Friday, February 11, 2011


THE MOST VISITED GRAVE IN ARIZONA----Hadji Ali or HI JOLLY as his American friends nicknamed him---- a Syrian camel driver brought to the west along with 75 camels in 1858 as part of an army experiment in desert transportation and freight hauling. I bring (my camera shy) companion to see Hi Jolly's tomb in Quartzsite and she wants to hear my poem about him.

As I begin to versify, a total stranger---seemingly charmed by my words--steps close to hear my oration. My companion is amused and thinks the moment is worth capturing on camera as I continue with the poem: "Hi Jolly Returns to Quartzsite".

He's unabashedly focused on the story as I unroll it---I'm flattered at his keen attention--Perhaps he's never heard anyone quote poetry before.

I'm into it now---full force---with an audience of two as I conclude the poem. He seemed genuinely mesmerized---suggested I send the poem to Arizona Highways Magazine.
I share with you my vision of Hi Jolly returning to see the 100,000 campers now clustered about his town.

Hi Jolly Returns to Quartzsite

Friends called it folly, but bold Hi Jolly
Came with camels to the West.
The Army back east was testing which beast,
The mule or camel, worked best.

Results were abstruse, the camels set loose
To wander the West left and right.
Hi Jolly stayed, worked and played,
And died in the town of Quartzsite.

But at the top of this year, with spirit and cheer,
Hi Jolly returned to his town.
Some cosmic track ushered back
This wandering desert clown.

Floating ghostly still in those Chocolate Hills,
He scanned the valley below.
A Syrian boy felt the wondrous joy
That only long-sleepers could know.

His town was alive, like a busy beehive.
Bustling activity swirled.
Thousands and thousands of small mobile houses
Filled the largest campground in the world.

Like fog on the ground, Hi Jolly floated ‘round,
Absorbing as good spirits can,
The flavor, the scenes, and what it all means,
This massing of deep desert clans.

Something grand and dear was happening here
Hi Jolly could not have expected:
The mobile domicile and a new lifestyle
In Quartzsite were being perfected.

The sprouting seed of a brand new breed,
Living simple, light and lean.
Living happy and free as wild Cherokee
In cozy little living machines;

A life that’s bold with oneself in control
And clusters of friends in affection;
Reinventing the tribe and helping revive
Our long lost natural connection.

Choosing sunlight’s glow over ice and snow,
Acceptance over sorrow,
Adventurous game over riches and fame
And today over “iffy” tomorrow.

His mission complete, Hi Jolly took seat
And vanished on the ghost camel “Rhyme,”
Speeding his report to his spirit cohorts,
Because eternity is interested in time.

He originally came to try a new game,
So it gave Hi Jolly sweet pride
And special delight that here in Quartzsite,
Something new was again being tried.


Anonymous said...

North America used to have a large native camel population, before humans arrived 13,000 years ago and hunted them to extinction. The camels that arrived in the 19th century escaped and survived in the wilds in pockets until the early 20th century, but the immediate reaction ranchers had on seeing one was to shoot it. The only good camel is a dead camel. One Texas rancher found camel scat in the 1940s but that's the last anyone's heard of the ill-fated attempt to re-wild camel in North America.

Randy said...

Thanks Anonymous for the info---Did you know that wild camels by the thousands roam the backcountry of northern Austrailia and recently invaded a hapless town in search of food and water. BBC carried the story. These camels too were imported and somehow escaped into the wild.

heyduke50 said...

...and there is only one Division one school who sports the camel as their mascot... Campbell University!

Rustedgranny said...

Poetry. Sheer poetry. Pun intended! Too bad about those camels. Would be wonderful to wake some morning and see them wandering past.