post Hi Jolly

February 19th, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 5:34 pm

by Ginny Shook

Frank Gorshin as Stinky Flanagan

The High Chaparral episode “Stinky Flanagan” was a rare occurrence in the four years of the show’s run – its one I didn’t really care for. I have tried to like it, for its writer’s sake. Henry Wills was an outstanding stuntman and stunt coordinator and an all-round wonderful man according to everyone who worked with him. “Stinky Flanagan” is his one and only writing credit. And the writing is good. The episode is face-paced (well, except for Frank Gorshin’s singing scene), the dialogue witty, there are some great horse stunt scenes when various cowboys are clinging to mounts spooked by the camel. But a camel? In the Arizona desert? Part of the US Calvary (unwanted though she may be)? Come on, I know the show is fiction but it just is too much of a stretch. Except that…it isn’t. I’ve recently found out that there were actually camels in the Arizona desert!

It all began with Jefferson Davis. Before he became the leader of the Confederacy during the civil war, Davis was Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce. It was his extensive research that brought the camel matter into senate committee meetings. It was thought that camels could travel faster than horses as well as go without water for longer periods. Apparently it took 120 days to get from the capitol to California on horseback, so a faster animal would be a boon.

After several years of requests for Congress to approve the funding (some things never change), a bill was passed in 1855 that would allow the purchase of camels for transportation purposes in the frontier. A year later the first bunch arrived in Texas after an arduous journey from Egypt. Their new home was a military post called Camp Verde, not far from San Antonio. When the U.S. Army sent the first survey crews to northern Arizona in 1857 to it included a herd of approximately 30 camels.

Monument to Hi Jolly and the Camel Corps

They proved to be able to carry twice as much as horses, travel the same distance in half the time and climb mountain passes that horses could not. The horses were of the opinion that the camels smelled bad and objected to be stabled near them. Mules simply panicked at their sight. But Jefferson Davis thought his camel experiment was a success. Unfortunately, when the Civil War began in 1861, neither side wanted to take care of camels and the experiment was over.

One of the camel drivers was a Syrian named Hadji Ali, brought over to teach the soldiers how to use the animals (after all, the camels couldn’t understand English). His name was unpronounceable in the US, and he was nicknamed Hi Jolly. When the camels were discharged from their military duty, Hi Jolly began a business hauling freight from Yuma, Arizona to Tucson with some of the remaining beasts of burden. The business failed eventually and Hi Jolly released the animals into the desert near Gila Bend (that’s about 125 miles from Tucson). He married a Tucson woman in 1852 and later settled in Quartzsite, Arizona. In 1935, the governor of Arizona dedicated a monument to Hi Jolly and the Camel Corps in the Quartzsite Cemetery.

For years after the camels were released, they were spotted roaming wild in the Arizona desert. The last reported sighting of a camel in Arizona varies from source to source. Some say 1942, some say 1946! One was seen in Baja, California in 1956. There is a popular legend about a camel named Red Ghost who carries a headless rider…but that’s another story for another issue.

So, Tilly, I’m sorry that I scoffed at you. You came from a proud heritage and rightly deserved to be part of The High Chaparral.


The entire episode Stinky Flanagan is available on Youtube

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.