Monday, July 2, 2012

Camel Trains

If you are stressed out about your Fourth of July preparations, here's a humorous perspective:

In the earliest days of the Montana mining camps, transportation was slow, and miners often waited in vain for ox-drawn freight wagons and mule trains to deliver supplies. Bad weather frequently delayed such essential items as mail, flour, and of course, whiskey. Stories abound about freighters caught in winter storms (check out the Winter issue of Montana The Magazine of Western History for an example). Such delays caused the rationing of supplies and brought on the infamous flour riots in Virginia City. Private companies tried to improve the delivery system, and some began to employ camel trains to carry goods over the Mullan Road to remote mining camps. It sounded like a great idea. Camels could carry up to one thousand pounds of flour each, they needed little food and water, and they plodded along at a slow but even pace. They were rather like today’s postal service: neither rain nor sleet nor snow seemed to stop them. But there was one problem. Bullwhackers and muleskinners detested the ungainly critters and dreaded meeting them on the trail. A mule train could smell the peculiar odor of camel from a long way off. Camel stench on the wind made horses and mules impossible to control. A mule train laden with a supply of whiskey earmarked for the Fourth of July met a camel train on a narrow road, and the mules stampeded. When it was over, whiskey soaked the ground, the Fourth of July was dry, and the camel experiment was over.

From Montana Moments: History on the Go

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