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Lt. Beale and the Camel Corp west of Fort Defiance

July 11, 2012

   Got up at 4:30 this morning and got some work done while it's still cool. Supposed to be 109 today, 111 yesterday. Speaking of hot, I'm in the groove on camels. Finished this panorama set piece this morning before I came into work:

The lead camel and hat doffing Lt. is poached from Hawmps!, the 1976 "comedy" Western which I ordered off of Netflix. Got some decent reference, but what a weak movie. The punchline to the entire movie is a pun off of the Camel ad slogan "I'd walk a mile for a camel."

Thanks to Facebook and one of my "friends" there, Doug Baum contacted me from the Texas Camel Corp and he steered me straight on whether Lt. Beale led the camels on foot, or did he ride a mule? There are no surviving photos of the expedition (they had a camera with them, but it was touchy—this is 1857 and photography was in its infancy—nobody on the crew knew how to use it and it was bulky so they discarded the equipment at Albuquerque)  Doug sent me this drawing by a German artist in Texas who actually sketched the caravan as it came by. Check this out:

As you can not so clearly see, members of the expedition are leading camels astride a mule, or donkey.

Keep in mind I started to do due diligence on this and was merely trying to illustrate the pack train correctly, but upon this discovery, I went into Meghan Saar's office and said, "I want to do a major cover story on Lt. Beale and the Camel Corp." She smiled and said, "Have you seen the newest book on it? It's right over there on top of the books we are reviewing in the next issue."

The name of the new book is "The Last Camel Charge: The Untold Story of America's Desert Military Experiment," by Forrest Bryant Johnson. Took it home last night and found out, among other incredible things, that Beale rode a mule, walked and sometimes rode out front on a white camel. Amazing.

There's more, but I am hooked on camels in the Wild West!

"The camel represents the go-aheadness of the American character, which subdues even nature by its energy and perseverance."

—May Humphreys Stacey's Journal entry, 1857

Views: 171

Comment by Bud "Circuit Rider" Stilwell on July 12, 2012 at 7:20am

Very interesting! Will have to look into the book.  Are you going to sell it in the store?

Comment by Bud "Circuit Rider" Stilwell on July 12, 2012 at 7:22am
Comment by Sharon Tally on July 12, 2012 at 8:51am

Love both the color and the lines in your top painting. Wow!

Comment by Bob Boze Bell on July 12, 2012 at 11:12am

@Sharon, yes, I think I can safely say they are traveling through Maynard Dixon Land.

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