The Real Reason Johnny Cash Once Fought An Ostrich

If "Folsom Prison Blues" is to believed, then Johnny Cash "shot a man in Reno just to watch him die." So one might rightly assume the Man in Black fought an ostrich just to watch it cry. Or maybe he used his gun from Reno to pistol-whip that big bird just to watch it fry in a pan because ostrich sausage is delicious. But despite how airtight both of those explanations sound, they are totally fake reasons, which might mean the Reno murder didn't happen either.

It turns out that the ostrich picked a fight with Cash. According to Far Out magazine, the dust-up went down in 1981 at the "House of Cash" in Tennessee. The House was not only home to Johnny Cash but to an exotic animal park that housed ostriches. Cash recounts in his autobiography that amid a "particularly bitter winter" the ostrich population dwindled by half. Among the casualties was an uncooperative female that froze to death after refusing to be cooped up in the barn. That may have made the female's mate irate with Cash, setting up their showdown. Unfortunately for the singer, unlike his altercation in Reno, Cash found himself severely outgunned.

Cash fell into a freezing ring of feathers

Johnny Cash didn't bring a gun to his ostrich fight. He recalls in his autobiography, via Far Out magazine, that after the ostrich hissed at him one too many times, Cash picked up a "stout six-foot stick" in order to show the angry bird "I was the boss." He did his best Babe Ruth impression, only to find out that the ostrich called the shots. After Cash swung for the fences and missed, the bird swatted him into the air with its big toe. But the ostrich didn't swat him just to watch him fly.

This could have easily been a death blow. As Britannica describes, ostrich kicks can kill a lion. But according to Cash, "All he did was break my two lower ribs and rip my stomach open down to my belt, If the belt hadn't been good and strong, with a solid belt buckle, he'd have spilled my guts exactly the way he meant to." Then it fractured three more of Cash's ribs. Luckily, the partially dissected singer still had the guts and wherewithal to keep swinging and struck the bird on the leg. The ostrich ran away, but not before turning the Man in Black black and blue.