Thursday, November 28, 2013

My story of Wilber the Camel

Wilbur the Camel started off as a business adventure, but ended up turning into a nightmarish reality.  Its concept originally was introduced to me while I was having breakfast at Hog & Dog a restaurant located in the small farm town of Erwin, Tennessee where I reside.
I remember the morning of question as if it was only yesterday.  I was sipping on my first cup of coffee for the morning and up come David Dixon.  He works at the local bank as the Loan Officer.  David with his coffee and ham biscuit seated himself across from me.  "Good Morning David?"  I greeted while blowing across the top of my coffee cup to cool it as he was settling in his seat.  David a thin wiry fellow with horn rimmed glasses that looked to be too large for his face asks, "Hello Barry how's business?"  "Well we’ve had a good month so far, but of course it could be better.”  I replied while sitting my coffee cup back on the table.  "Barry I believe I've found something that can really make a difference with your business of and it will also be a way to put this town on the map."              
This is where I should have stood, paid my bill and left!  I watched as David sat an old battered briefcase on the table, opened it and extracted from what I could tell was a magazine.  He started thumbing through the pages while at the same time taking a bite of his ham biscuit.  I noticed that each time he chewed his glasses would rise up and down on his nose.  Finally he got to the page in the magazine that he wanted, turned the magazine around to face me, and then slid it across to my side of the table.  “Read that.”  He commanded while pointing his bony finger on the page.
The first thing I noticed at the top of the page in large letters was, "Jeckos exotic animals, Cypress City, California."  Also in brilliant color there were pictures of elephants, monkeys of all kinds, snakes, camels and other of God’s creatures which I’ve never seen or couldn’t began to give their names.  I looked up from the magazine to David; there he was with a huge grin on his face like he had just found the largest watermelon in the patch.  With him being a Bank Loan Officer, I figure he’s schooled and able to read facial expressions.  Because I’m sure mine was of astonishment and of a questioning nature.  “What do you think?”  He asks as he finished off his last bite of ham and biscuit. 
I glanced back at the magazine article and said, “It looks like a nice article to me.  The pictures are in good clarity and colors.  Some of these animals in here I’ve never heard of, but as a whole, I’d say it’s quite impressive.  Why?  Does the bank have something to do with this company?”  “No, not atall.”  David exclaimed while removing the napkin from his shirt collar and leaning back in his chair.  He went on to say with an expression of intense seriousness, "I think you should invest in one of these animals.  I’ve thought about this quite extensively, and feel that maybe one of those camels would fit the bill.  Just think, you would be the proud owner of the only camel in these here mountains.  You could ride it during our apple festival, or it could even be the high school mascot.”              
The only appropriate word that can summarize my response to what he had said would be the word speechless.  He continued, “Just think, you could have your company name on the saddle blanket.  Bet you didn’t know that camels have saddles, did you?  I’ve done quite a bit of research already about camels.  Why you won’t have to water the creature but once a month.  You could even give the little children rides.  I’ve already talked to Miss Bishop; she said she knows how to make an outfit just like the ones they wear over there in camel land.  You’ve got enough property needed to keep a camel, and there’s nothing in that old barn of yours.  If you tied that camel up in front of your business, I guarantee you would have to shoo people away like flies.”
Two months later a large tractor-trailer pulled onto my property and backed up to my cattle loading pen.  A heavy set driver and his helper climbed out of the cab of their truck and approached me.  “Are you Mister Carver?”  The driver of the truck asks.  “Yes I am, glad to meet you.”  I answered while trying to sneak a peak of what was in the back of their trailer.  “Good, I didn’t think we were ever going to find you way back in these mountains.  You’ll need to take a look at this varmint, and I’ll need you to sign this invoice.”  The driver said as his helper started untying straps, which were holding the back doors of the trailer shut.
I was going to respond to the driver, when all a sudden I heard something that sounded like a bear with its foot caught in a trap or a hog in heat.  Without saying a word the driver pushed his clipboard with the invoice into my hands and started running to the rear of the trailer shouting to his helper.  “Elmer, don’t you unhook that last strap yet…” Then I watched in amazement as the rear doors of the trailer exploded open, and the helper named Elmer flew backwards in mid air for at least 5-feet.  I arrived at my loading pen fence just as Elmer was diving and digging his way under the bottom rail to our side of the fence.  Then I caught my first glance at Wilbur the camel.  He was big, real big along with being hairy and ugly.  I’ve seen camels on TV and in books all my life, but I didn’t know they were so large and ugly. 
