Did you see that?! Camel found sitting in the roadway near Sparta, Mo.
SPARTA, Mo. (KY3) - For sixty years a well-known trucking company based out of Springfield was known all over the Midwest for its signage on the side of its trailers.
Campbell 66 was founded by Franklin George Campbell in 1926 and the company’s mascot was a camel named “Snortin’ Norton”, whose visage was featured on the side of the trailer along with the slogan “Humpin’ to Please.”
That company has been gone from the roads since 1986 but over the weekend drivers along Highway 14 near Sparta, Mo. got to see a real-life camel on the road even though it had nothing to do with the iconic trucking company.
On Saturday Derek Kern and his family were driving on Highway 14 when they spotted something in the road right as they came to the Sparta city limit sign on the town’s east side.
“I started seeing a bunch of cars slowing down,” Kern recalled. “At first I thought it was a horse in the road that I assumed got hit because it was laying down and I went, ‘Oh no, this isn’t going to be good.’ But then when I saw it I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. that’s a camel!’”
Sure enough it was.
His wife’s first reaction?
“I think she said, ‘It’s not even Wednesday,’” Kern remembered.
Meanwhile Derek jumped out of the car to see if he could help even though the camel had avoided being hit by traffic and didn’t appear to be seriously injured.
“I’ve helped getting cows or horses that have gotten out and countless dogs that are running down the side of the road, but never a camel,” Kern said. “I petted his neck and told him everything was going to be O.K. and at one point a diesel truck came by and revved up his engine as he passed us. At that point it kind of scared the camel and he ended up biting the other guy on the head. It didn’t hurt him but he got bit. My wife said the camel bit me on the head too but I was too busy to notice it.”
Law enforcement officials soon arrived but so did the owners who turned out to be the Liar’s Lake Exotics animal ranch from just a few miles down the road. They were bringing the camel back from a trip to the vet when he jumped out of the back of the trailer.
“He’s real sweet,” said Cyndi Darling, the owner of Liar’s Lake Exotics. “He was a bottle-raised camel and we call him Wilbur Wednesday because of hump day. The back gate to the trailer was closed and chained but there’s a door there that apparently someone had taken the chain off of and Bill (the driver) didn’t notice it. If you’d have heard Bill when a guy stopped him and said, ‘You lost your camel’ you would have laughed too because Bill said, ‘Camel?’ because he didn’t realize he’d dropped it.”
Cyndi said the incident was reported to the USDA, who oversees exotic animal operations, but on Monday a visit to the ranch found Wilbur standing near a feeding trough looking quite contented. Cyndi pointed out that Wilbur did suffer a few bruises but overall the situation turned out about as well as it could under the circumstances.
“He’s got a little bit of road rash and he’s bruised his foot a little bit,” she said. “But it could have been so much worse. He could have jumped onto a car behind him or hit a windshield. It could have been tragic. The vet gave him a type of drug that he’s eating with cookies. And he loves cookies. Last night after getting his pills he kind of stood at the side of the pen and leaned against the wire like he was drunk.”
Cyndi expressed surprise that the incident has taken on a life of its own on the internet, remembering that there was only one other time that one of her animals had drawn that kind of attention.
“I took a white wallaby (a kangaroo-like animal) to a sale once and I was in an SUV and it stood up in its carrier and looked out the window,” she recalled. “It looked like a huge mouse staring at people and there were cars swerving all over the freeway.”
And just as people are still telling the story about how they once saw a giant white rat peaking out of a woman’s car, so too will many people be telling the story about seeing a camel on the side of the road for years to come.
And Wilbur will have a story to tell as well.
“Well, he did get out of the trailer but he didn’t know where he was or where to go,” Cyndi pointed out. “So he learned that the grass is not always greener on the other side.”
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