Monday, March 9, 2009

The Texas Camel Tale(s)

We're in Texas farm/oil country. Miles and miles of US Route 287 travel alongside cotton fields and cattle ranches. Oil pumps silently inhale their riches from beneath everyone's feet.

A hump in the distance catches my eye. Then another and another.


I'm seeing lots of one-humped camels grazing in a field right next to ordinary Texas.

We pull over to get pictures and find a trucker has matched our interest and he, too, has pulled over. He's braver than I and is yanking up handfuls of unmowed grass growing just outside the camel's long-necked reach. As he waves the sweet greens over head, two camels crane forward and down to retrieve, ever so gently, the offering.

None of the other hundred or so in the herd pay attention to us. So I imagine these two are pets.

And, they are friendly.

So I, too, yank out handfuls of unmowed green grass as an offering to Larry and Cleo (they're such a novelty, I HAVE to give them names). Larry loves a good rough scrub along his golden mane. Cleo bats her lashes as I scratch her neck.

As I scrub and scratch, clouds of dust, dust and more dust billow larger and larger.

The trucker shrugs. The dust comes with Texas, he says.

And the camels, he says, as as much a part of Texas as the dust is.

I like the story he tells better than the one I find later on the Internet. So I'll tell you his first.

These very camels, he says, are the descendants of the American Camel Cavalry, formed before the Civil War.

I wish that were true.

It could be, but it isn't.

There WAS a camel cavalry in Texas right before the Civil War. It's a fascinating tale. Read about it HERE. These guys, though, my sweet Larry and Cleo, and the hundred or so others in the field, have a more mercenary and recent past.

Here's the less glamorous tale:

Larry, Cleo and friends descend from an Australian line brought to America in 1989 by oilman A.B. "Bob" Hudson. His holdings grew until he became the largest camel breeder in America. Petting zoos and exotic animal brokers pay thousands for their babies.

Hudson died a year ago (Feb. 21, 2008). So the future of this herd is unknown.

But today, they are still here. Along U.S. Route 287 near Witchata Falls in Iowa Park, Texas. Where they belong to the Texas landscape.


Laura said...

So lovely, Nancy. Slicing through blackness into blackness. Felt I was right there, pedaling beside you. :-)

Tom Gardner said...

How do you like your camels, one hump or two? Great story!

Anonymous said...

Wow how funny..April 20th 09 and I just got in from a drive..Tampa to Denver, via rt 287 at one point. We passed these very camels and was wondering what the...
Now I can tell mom what they were there for. Thanks for the info