The Red Ghost


That also was very nearly the end of the story of the camel in the American desert—but not quite. One historian of the Southwest will assure you that the last authentic sighting of a camel was reported by a crew surveying the international boundary between Arizona and Mexico in 1901. Another is convinced that an Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe crew told the truth about seeing one near Wickenburg, Arizona, in 1913. A third is intrigued by reports of a camel’s stampeding horses near Banning, California, twenty-five miles west of Palm Springs, in 1929. In 1941 there was a report from the territory east of the Salton Sea. In 1957 I met a part-time prospector, part-time guide, and all-round desert rat who, although he himself had never seen one, was sure that camels still ranged deep in the burnt hills of Sonora and Baja California. These rumors are like ghosts of the Red Ghost, faint but lingering reminders of the kind of horror members of our species alone can perpetrate and of the remarkable powers of endurance of other forms of life.