Though I have never lived in the Middle East or even in a real desert, I have had a number of exciting adventures involving camels. If you promise to be very good and eat all your vegetables, I will tell you of them...

Several years ago, I went with my family to the zoo in Garden City, Kansas. It's a very nice zoo in a very nice town, and it was a lot of fun to stroll around and look at the animals. Anyway, we were standing at the big camel pen, and I was talking to a young camel who had come up to the fence to look at us. My dad was taking some photos of the camel and me grinning at each other, when the camel's pappy decided he wanted to see what all the fuss was about. He came trotting up to the fence, and we eyed him nervously -- he was bigger, shaggier, and a bit scarier-looking than the youngster. Then, when he got to the fence, he opened his mouth, rolled his nasty-looking tongue at us, and made a big camel noise at us.


The whole family ran like craven cowards.

Anyway, a few years later, I was working for a small-town Texas newspaper as a reporter and photographer when a circus came to town, and I got assigned to go get some pictures of the carnies setting up the big top. It wasn't much of a circus -- many of their animals were horses, sheep, and cattle. They had some lions, tigers, and elephants, but they were firmly locked away.

Luckily, they had a couple of camels in a pen out in the open, so I decided they'd make great photographic subjects. I had to climb up on the sides of their pen to get a good shot, but I'd done this same trick before at rodeos and had no trouble taking pictures while midway up a fence.

Anyway, I climbed up the fence, got a good focus on one of the camels, and suddenly felt something touching my arm. I looked down to find the other camel nuzzling my hand. Expecting him to try to bite me, I moved farther away from him. He followed, this time nuzzling up to my camera. Realizing that he thought my camera might be edible, I leaned back, got the camel to lean toward me, and snapped a gorgeous photo that went on the front page that afternoon.

So there's my tale of two camels. Now run up to bed before your mama catches you up!

While serving in the US Army I was fortunate enough to spend some time in that blessed belly of the Mid-east, Saudi Arabia. It was a mostly uneventful tour of duty, surprisingly similar in climate and landscaping to my current residence in Las Vegas, NV. One of the duties performed while residing in this infuriating country was providing for the security of several strategically placed patriot missile bases.

One base in particular was very close to the local camel graveyard. It wasn’t fancy or delineated in any way you could recognize. Over one of the rare rises in topography and in the subsequent valley, people just killed and dumped animals. As you may imagine, the smell was quite fierce. Not all of them were camels; there were some goats too. Not every one of the animals was left terribly close to the others either. There didn’t appear to be a whole lot of organization involved.

While patrolling the outside perimeter one day, I had an accident. I wasn’t paying close attention to were I was walking. The smell from the valley was particularly foul this day and I was examining the fence and scouting the horizon, trying to make the task end a little quicker. Such haste and inattention were a mistake. While cresting one of the rare, low hills, I stepped in the carcass of a dead camel.

All of the sudden I was ankle deep in maggot ridden, rotting flesh. As my feet breached the animal’s chest cavity the gases associated with decomposition escaped and I began to dry heave. My desert issue boots were made of soft breathable suede. They were also very absorbent. They quickly absorbed a great deal of dead camel juice and even more dead camel funk. It was not my most proud moment, and certainly isn’t something you will ever see in a recruitment poster. My boots had to be thrown away.

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