Stories galore at International Camel Races

I often say that the only reason I’ve stayed at the Nevada Appeal so long is so I can compete in the camel races every year. It’s a trick I learned from my dad. Repeat the same joke over and over. And when you do it, you have to lean into the person then laugh really loud before that person has a chance to react.After years of experiencing it first hand, I know how annoying it is, so I don’t know why I do it. Except maybe that I’m just a product of how I was raised. But I have to be really careful when I go down that road. The last time I wrote a column about the camel races, it made my mom cry. She thought the story of how the ranch hands baby-sat my three sisters and me in exchange for beer made her look like a bad mother.It didn’t matter that I said those early experiences made me seek out the extraordinary in life instead of the mundane. She was just mad.So I have to make sure not to make that mistake again. Having made that clear, it is hard to explain my love affair with the camel races without delving somewhat into my personal history. I was raised on ranches in rural Elko County. I wasn’t good at ranching. From a young age, I knew this. I broke a lot of equipment and never could quite convince the horse I was riding that I was the boss. I knew I would someday leave that way of life. So as I irrigated alfalfa fields or branded calves, I was all the while weaving those experiences into memories that would shape the stories of my life.My reverie was usually interrupted as water exploded from someplace it shouldn’t have or when black smoke chugged from a pickup truck right before it clunked to a stop.It was always punctuated with my father’s refrain. “What the hell’s the matter with you?” he’d ask. I never knew how to answer that question. I still don’t.So it was with this same enthusiasm for a good story that I entered my first Media Grudge Match of the International Camel Races in Virginia City. And a good story it was. No other media showed up, so it was fellow Nevada Appeal reporter Amanda Hammon and I racing against the working ladies of the Lyon County brothels. Within the first few moments of watching one of the women — who was also a porn star — strike her sexiest pose next to a grunting, smelly beast of burden, I was hooked.But while camel racing still makes for a good story, nine years later that’s no longer my motivation. I continue to race camels because I like it. I like the banjo music wafting through the arena, I like stock provider Joe Hedrick’s commentary and I just like riding those camels. So maybe it’s not a joke after all, maybe it is the real reason I stay. (Oh, and sorry, Mom.)53rd annual International Virginia City Camel RacesThe 53rd annual International Camel Races return to Virginia City today through Sunday. Jockeys from the International Order of Camel Jockeys will converge onto the arena to take their shot at winning this year’s trophy. Media Day will be today, where teams from various news agencies will compete against one another riding either a camel or ostrich.If you goWHAT: 53rd annual International Camel RacesWHEN: 1 p.m. today and Saturday; noon SundayWHERE: Camel Arena, F Street, Virginia City.TICKETS: $12 adults; $8 children, seniors and military. Available at, 888-695-0888, or at the box office day of race.


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