After reading an interesting camel story today, I wondered whether the author had ever known a real camel. He said camels are loaded on their knees. When a particular camel was being loaded, he said it moaned and groaned and bellowed with every pound added, as camels usually do - so far so good. Finally, he said, the leader of the caravan, whose camel it was, became sympathetic, but he had one more box to load.
The leader asked, "Mr. Camel, Mr. Camel, can I put one more box on you?"
"Go ahead, sir!" Mr. Camel replied, "I'm not going to stand up anyway!"
Well, I don't know a whole lot about camels, but I don't believe that story. I do know that camels served in the Army in Texas and Arizona just before the Civil War. Then the railroads came, and that was that.
When I was in the First Cavalry Division in Texas, I acquired a book about an English officer named Lawrence who induced a group of Arabs to cross a supposedly un-crossable desert and attack and take a Turkish city whose fixed cannons were turned to the sea. They crossed on camels - I think it took two weeks.
Now the Turks knew it couldn't be done. The Arabs knew it couldn't be done. but Colonel Lawrence caused it to be done. Years later, his book, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, was filmed as Lawrence of Arabia, starring Omar Shariff and Peter O' Toole. The Colonel had much to say in his book about body odors and sweat, lack of water and camels.
While riding horseback in Texas, I often wondered if I could duplicate that feat. By the way, I did have a strange experience out on the desert. We were on a training exercise near Donna Anna and an awful sandstorm came up - visibility was zero. Each horse took its rider - wherever! We couldn't see each other at all.
Finally the storm ended. I was unable to seen anyone around me, and thought that I was entirely alone. I did, however, see a hat, so I went to pick it up and was shocked to find a man under it, buried up to his eyebrows. He was alive. It took me about an hour to dig him up. Luckily for me, he knew the way back to camp, so I offered him a ride on my horse so we could find our buddies, to which he responded, "No, thanks, I'll ride my own horse. Let's dig him up too!"
Sure enough, the man I had found had been buried in the sand while still mounted - with his horse under him. Did you ever try to dig up a horse that was in sand up to his ears?
It was not easy. Before we were done, I wished I had never seen that man or his horse. Or the hat, either.
Empirical Pragmatics Index