In 1855, the US Army created the United States Camel Corps in hopes the foreign animals would serve the country’s expansion westward. By 1863, the project disbanded and the camels were released into the wild of the American Southwest.
Lawrence, of New England, peddled his bicycle across the empty desert road. Patches of fine red dirt swirled across the pavement, occasionally being sliced by the bike’s tires. In the east, behind him, a storm brewed. But where he rode now was as hot and dry as ever. He’d have been more thankful for the breeze if it wasn’t for the dirt pelting against his skin.
Why am I here? Lawrence thought for the thousandth time since departing on his biking tour, his supposed vacation. I don’t belong here. Biking in the desert was so different from biking in the forested hills back home. His body was performing the exact same motions, but his mind refused the peace that normally came with the peddling.
He’d too hastily accepted the new job out here in New Mexico. Months had passed without him ever really fitting in at work, or really making any friends. His new residence just wasn’t home. So he decided to do a three-day biking trip, an activity he had loved back north, but it just wasn’t the same in the desert.
Just keep pedaling, he told himself. Truthfully, he felt more like stopping and turning around. But he was already out here. Going back would be pointless. Just keep pedal- Oh, forget it.
He halted the bike and rehydrated. As he drank from his water bottle, he spotted a blur in the distance off the road. He shielded his eyes from the sun. The blur was a reddish brown and took on a horse-like shape as it drew closer, only it was larger than a horse and didn’t move like a horse.
Lawrence’s adrenaline spiked, realizing he was out here alone and defenseless. I don’t belong here. He readied the bike to speed off, but his curiosity demanded he stay. Steadily, the reddish brown beast drew closer revealing it had long spindly legs, a curved neck, and bushy mane around its collar. A hump protruded from its back.
Lawrence blinked in amazement as the camel continued its trot across the desert towards this lone isolated part of the bike route. Where did you come from? Why are you out here alone?
The camel stared back at him with glassy eyes, as if wondering the same thing about Lawrence. He and the camel maintained eye contact as its thick black hooves clacked onto the pavement, just ten feet in front of Lawrence.
How had this exotic creature come to be so far from where it belonged? Yet, the camel didn’t seem to question its location. It was here, therefore it belonged here.
The camel crossed the road and pressed onward through the desert. Lawrence watched the majestic mysterious animal hoof off into the distance until it was once again a blur on the horizon. After a moment, he resumed pedaling westward.
(Fiction and Photography by Wesley Martin)