The driver was helping up and brushing the dirt off Elmer.  I froze in terror as Wilbur came running toward us.  Man that thing had long legs, and you should have seen those big pads on its feet.  The driver grabbed me by the arm and pulled me back from the fence line just in time for me to Miss Wilbur’s teeth.  “I don’t think that varmint cares much for riding in the back of a trailer.”  The driver expressed as he was opening a door on the side and toward the front of the cattle trailer.  He commented, “In here is your gear and other items you will need.  I have two fifty pound bags of camel chow, a bridle, and the weirdest looking saddle I’ve ever seen.  Oh Elmer, get that cassette tape out of the cab of the truck.”
After all the feed and gear were stacked in my barn and the invoice signed, the tractor-trailer left.  I looked in the pasture and Wilbur was lazily investigating my pond.  This is when I decided to listen to what was on the cassette tape.  I inserted the cassette and pressed the play button.  The first I heard was someone speaking with bird sounds and such in the background.  “We at Jeckos exotic animal’s want to first thank you for your business.  We know you are going to be proud of your new exotic animal.  Your particular animal has been groomed and trained by one of the most highly rated professionals in the business.  We at Jeckos don’t just obtain any animal that comes our way; we ourselves are very particular on the ones we choose.  Jeckos animals must be in excellent health and intelligence before they’re accepted into our program.  On this cassette you’ll find everything you will ever need to control your animal.  The commands for your specific animal are given in the language of the originating country your animal is from.”
Well neighbor, I don’t know about you, but it’s about all I can do to speak the Kings English, much less something that is spoke over in camel land.  When I listened to the commands, it sounded like some of that new Punk Rock Music being played backwards.  I tried to repeat some of the commands, but I would have to un-hinge my tongue to speak it.  I played it to my Dog Jayboo, haven’t seen him in two days now.  I played it to my Cat Miss Clare; I’m worried that she now is sterile.  I grabbed up the tape player and headed for the pasture.  I think I made a big mistake though; I was playing it to myself as I walked by the chicken coop.  Don’t know if the chickens are going to lay now or not.  When I got to the fence line closest to Wilbur, I again pressed the play button.  The commands came out like the sounds you hear at a Voo Doo dance.  Wilbur raised his head and tail, and then deposited some un-needed fertilizer where he was standing.  I made a mental note of that command that one wouldn’t do during the apple festival parade or a school game, no sir, not at all.
I played another command, and to my surprise, Wilbur squatted down on his stomach right where he was standing.  Now we were getting somewhere!  I wish you could have been there; Wilbur looked so peaceful and contented chewing his cud without a worry in the world.  I tell you this, if my chaw tasted as good, as what ever Wilbur was chewing looked to me, I would chew my chewing tobacco while I slept at night.  This went on for awhile longer.  I played a command and Wilbur instantly stood.  I played another one and he lowered his front legs and head.  I played some others but didn’t notice any change in him at all.  I was one proud camel owner as I was walking back to the house.
Now folks everything went just fine for a couple of weeks.  Old Jayboo came back, and Wilbur got to where he would follow me around like a new puppy.  There was one instant where Jayboo got to close and Wilbur kicked him so hard that Jayboo landed at least 10 feet away.  I kept playing those commands from my tape player and good old Wilbur would squat, stand and bow on command.  People started coming to see the camel, even from other counties.  It got to the point to where I couldn’t get any work done around the place.  People wanted to see the camel and wanting me to stand by Wilbur so they could take pictures.
One afternoon I was spreading hay onto the barn floor when I heard a car driving up.  I looked out the barn door and saw that it was Miss Bishop from town.  She was getting out of her car with a bundle in her hand.  She walked up to my back porch spotted me in the barn and yelled, “Barry, you come on out of there, I need to see you for a minute.”   With this said she opened my screen door and went into the house.  When I got to the house, Miss Bishop had the brightest colored garments lying all over my living room furniture.  At a closer glance I noticed that it all looked like women’s silk unmentionables.  I picked up something that had to be the reddest red I’d ever seen.  “Miss Bishop what is all of this stuff?  If this is what I think it is, you ort not be laying it out in front of me.”
Miss Bishop, a dear old lady in her late 60’s or early 70’s, heavy built, snow white hair and with a pair of bifocals which always rested on the end of her nose turned a light shade of red.  She said, “Now Barry, those are not what you think they are.  This is your camel land outfit that David asked me to make for you.”  At that she opened a bag and took out a round ball of purple cloth with a huge red stone pinned to it.  “This took a bit to make.  I had to go to the library and look at pictures in some books so I could get an idea how to make it.  It’s called a turban.”
Now friend’s it didn’t take but a split second for me to come to the realization that I wasn’t about to put on this rainbow colored attire.  But one look at Miss Bishop and my defenses were shattered.  I saw that her lower lip was quivering and the starting of tears forming in her eyes.  So I gathered up all the colored material and stepped into my bathroom.  It took a while, but I finally figured out what went where.  When I stepped out of the bathroom there was Miss Bishop smiling with pleasure.  I felt like I was ready to clime out of somebody’s magic lamp and start granting wishes. 
