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Thursday, December 30, 2010


Back when dreams weren’t so littered with legalities, I had wonderful visions, often evolving into down-to-earth plans. My home was to be a rustic A-frame that spanned a mountain stream, with my toilet being only a hole in the floor. Polluting a stream? What’s that?

Or…I could live in the back of my huge pet store--the Pan Animal Mart--where I would sell animals not found in common pet shops, like gorillas and cheetahs, etc. I even drew up plans for this store on my drafting board.

This wasn’t as far-fetched as producing my own bizarre animals by interbreeding, as illustrated in my story of the Animal Breeder: I once bred a hippopotamus with a crocodile, and that with a human, and that with an elephant, and that with a bat, and that with a hamster, and that with a hog…and you know what I got? A hippocrocohumelebamstog. Then I bred a snake with a tiger, and that with a platypus, and that with a kangaroo, and that with a human, and that with an armadillo, and that with an alligator…and you know what I got? A snigerpusaroomanillogator. And I once bred a frog with a python, and that with a rat, and that with an armadillo, and that with a gopher, and that with a buffalo, and that with a cheetah, and that with an apple (that was the hard part)…and you know what I got? A frythatarmagophaleetapple. You know what the Latin-Greek word for “motorcycle” is? Well, in the days they were inventing Latin-Greek words, they didn’t have motorcycles. So the closest I could get was “speed not moving feet” and “a two wheeled vehicle.” And “veloci” means “speed,” “non” means “not,” “mobile” means “moving,” and “pede” means “feet.” And “bi” means “two,” and “kyklos” means “wheels,” and “cara” means “vehicle.” So the Latin-Greek word for “motorcycle” is velocinonmobilepedebikykloscara. You know how to say “antidisestablishmentarianism” backwards? “Msinairatnemhsilbatsesiditna.” You know what I saw the other day? I saw a hippocrocohumelebamstog, a snigerpusaroomanillogator and a frythatarmagophaleetapple all riding on a velocinonmobilepedebikykloscara, saying, “Msinairatnemhsilbatsesiditna!”

Really, I wanted a rhinoceros for my transportation, and imagined myself riding down the street on one, to the amazement of all. But of course this would be impractical; its horn might do much damage whenever the animal gazed up at the sky.

So, I settled for a camel. Dromedary camels are actually used for riding in much of the world, and yet in small-town, U.S.A., riding down the street on one would cause almost as much stir as riding a rhino. Finally, in 1965, when I was sixteen, I decided to began building a foundation beneath my castle in the sky. I wrote to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo for some information on camels. In response came the following letter, dated June 15, 1965:

“Dear Mr. Lund:

“We have your letter regarding information on camels and in reply I would suggest that the next time you are in the park that you come to the administration office and I will be most happy to furnish you with all the inquiries that you listed. And perhaps I can give you in more detail many facets that are not covered by your questions.

“I am in the office Monday through Friday, from 8:00 AM until 4:00 PM and any day other than Tuesday would be satisfactory for this interview.

“Very sincerely,

5400 Phinney Avenue N.W.
Woodland Park Zoo
Seattle, Wn. 98103”

Next time my folks took me to the Woodland Park Zoo, I found the administration office and walked in and asked the receptionist if I could see the director, showing her his letter. Soon I was welcomed into Mr. Vincenzi’s office. He looked surprised. He had thought I was an adult in our correspondence, but I was only sixteen and looked perhaps fourteen. But he was a good sport about it, and sat down to answer the questions I had written on a sheet of paper. As he responded to each, I jotted his answers in brief notes.

Q: Can camels live well in our climate? Both Arabian and Bactrian.
A: Yes.

Q: What do camels eat? How often do they eat and drink? How much?
A: They eat hay and grain, twice a day.

Q: Do they respond to affection? Are they loyal?
A: No.

Q: Would it hurt a camel’s feet to walk on gravel (such as a highway shoulder) carrying a man?
A: No.

Q: To train a camel for riding, do you have to break it like a horse?
A: No.

Q: Can you make a profit off a camel, such as shearing it like a sheep, or is its milk valuable, or what?
A: No.

Q: If you were to buy a camel in the States, as from a zoo, about how much would it cost?
A: About $5000, but they could range from $3000 to $15,000.

Q: What sort of sicknesses might one have? What would you do for it?
A: A camel might get the same sicknesses a cow might get.

Q: Approximately how much can they carry?
A: I don’t know.

Q: How long is a baby camel dependent upon its parents?
A: One year.

Q: After mating, how long would it take before the baby camel is born?
A: Thirteen to fourteen months.

Q: How does a camel rank in intelligence?
A: Not very intelligent. Bad tempered.

About the same time I had written to the zoo director, I wrote a letter to Arabia, asking all about camels. A couple months later, I was surprised when a box arrived in the mail from Arabia! Addressed from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Ministry of Information, Press Department, it was full of brochures and booklets and various info about the country, which I thought was pretty boring, until I got to the response to my letter:

“Dear Mr. Lund.

“We are in receipt of and thank you for your letter dated June 4th, 1965, and the interest expressed therein, concerning Saudi Arabia, and it’s real Dromedary Camels.

“Concerning, the map of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I am enclosing to you hereunder, copy of some documentary information, which include such a map, hoping it would be of interest to you.

“As for the price of a thorough-bred camel, it ranges between 500 and 1000 US.$. (Five Hundred and One Thousand US. Dollars.). You can easily get hold of one and have it shipped to you through any of your friends resident in this Kingdom.

“Should you however, like to do that yourself, then please contact the Saudy Arabian Embassy, in Washington or any Consulate of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in the U.States, which will grant you the necessary visas after passing through the necessary formalities.

“In the meantime, please accept our highest considerations.

“Yours faithfully,
Ghalib Abu Al Faraj. Dir-Gen.
Press & Publications”

I have yet to get a camel, although it’s not out of the realm of possibility. But I have had pet tarantulas for many years and have ridden my 1974 Swiss Army Condor motorcycle thousands of miles, and that’s nothing to sniff at.

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1 comment:

  1. That is one man that can keep his mouth and words VERY together. I tried to say a couple of those words and had to go to the doctor to get my head out of my mouth.