The first stop on a two-month long Weird Sports extravaganza took me to the home of the Cartwrights and Bonanza: Virginia City, Nevada.
For the 52nd consecutive year, this Wild West town raced camels at 12 o’clock. Yep, you read it right: camel racing at high noon.
They also threw in ostriches, zebras and chickens into the mix for good measure. YEEEEE HAW!
Many tourist towns are pretty cheesy. This one, I have to say, is pretty cool. From miners to saloon girls, Virginia City embraces its real and fictional past.
That said, I was a bit bummed not to see Hoss and Hop Sing in the parade.
One thing I didn’t know is that these animals, which live on a farm in Kansas, are part of a regular circuit. Yep, they’re pros.
Now I would have definitely driven down to photograph just the camels.
But when I saw a video of the ostriches in action, it quickly became a Gots-To-Go-Scenario™.
According to the event’s web site, the camel races began as a hoax. Camels were introduced to the American frontier as pack animals, and were brought to the Comstock in the 19th century to carry salt and general supplies.
As Virginia City grew and the V&T Railroad took over the drayage chores for the area, the sometimes disagreeable and smelly animals were turned loose in the hills and eventually disappeared.
Fictitious accounts of camel racing back in those days led to the real deal happening today.
Since I used up most of my best material in the first volume of Weird Sports, I’m really motivated to devour as many new sports as quickly as I can. Camel/Ostrich/Zebra/Chicken Racing was a wonderful way to kickstart my Indian Summer adventure.