I had on the reddest oversized britches I’d ever seen, a green shirt with sleeves large enough that if I jumped off the top of the house, I could have took flight, and a jacket that was so blue that it watered my own eyes.  She had also given me this white 20-foot long strip of silk that was about 10 inches wide, that I was to wrap around my waist.  Then come that purple skullcap that she called a turban with that gaudy red stone that was at least as big as a half-dollar.  Miss Bishop looked me up and down, then back up to the turban.  She frowned and remarked, “Barry it’s beautiful.  But honey I forgot all about some shoes.  I saw some in the books that I was looking at in the library, but they looked like slippers with long pointed toes that curled up at the end.  I don’t know if I could make something like that.”
I remarked, “Ah Miss bishop, don’t you worry about shoes, I’ve got just the thing.”   I went into my closet and after some digging around I found my old 1960 pair of sandals which had the Good Year tire tread soles.  Miss Bishop jumped for joy.  She exclaimed, “Now Barry you look just like someone from over there in camel land.  I would like for you to come on into town with me, I want to go to the bank and show David.”   I swallowed hard and quickly stated, “Well Miss bishop, I would love to go into town, but I’ve got to finish what I was doing in the barn for the camel.  It’s all most time for the animals feeding and watering.  Maybe I can make it to town in a day or two.”
Another uneventful week passed, feeding Wilbur, entertaining people that came to see the camel and running my business.  Saturday afternoon an old friend of mine named Benney came by to hang out awhile.  We both were standing out by the barn watching Wilbur chewing his cud.  When Benney asked, “When you going to get up and ride that critter?”  This caught me off guard; I hadn’t even given it a thought.  Why I was contented in feeding Wilbur and standing for pose while people took pictures.  I looked at Benney and remarked, “You know, I haven’t even thought about riding him.  Another problem is that I’m not sure if I can figure out how to put that saddle on him.”   Benney always being the practical one, suggested, “Well, let’s drag out that gear and get to figuring it out.  You know that the purpose of you getting that critter was to ride in parades and to help with your business.  He’s not doing you any count no how just sitting around here.”
We drug out the camel gear and piled it up at the barn door entrance.  I looked over to where Wilbur was; he was lying on his stomach chewing his cud without any worry in this world.  Benney asks, “All right, we’ve got all the gear, how you gonna get that critter over here?”  “Benney you must think your dealing with an amateur or something.”  I stated while stepping back into the barn to retrieve my tape player.  ”Watch this, with this, Wilbur will do anything I want him to do.”  I pressed the play button and some gibberish command played.  Wilbur instantly stood.  “What I tell you?  He will do what ever I want with this cassette tape playing.”   I played another command, and Wilbur did the fertilizing trick again.  “Oh, sorry about that, I really need to erase that command.”  I then got a bucket with some camel chow and called Wilbur.  He slowly came over while eyeing Benney.  “Benney, I’m not sure if he likes you or not.  Stay back a little, because this guy can kick harder than any mule I’ve ever seen.”
Benney bent down and picked up the bridle.  He held it up and said, “Man look how long the straps are on this thing.  I guess this metal piece here goes in his mouth.  Do you have a command on that tape that will make him open up his mouth?  Cause I’m telling you right now, I ain't getting anywhere close to it.”  This surely did present a problem.  I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t believe there was a command that would make Wilbur open his mouth.  I took the bridle from Benney and looked at that big mouth.  Wilbur was watching every move I made.  It took a few minutes for us to figure out how the bridle was supposed to be put on.  I held the bridle in my left hand and started stroking the side of Wilbur’s jaw with my right.  To my surprise he opened his mouth as if we had been doing this all along.  I quickly slid the medal part of the bridle into his mouth and started to fasten the leather straps. 
Benney totally amazed bent over and stared into Wilbur’s mouth.  “Barry that’s got to be the nastiest mouth I’ve ever seen, and look at that ugly tongue.  Does that nasty tongue go above or under that medal bar?”  I looked at what he was talking about and figured that we had it right.  “I believe this is the way it goes.  You might ort not be talking about how ugly Wilbur is, don’t know if he knows what you’re saying or not.”  “I thought he only knew that camel land language?”  Benney remarked while retrieving the saddle blanket from the barn.  “I suspect you’re right, but he can’t help how he looks, and I’m kind-a getting a liking to the fellow.”  I said as I took the blanket from Benney and looked at those humps.  “Where you reckon this blanket goes?  Does it go in-between them humps, in front or behind?”  Benney bent over to his right, spit out a stream of tobacco juice, stared at the humps while slowly chewing.  He said, “Well, don’t rightly see how that weird saddle could fit behind those humps, and don’t see how it could fit in front, so I’d say it’s gotta go in the middle.”
