The Legend of the Camel

As told by Chad Hershberger

Apple trees once populated the land that is now Camp Mount Luther.  The acreage was an apple orchard, bordered by a large sawmill.  Loggers worked the forests surrounding the orchard, cutting down trees and transporting them to the sawmill so they could be cut into lumber boards for use in building.

The name of the operator of the successful sawmill is unknown.  As he cut down more and more trees, and sawed more and more boards, the sawdust in and around his sawmill built up.  It didn’t take too long before the sawdust impeded the man’s work.  His team of horses and donkeys could barely walk in the sawdust.  They sank in the sawdust like quicksand! The sawmill owner faced a big problem.  If his animals could not get around the lumberyard, he could not cut up the wood and sell it.  If he could not sell his lumber, he could not feed and clothe his family.

“It didn’t take too long before
the sawdust impeded the man’s work.”

He remembered his cousin, Rashid, who lived in the desert of Saudi Arabia in the Middle East and thought he might be able to help.  Rashid used the camel as his beast of burden.  Sawdust and sand are similar in consistency.  The camels walked on the sand with no problems.  Perhaps they could easily move about atop the sawdust.

The man sent Rashid word of his idea.  In short order, a pair of camels arrived at his sawmill in Union County.  He tried out his theory right away and found the camels could walk easily on the sawdust.  Using the camels, the man’s business boomed again!

Life in Pennsylvania challenged the camels at first, especially during the winter months, as they ate new food, survived in an entirely new environment, and adapted to the new climate.  Their new owner took extra special care of them until they could adjust.

In a few years the number of camels grew, but the available land for logging decreased.  People soon began using metals and other products to build things instead of using just wood.  The sawmill owner decided to sell his homestead and move west.  He and his family didn’t need the camels anymore.   They untied them from their posts, allowing them to roam free.  The camels went scurrying into the woods near what is now Camp Mount Luther.

If you visit the camp, look out for the camels.  They play an important role in the camp life.  The campers go on camel hunts to try to find them.  The maintenance staff milks the camels on summer mornings to provide milk for cereal at breakfast.  At one time, near the Administration Center, there was a Camel Crossing sign.  Because they play such an important role at Mount Luther, it is fitting that they have their own crossing.  It crosses the path that leads to all that happens at Mount Luther- whether you are a junior camper, intermediate camper, ten-day camper, senior high camper, member of the staff, or a guest.

“The camels went scurrying into the woods near what is now CAMP Mount Luther.”

Some think the legend of the camel came from the fact that the initials of Mount Luther remotely resemble the word camel.  Some say the camels weren’t seen at Mount Luther until 1983 when a counselor, Morgen Hummel, first told the story.  Whatever the case may be, these camels are our friends and help us tie Mount Luther’s past with the camp’s present and future.  It also is Mount Luther’s meta-story, capturing in a legend the whimsical, open-ended wonder toward God and the world that campers, staff, and visitors experience at Mount Luther.  Throughout camp’s history, people perceived and affirmed the presence of God, even if sometimes it seemed to their human eyes to be a little like the fugitive camel.