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Victoria's Christmas camel lives here year 'round

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Dec. 28, 2010 at 6:28 a.m.

Wes Cole takes care of Lucy on his ranch in Victoria County, where he also has llamas, donkeys and farm animals. Cole said his experience with Lucy has made him appreciate taking care of camels than horses because camels are more docile.

At the end of the gravel drive leading to Wes Cole's home and cattle ranch, Lucy waits to be greeted.

Puckering her soft, brown lips in an open position, she slowly turns her long neck and lets out a bellowing grumble.

"She makes the weirdest noises," Cole said, laughing, and patting the top of her head.

Lucy is Victoria's resident camel, better known to the congregation at Northside Baptist Church as the Victoria Christmas camel.

Each year, Lucy makes her presence known at Northside's Christmas pageant, aiding the actors with their lifelike depiction of Jesus' birth in Bethlehem.

"I wouldn't say she's the star of the pageant, but she's definitely one of the stars," Cole said.

As Northside Baptist's pageant grew into one of the biggest Christmas tickets in town - complete with live animals and an extensive first century wardrobe collection - church officials considered purchasing the show's camel, rather than renting the animal for about $2,000 each season.

Lucy, a dromedary, or one-hump camel, was born in a petting zoo in San Diego, Calif. about 13 years ago. When she became available for purchase five years ago, the church was able to buy her for the bargain price of $4,500.

"It would cost the church less money to buy her and keep her here, than it would to continue renting a camel," Cole said. "She was pretty young when we got her."

For a few days out of the year, Lucy stars in the church Christmas play. And the other 11 months of the year, she grazes in a three-acre pasture on Cole's 1,300-acre Cattle Company Ranch, with a handful of llamas, donkeys, and a hound named Fern.

"She's no trouble to keep. She gets along with the other animals and she never gets sick," Cole said. "She's not a lot of work to take care of."

Upon request, Cole makes Lucy available for birthday parties or other children's events, but for her part, she mostly just hangs around the ranch eating hay and stirring up trouble when possible.

Even with Lucy's docile temperament with people, Cole admitted the animal enjoys a bit of mischief from time to time.

"She's ruined fences from leaning against them, and if I get her on the road, she'll chase my truck," Cole said, smiling. "She did about $2,500 in damage to a Suburban in about five minutes by standing on the hood of the car and tearing up the steering wheel. She doesn't like anything as big as she is."

Cole also said he once let Lucy roam on his land, but she'd make her way down to the highway, and cause an unsafe driving situation for highway drivers.

"People driving by would stop to stare at the camel, and cars would pile up on the highway," Cole snickered.

But Cole can't help but love Lucy, the camel who greets him with silly faces and odd noises every time he visits her pasture.

"I'm bonded to her like a dog," he said. "I've been around horses and cows my whole life, and I like camels a lot better. She's is fun, that's one thing about her."



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