The next problem was that there was no way we were going to put a saddle on this camel with him standing up like he was.  But if I had him to lie down, then how were we going to get the straps under that fat belly?  I informed Benney of my dilemma.  I should have known that he would come up with an immediate solution.  Friend’s, always try to surround your self with intellectual people.  It makes life so much easier. 
Benney asks, “You gotta latter?”  Now I’m not going into detail about what we went through trying to put that saddle on.  I don’t think I have enough writing paper to explain all of it.  It took us both at least an hour before we were able to figure which was the front and which was the rear of the saddle.  Then we had the problem of tightening the belly straps. 
I told Benney that I’d seen on cowboy movies how they would knee the horse in the belly while tightening the straps.  I told him they did that because the horse would swell up his stomach with air, and if you didn’t knee him in the stomach, that after you got on the saddle and the horse expelled air, the saddle would be lose and you would fall off.  Well all of this sounded correct to me, even Benney stated that it sounded scientific to him.  When I kneed Wilbur while tightening up the straps, it took us over an hour to re-catch him, and Benney got kicked in his upper leg in the process.
Folks I’m going to finish this about Wilbur here in a bit, because the floor nurse told me that I’ll be going back down stares to therapy soon.  After we caught Wilbur and brought him back to the front of the barn, then we were concerned about how a body is supposed to get up on a camel.  I was thinking on how to get aboard and then remarked to Benney, “I reckon there’s only two ways of going about this.  Either get on the barn roof and jump into the saddle, or get the ladder and climb on.” 
Benney hadn’t said a word or even moved in the last few minutes.  All he did was stare at that saddle and chew on his plug of tobacco.  I tell you neighbor; remember what I said about surrounding yourself with intelligent people.  Benney suggested, "Why don’t you get that tape player?  I believe there was one of those mumble jumble commands that will make this critter lie flat on the ground.  Then all you have to do is walk over and climb in.”  Now it makes a fellow proud to have a friend like Benney.  I got the tape player and pressed the play button.  Sure enough, OLE Wilbur just flopped down on his stomach while chewing his cud, without a worry in this world.  I handed the tape player to Benney and walked over to inspect the saddle.
Getting into the saddle wasn’t any trouble at all.  Wilbur didn’t act like he cared one way or the other.  He just glanced back at me without any expression and kept chewing his cud.  Benney said, “I’m going to play one of these commands and see if that critter will stand.”  He pressed the play button and up we came.  It sure did feel funny way up there.  Not anything like being on horseback.  I grabbed up the long straps to the bridal and figured I was ready.  Benney said, “You look mighty funny way up there.  I’m going to play another one of these commands and see if we can get that critter amoving.”  Now what happen after this is a little foggy to me. This pain medicine that the doctor has me on don’t help much. 
Benney played a command and sure enough Wilbur started slowly walking.  I remember how it felt mighty funny bouncing up and down as he walked.  I found out that a camel don’t ride like a horse.  It’s more like a continuous bouncing up and down.  I heard somewhere that people over there in camel land put bags of goat milk on their camel and after they ride around awhile, it's churned and ready for butter.  All was going fine until Benney played another command.  This time Wilbur sped up.  I shouted out to Benney, “Hey he’s moving on right along, don’t you reckon we need to slow him down now?”  Benney yelled back that he agreed, and that he was going to see if he could find the command that would slow us down.  I vaguely remember Benney playing another command.  Because now Wilbur was at full gallop, if that’s what you call it.
Wilbur ran the length of my land, turned around and was headed back toward the barn and Benney going flat out.  I just do remember what happen next.  Right as we got along side of the barn, Benney pressed the play button and played another command.  Wilbur stopped on a dime!  I mean he didn’t take another step, just out of no where it was as if he had hit a brick wall.  Then from what Benney’s told me, Wilbur didn’t only stop dead still while in full stride, he also lowered his front legs and head.  Benney said that I was actually flying there for a minute, and he said that he didn’t know that I knew how to turn full flips in mid air like I did.  I remember landing on my back and sliding about 10-feet before I stopped.  Then out of no where Wilbur ran up to me.  He bit me on my arm, and then spit in my face!  I do remember him spitting on me; it was like getting stung by a mess of bees.  To top it all, he stepped on me as he was running off.
The doctor says that I should be getting out of here in a couple of weeks, and that it will take awhile and a lot of therapy but my back should heal nicely.  Now as for Wilbur, Benney told me that the truck picked him up last week and he should be back at Jeckos by now.  I’ve changed banks and sold my business.  I plan to grow flowers, and don’t particularly care to have anyone around me who is intelligent.
Written by Barry Carver
Mountain Crafted | It Just Makes Good Scents!


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