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.
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.
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.