New Discovery! Dead Camel Jasper

by Philip Stephenson
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Whatever Happened to the Wild Camels of the American West

Whatever Happened To The Wild Camels Of The American West
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"In 1855, under the direction of then-Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, Congress appropriated $30,000 for "the purchase and importation of camels and dromedaries to be employed for military purposes." Davis believed that camels were key to the country's expansion westward; a transcontinental railroad was still decades away from being built, and he thought the animals could be well suited to haul supplies between remote military outposts. By 1857, after a pair of successful trips to the Mediterranean and the Middle East, the U.S. Army had purchased and imported 75 camels. Within a decade, though, each and every one would be sold at auction."
"And as for the rest? Many were put to use in Nevada mining towns, the unluckiest were sold to butchers and meat markets, and some were driven to Arizona to aid with the construction of a transcontinental railroad. When that railroad opened, though, it quickly sunk any remaining prospects for camel-based freight in the southwest. Owners who didn't sell their herds to travelling entertainers or zoos reportedly turned them loose on the desert."
"Feral camels did survive in the desert, although there almost certainly weren't enough living in the wild to support a thriving population. Sightings, while uncommon, were reported throughout the region up until the early 20th century. A young Douglas MacArthur, living in New Mexico in 1885, heard about a wild camel wandering near Fort Selden. A pair of camels were spotted south of the border in 1887. Estimates of "six to ten" actual sightings up until 1890 or so."

"A crazed, wild monster roaming the Arizona desert — fit snugly within the shadow of the camel experiment.

In the 1880s, a wild menace haunted the Arizona territory. It was known as the Red Ghost, and its legend grew as it roamed the high country. It trampled a woman to death in 1883. It was rumored to stand 30 feet tall. A cowboy once tried to rope the Ghost, but it turned and charged his mount, nearly killing them both. One man chased it, then claimed it disappeared right before his eyes. Another swore it devoured a grizzly bear.
'The eyewitnesses said there was a devilish looking creature strapped on the back of some strange-looking beast,' Marshall Trimble, Arizona's official state historian, explains.

Months after the first attacks, a group of miners spotted the Ghost along the Verde River. As Trimble explained in Arizonian, his book about folk tales of the Old West, they took aim at the creature. When it fled their gunfire, something shook loose and landed on the ground. The miners approached the spot where it fell. They saw a human skull lying in the dirt, bits of skin and hair still stuck to bone.

Several years later, a rancher near Eagle Creek spotted a feral, red-haired camel grazing in his tomato patch. The man grabbed his rifle, then shot and killed the animal. The Ghost’s reign of terror was over.

News spread back to the East Coast, where the New York Sun published a colorful report about the Red Ghost's demise: 'When the rancher went out to examine the dead beast, he found strips of rawhide wound and twisted all over his back, his shoulders, and even under his tail.' Something, or someone, was once lashed onto the camel." (1)

Video Source: The Travel Channel (2)
(Sorry can't remove the advertisement. However, it only runs for a few seconds.)

Article Sources:
(1) “Whatever Happened to the Wild Camels of the American West”, Chris Heller, August 6, 2015,

(2) "Legend of the Red Ghost"


December, 2008

My wife and I traveling through Nevada on our way to California for Thanksgiving, stop at a rock shop. We’ve traveled past the shop several times before on our way to California, and like most times my wife is driving and complains, “No, I don’t want to stop and spend a few hours waiting for you to look at rocks!”  But this time, as chance would have it, I’m driving and she’s asleep. As the shop approaches, I begin to slow down and very carefully, methodically, steer towards the driveway of the shop. I creep to a stop and gingerly open my door. I don’t turn off the car or close the door completely shut in order not to wake her. It worked!

The old timer at the shop sees me and comes outside to greet me. Stooped and walking very slow, he extends his arthritic, leather hand out and gives me a surprising powerful grip. “Howdy! Look’n for rock? I got it!” he says with a chuckle sweeping his hand around the rock yard.  I say, “I’m just passing through and finally decided to stop and look to see what ya got” I introduce myself and he does the same. He looks just over my shoulder and says, “And your name is?” I don’t look back to see who he’s talking to, but close my eyes briefly and think…ahhh crap… “My name is Linda”, she says. “Well… Let me know if ya got any questions, I’ll be in the house watching Matlock”. I smile and say, “Sounds good to me!”

Turning around I see Linda is looking down at a pile of rock…maybe it’s not so bad after all. I break the silence, “He’s got a lot of neat rock here”.  “Yeah... right”, she says with a smile, and with that I know she’s fine with it. “Half hour”,Linda says, and begins to walk back to the car. Looking around I see piles of different rock haphazardly here and there. It took awhile to find anything worth picking up and looking at, but a glint of color caught my eye. It peeked through a pile of old decaying leafs. Pushing back the leafs, I see a small pile of rocks with pinks, yellows and greens in a white background along with neat intricate brecciate patterns. Never seen anything like it before. I pick up a few and in doing so, I was instantly amazed at the porcelain type quality of the rock. Needing more information about them, I showed it to the old timer. He takes it from my hand and says, “Oh yeah, that’s Lahontan Jasper. I dug many years ago. That’s the last of it”. Intrigued, I ask more questions about it and came to find out it was a very old, rockhound favorite from many years past and is no longer dug. I ask him, “Can people still dig it?” He says, ”I guess so, but it’s very hard to get to and has never been dug with machines”. Pointing to the rock in my hand he says with a smile, “ I dug that when I was a lot younger”. He goes on to say, that it’s located in a nearby mountain range and tells me how to get there.

The car horn sounds and it looks like my allotted time is up. I buy a few pounds of the Lahontan and I say my good-byes and thank the old timer for the information and the rocks. As he waves at Linda in the car he says, “Come back again sometime.” She waves back. I get back to the car and show Linda what I have bought. She likes them and says, “Pretty nice looking.” I say, “I got the general location where it’s from. We should go dig some sometime”. She says, “With an excavator?” I say, “No, it sounds like a hand dig only type of place and we’ll need to backpack it out.” She gives me a wary look, “Yeah…good luck with that one! I’ll stay home.”

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Lahontan has more landscape patterns than Dead Camel. But, like Dead Camel, it has a great variety of colorful brecciation

Lahontan is a hard porcelain jasper with colors reminiscent to that of a watercolor painting.

Rich pastel colors are common at Lahontan.

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Dead Camel and Red Falcon Rough For Sale

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