Standing broad jumps

One of the oddest occasions I found “just in time” strength was with an amorous camel. Not just any camel, but the one living on my farm.

Camel marks on car

Artistic design on the side of my car, thanks to Dundas, a Bactrian bull. I can't imagine ever parting with his art work.

I may have the only car in Canada with camel tooth marks on the door. They were made by Dundas, a Canadian-born, Bactrian (that’s a two-humper) bull. He made the marks while licking salt off my vehicle. He also destroyed my windshield wipers doing the same thing.

In the photograph below Dundas is standing next to the car he has just scratched. He has floppy humps and a winter coat. Camels grow thick hair every winter and shed it in the spring. Like any shedding animal, their skin gets itchy.

I felt sorry for the big beast. His companion, a dromedary named Jasper, had died of a massive abscess behind his eye. Our cattle, sheep, mules, and dogs generally gave the camels a wide berth. So Dundas took to hanging out near the house, trying to stay close to the only animals he could relate to, his humans.

Bactrian camel

Dundas in his winter coat, standing between my car and the house, hoping for a scratch

By spring, when he was scratching his huge hide against fences and trees, he was well into his long rut. That’s the time of year when camels deserve their reputation as smelly beasts. They use their tails to flick urine over their backs. Their mouths are covered with froth. They stretch back their heads to rub sweat glands that add even more aroma. Drives the female camels wild. [If your curiosity gets the best of you, check out the video link at the bottom of this post.]

We’d been cautioned a camel in rut is a dangerous beast. Dundie was so mellow I ignored the warnings. Every afternoon I took a stiff wire brush and carefully brushed his shaggy coat. I had to be gentle so as not to tug on the guard hairs. The big bull loved it and would cush (settle down with his legs tucked under) with a contented sigh.

One day I was pondering my future (which did not include life on a farm) and lost track of the time. Dundas was in camel heaven. A half hour passed, forty-five minutes. When I realized a full hour had gone by, I gave him a pat and headed for the pasture gate.

Dundas leapt to his feet and came after me. He began circling me, making a kind of whining groan. Being circled by a bull in rut, even one as gentle as Dundas, is terrifying. With ten feet between me and the fence and an amorous camel determined to keep me close by, I knew I was in trouble.

I was also alone.

By now you’ll have figured out the double entendre of the title. Who knew a 55-year-old woman could do a standing broad jump?

With Dundas about to circle back between me and the fence, I leaped. I cleared the fence without even touching the top wire.

I found my strength, just in time.

N.B. For those of you wondering what the heck we were doing with camels anyway, here’s the short version: For a couple of seasons (1862 and 1863) during British Columbia’s Cariboo Gold Rush, camels carried freight.

Since horses are flight animals and even mules avoid camels, some pack trains ended up at the bottom of cliffs. This was not popular with stage drivers or miners.

Although camels could carry twice the load of mules, their feet were better suited to desert sand than rocky, muddy trails. After two seasons the camel freighters lost out to practicality and a new wagon road.

At the time we acquired camels, I was married to an historian with a penchant for drama. He was born a hundred years too late and missed an historical era that would have suited his taste for adventure.

He wanted to know more about the camel experiment than he could find in archives. He also wanted a way to attract visitors to historic Barkerville. There’s more to the story, but that’s a start.

Here’s an even shorter version of my perspective on the camel adventure.

And here is the video of a bull camel flicking urine on his back.

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4 comments for “Standing broad jumps

  1. Deepthi
    May 19, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    Easily – one of my most treasured stories, not only because it is hilarious (my mind has vivid pictures, especially of you doing the high jump though I appreciate it may not have been funny at the time) but also because of the incredible road trip with you through IH territory, when you shared this story with me. Now I can visit it time and again when I feel like a uniquely Cathryn story. Thanks!

  2. May 19, 2010 at 4:51 pm

    That trip is a shining memory for me. What a good traveling companion you are.

  3. November 28, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Isn’t it amazing how the most terrifying at-the-time event can become an entertaining and amusing story? This one could have easily turned out another way.

    Glad you lived to tell the tale! Those were some running shoes you had! 🙂

    P.S. I enjoyed your YouTube search video! 🙂

  4. December 8, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    Thanks, Marianne! I think those shoes sprouted wings.

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