Saturday, December 4, 2010
When I'm hungry, I'll eat almost anything -- a leather bridle, a piece of rope, my master's tent or a pair of shoes. My mouth is so tough a thorny cactus doesn't bother it. I love to chow down grass and other plants that grow here on the Arabian desert. I'm a dromedary camel, the one-hump kind that lives on hot deserts in the Middle East.
My hump, all 80 pounds of it, is filled with fat -- my body fuel -- not water as some people believe. I have it because I wouldn't always be able to find food as I travel across the hot sands. When I don't find any chow, my body automatically takes fat from the hump, feeds my system, and keeps me going strong.
If I can't find any plants to munch, my body uses up my hump. When the hump gets smaller, it starts to tip to one side. But when I get to a nice oasis and begin to eat again, my hump soon builds back to normal. I've been known to drink 27 gallons of water in 10 minutes. In a matter of minutes all the water I've swallowed travels to the billions of microscopic cells that make up my flesh. Naturally, the water I swallow first goes into my stomach. There thirsty blood vessels absorb and carry it to every part of my body. Scientists have tested my stomach and found it empty 10 minutes after I've drunk 20 gallons. In an eight-hour day I can carry a 400-pound load 100 miles across a hot, dry desert and not stop once for a drink or something to eat. In fact, I've been known to go eight days without a drink, but then I look a wreck.
I lose 227 pounds, my ribs show through my skin and I look terribly skinny. But I feel great! I look thin because the billions of cells lose their water. They're no longer fat. They're flat. Normally my blood contains 94 percent water, just like yours. But when I can't find any water to drink, the heat of the sun gradually robs a little water out of my blood. Scientists have found that my blood can lose up to 40 percent of its water, and I'm still healthy. I'm designed for the desert, or the desert is designed for me. After I find a water hole, I'll drink for about 10 minutes and my skinny body starts to change almost immediately. In that short time my body fills out nicely, I don't look skinny anymore, and I gain back the 227 pounds I lost. Even though I lose a lot of water on the desert, my body conserves it, too. I have a specially designed nose that saves water. When I exhale, I don't lose much. My nose traps that warm, moist air from my lungs and absorbs it in my nasal membranes.
Tiny blood vessels in those membranes take that back into my blood. How's that for a recycling system? It works because my nose is cool. My cool nose changes that warm moisture in the air from my lungs into water. But how does my nose get cool? I breath in hot dry desert air, and it goes through my wet nasal passages. This produces a cooling effect, and my nose stays as much as 18 degrees cooler than the rest of my body.
I have specially engineered sand shoes for feet. My hooves are wide, and they get even wider when I step on them. Each foot has two long, bony toes with tough, leathery skin between my soles, which are a little like webbed feet. They won't let me sink into the soft, drifting sand. This is good, because often my master wants me to carry him 100 miles across the desert in just one day. (I troop about 10 miles per hour.)
Sometimes a big windstorm comes out of nowhere, bringing flying sand with it. I have special muscles in my nostrils that close the openings, keeping sand out of my nose but still allowing me enough air to breathe. My eyelashes arch down over my eyes like screens, keeping the sand and sun out but still letting me see clearly. If a grain of sand slips through and gets in my eye, I have an inner eyelid that automatically wipes the sand off my eyeball just like a windshield wiper. Some people think I'm conceited because I always walk around with my head held high and my nose in the air. But that's just because of the way I'm made. My eyebrows are so thick and bushy I have to hold my head high to peek out from underneath them. I'm glad I have them though. They shade my eyes from the bright sun.
Desert people depend on me for many things. Not only am I their best form of transportation, but I'm also their grocery store. Mrs. Camel gives very rich milk that people make into butter and cheese. I shed my thick fur coat once a year, and that can be woven into cloth.
For a long time we camels have been called the "ships of the desert" because of the way we sway from side to side when we trot. Some of our riders get seasick. I sway from side to side because of the way my legs work. Both legs on one side move forward at the same time, elevating that side. My "left, right left, right" motion makes my rider feel like he's in a rocking chair going sideways.
When I was 6 months old, special knee pads started to grow on my front legs. They help me lower my 1,000 pounds to the ground. If I didn't have them, my knees would soon become sore and infected, and I could never lie down. I'd die of exhaustion. By the way, I don't get thick knee pads because I fall on my knees. I fall on my knees because I already have these tough pads.
ABOUT GROWING OLDER...
~ Eventually you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.
~ The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.
~ Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me, I want people to know why I look this way. I've traveled a long way and some of the roads weren't paved.