The camel farm
One of the joys of being a writer is the chance to meet and talk to people who are friendly, interesting, and love what they do. Three such people are Maggie Repp, her cute 3-year old daughter, Echo Bartels, and Maggie’s husband, Rowdy Bartels, who own Bartel’s Livestock Ranch in Loma, Colo. Rowdy welcomed us before returning to his tractor to finish haying. Bartel’s Livestock Ranch is their home, a 600 acre, Colorado working ranch, not an amusement animal park, so it’s not open to the general public. We felt privileged to be there.
As with any farm, there’s much work to be done and Maggie, with Echo leading the way, gave us a tour of their ranch on a cool morning a few days before our country’s birthday, the 4th of July. It was so very fitting since this young, hard-working, farm family represents what America is all about. But this is no ordinary livestock ranch because Maggie, with her program named “ALLSWELCOME”, also accepts animals for rehabilitation.
Our first stop was the Boer goat, Simon. Echo stooped down, posing for a picture with Simon. Maggie explained, “We got him when he was only a week old and injured. He’s recovering nicely and now is two years old.”
Next, we moved on to a four month old camel, “Feed Pan.” Tiny, self-assured, Echo climbed up on the metal chair as Maggie stood by, handing her the bottle of milk. Echo effortlessly fed the thirsty, baby camel while Maggie continued to pleasantly answer our many questions about camels.
“Camels usually live to be 25-30 years old. Australia has more camels than any other country. Camels grow wool in the winter to keep them warm, because, as you know, the desert isn’t always hot and can get cold. Camels don’t run in herds, like horses. They move in single file, one behind the other. Their wool gets dirty and matted. It takes me a day to wash a camel to prepare them for shows. And one of our camels, Bill, was in the film, “Independence Day,” she added.
About seven feet tall, Jorge (12 years old) and Tonto (11 years old), weigh around 1,500 pounds each. They are the two trained camels Maggie takes to festivals and parades where she charges $6 for a camel ride, or for $10 they get a ride and an 8-by-10-inch photo developed on the spot. “Each rider can pet the camel after the ride but the camels get easily distracted so we limit petting to each rider.”
Maggie transports her camels in a 24 feet long by 8 feet wide trailer that holds two camels and all the equipment needed. “My friend and assistant, Phyllis Singleton, helps me and I can’t praise her enough,” she said. “We were invited to Kingman, Ariz., for an event, ‘Lieutenant Beale Days’ and Phyllis accompanied me. It celebrates an historic time in Arizona Territorial history (1857) when the Army introduced camels into the Arizona Territory to build a road across the desert.
Maggie pointed out two other camels, J.C. on the right and Little Fella on the left. “I’ll be training Little Fella this summer. J.C. is in rehab. When we got him, the pads on his feet were worn off and bloody. He was riding in a trailer when his feet accidentally went through the flooring and they dragged across the paved road, while the twisted rope cut into his hide. He was pathetic and I wasn’t sure we were going to be able to save him. Every time I thought about giving up, he would look right into my eyes so I thought I’d have to give him one more day. Finally he healed and is in good shape now, so I’m glad we didn’t give up on him,” she smiled.
Maggie’s camels are hired for birthday parties and barbeques or for parades, fairs and festivals … She was even hired to take her camels to San Jose, Calif., for a June wedding. “It was an authentic African/Indian wedding, celebrated for two days, in each tradition. We picked up the bride before the wedding and delivered her by camel to the groom at the hall. The old African tradition was to have the groom pick up the bride himself on his camel and ride off with her. There were lots of guests, music and dancing. They paid me handsomely and we left for home with our camels as soon as our job was done the first day.”
“Camels can be such gentle animals and I guess J.C. is one of my favorites,” Maggie claimed, as she petted him. Echo joined us with her little black dog, named Dog, running alongside her. She grinned as she held onto her dark brown, miniature horse’s reins, leading him around the pasture.
Maggie Repp and her camels will be at Olathe’s Sweet Corn Festival, on August 1, Palisade Peach Festival, August 13-16 and Nevada State Fair August 26-30. Fruita Fall Festival hosts them September 25-27 and “Olde Fashioned Christmas,” December 12.
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