired pointer, and a euro.

“She was a community favourite,” Mr Stone said.

backyard scene with two people sitting at picnic table, emu and brown dog in foreground on lawn

Erica was raised with Charka, the short-haired pointer, and a euro.(

Supplied: Peter Stone

)

“When she’d go in people would yell out, ‘Pick up your change’, because she’d pick up the change off the bar and swallow it,” Mr Stone said.

She’d try to eat almost anything.

“She’d peck people’s cigarettes out of a bloke’s hand and swallow that,” Mr Stone said.

“Sometimes she’d get out from home and wander around up to the kindergarten and just stay up there with the kids, walking around,” Mr Stone said.

Man standing in front of eagle structure make of metal pieces, wings outstretched, man holding welding iron

Peter Crosby and his latest bird, a wedge-tailed eagle at his Cleve shed.(

ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton

)

Mr Crosby’s metal sculpture of Erica is still across the road from the pub. He’s since made two Clydesdale horses and is now making a wedged-tail eagle.

People offer their scrap heaps

The farmer says he’s self-taught, although admits he’s done a lot of welding to fix broken farm machinery in his time.

“A lot of farmers have said, ‘Come up and help yourself to our scrap heap’,” he said.

“I look at tools and things different to what everyone else does at clearing sales because I’m trying to picture it as part of an animal and they all want it for tools.

“Just recently at clearing sales they’re getting dearer and dearer because people want to buy the tools and I want them for body parts for animals.”

Man standing holing reins of Clydesdale horse made of welded metal pieces, towing a plough

Peter Crosby with the first Clydesdale he made for his gateway at his block in Cleve.(

ABC Eyre Peninsula: Jodie Hamilton

)

He keeps special antique tools in a display shed but everything else is potentially an animal part.

“There’s probably a lot of really good tools welded to this eagle, Sidchrome spanners and good tin snips and that, but I don’t need them so I’ll weld them there.”

He’s on farm time with this project and isn’t sure when he’ll be finished.

And like the beer-drinking emu that first inspired him, the eagle won’t fly away because it’s expected to weigh 500 kilograms.

Posted , updated 

Local legends are made in pubs. One inspired this farmer to pick up his welder
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