Palabras Pintorescas: Egyptian Camel saddles needed to be banned

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By Editha Bartley

Suddenly it is summer, and it is time to move the geranium jungle out of the living room and out on the deck. Hiding in plain sight is one of my two camel saddles. With Egypt now in the news, my two camel saddles and their history came to mind.

Yes, my Aunt Elvira and I rode camels around the pyramids in Egypt during our big trip in 1953. Neither one of us knew what a camel saddle looked like, but there are the usual tourist photos of us riding these camels.

The saddle was covered in layers of padding and rugs, so of course we had no idea what we were sitting on. The ride was unspectacular, I might add. Fast forward to Christmas that year, when Aunt Elvira and I celebrated our adventures abroad in Valmora.

Of course, my father, Doc Gellenthien, couldn’t wait to give us a very special gift to remind us of our trip. We each were ceremoniously presented with a huge box. The boxes were identical, had been shipped from New York and Doc had put a big bow on each of them. Well, what do you know! We had our own camel saddle, a genuine camel saddle straight from an importer in Egypt. Neither one of us knew what it was so we had to do some research to solve this mystery gift.

About a week after Christmas we noticed an odd smell in our living room. My aunt had returned to her dormitory apartment in Wisconsin as well. She was the dean of women there.

Her apartment suddenly smelled awful. She said it actually stunk, and it did not take either of us very long to figure out why the smell was so bad.

The Wisconsin humidity made it worse, I might add. Research did finally confirm the source of the smell. The beautiful leather pad, pillow that one sits on was very genuine in this case. We discovered that the leather hide on this pillow was indeed camel leather, tanned with camel urine, no less. And it was apparently stuffed with course camel hair.

Both of us banned these saddles from our living rooms, of course. And if I remembered it, I would park mine outside the porch to “air out.”

I am happy to report that after several years of banishment, the saddle was finally a fun topic of conversation in our homes. And it is a very comfortable (and sturdy) stool.

I now have both my aunt’s stool/saddle and mine, and both are just as strong and sturdy as when we got them. No, they do not smell bad, either.

I have never wanted to ride another camel, and I do understand why the Arabs are so tough ... one has to be tough to put up with a camel (yes, they do spit, among other things) and they can be quite contrary at times.

So much for that experience, and I hate to see so much turmoil in Egypt now. That is a beautiful and very historic country now in deep trouble once again.

Editha Bartley lives in Gascon in Mora County. She may be reached at 454-0563.