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I'll Never Forget That Day - in the Stable Yard

(The Camel Driver's Story)


People can't understand it when I say that Rahan is a beautiful camel.
They don't know how a camel can be beautiful at all - but Rahan is.
He's young, he's fast and he is intelligent but he is a bit of a handful.
He could be a racing camel some day and make my fortune if I sold him to a rich sheikh .
That's what I thought when he was born - but I won't be selling him now.
I'm going to keep him to train as a lead camel and to remind me of this journey
we've just finished and of that strange night in the stable yard.

When you are a camel driver you get used to strange requests from customers
but when those stargazers came to see me and ask to be taken - they didn't know where -
I was a bit taken aback. Oh, it would be all right, they said,
they only had to go where a moving star pointed!

If it had been anyone else who asked me, I would have thought that it was a joke
of some sort. But these were intelligent men - well thought of hereabouts.
Always studying, reading old scrolls and books - always gazing at the sky.
Scholars, I suppose you would call them.

And there they stood, perfectly serious, wanting to hire me and my men and my camels
to - follow a star! Well I had noticed the strange star and it did seem to move - perhaps
they really were serious. So we talked some more - this star would take them
straight to a new King of the Jews. I tried to explain that it is simply not possible to travel
anywhere in a straight line! There are hills to go round, rivers to cross - mountains -
deserts .........they weren't listening just insistent that we leave as soon as possible.

We struck a bargain.
Well, it would be different from the usual journey - delivering silks, spices and the like.
And it would give me a chance to take Rahan on his first trip - and try and get him round to
my way of thinking. His mother, Aisha, would lead; the stargazers would ride
in the middle and the baggage beasts bring up the rear. I would loosely tether Rahan
to his mother and give him something to carry that was not too heavy.
There were three boxes that the men said were too important to be with the other baggage.
They would be ideal.

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It takes a while to set up even a small caravan properly. We would need tents, for it would
be a case of travelling at night to follow that star - and sleeping in the daytime.
Suited me just fine - with a good lead camel night travel is by far the best.
People are always surprised at just how quietly a line of camels can pass and how quickly
they cover the ground. On a dark night, unless a harness jingles, you wouldn't know
they were there at all. In the morning villagers find our tracks and wonder
who the travellers were who passed them by in the night.

I must say that I was impressed at these customers, for none of them were young
and old bones don't take kindly to camel riding if you haven't done it for a while!
They were stiff and sore the first day but they wouldn't give up and rest and by the end
of the first week we were covering better distances. And after a few days I could see
the general direction that the star was moving and could plan ahead better, so that we could
rest near the water sources - wells, springs. A camel driver must know where they are,
for men need water more than camels.

It was a battle of wills with Rahan for most of the way. He did not like carrying a load,
nor like being tethered to his mother. He did not like having to keep up
and not stopping as and when he wished. But most of all, he did not like having to kneel
at the end of the day to have his load unstrapped - and all camels must learn to kneel
very quickly. So we had to put up with his grumbling muttering noise -
for most of the journey.

The men took to calling the stargazers, the Magi - it seemed a good way of describing them.
Well, the Magi soon learnt that what I had said about not going in a straight line was true.
They were worried at first that we were not always going in the right direction -
but after checking their charts and the star's position a few times, they realised that we were
gradually heading in the right direction. Many times I let Aisha lead and find the best route
round a bad patch of soft sand or any other hazard we met. When she stopped,
we all stopped until we found out exactly what was the problem this time.

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Now, if you were looking for a King of the Jews wouldn't you think that the place
to go would be the palace? Of course you would - and that is where we went.
No new King there though - just an old one who asked question after question of the Magi-
trying to find out just where this King would be - and I don't think he wanted to find this
King for any good purpose either! He had his own wise men look into it and they seemed
to think it would be in the town of Bethlehem.

That was when the Magi said we must leave again - and that old king kept going on and on
about how we had to go back afterwards and tell him exactly where this King
was to be found. "Not if I have anything to do with it!" I thought......

It was a strange thing - but the star didn't seem to have moved
while we were in that palace - it waited for us, so to speak.

It wasn't far to Bethlehem - not after the journey we had made.
And that star stopped and shone - right down on an old stable behind an inn.
It was late when we arrived - even Rahan was silent for once - and we swept into that yard
and gave a poor girl at the gate a real fright.
She was gazing down the street in the other direction.
There were some men shouting down there and angry voices too.

A light was streaming out from that stable- a real welcoming glow - asking us to come in.
You could have knocked me down with a feather at what happened next...
Rahan, yes Rahan, walked right past his mother to the full extent of his tether
and knelt down quite of his own accord! He was the first camel on his knees,
which was just as well for the Magi wanted the three boxes straight away
and there was no problem unloading them that night!

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I watched as the men went into the stable - there was no need to hold any of the camels
as they were all so quiet. It looked like there was a family in there - and a Baby
in an old feeding trough. The Magi knelt and opened their boxes.
I caught a glimpse of what was inside. There was gold in one, and, by the smell,
it was frankincense in the second and, was it myrrh in the third?
Strange presents for a King and stranger still for a Baby!

It seemed a long way to have come to see a Baby - and we only stayed a few moments.
Then those wise men came out of the stable and said we must leave quickly
- for the old king must not find out where this Baby was -
and we must go home by another route - did I know any??
That is not a problem to a camel driver! We still know all the old caravan routes that are not
used so much now. People these days seem to prefer to travel by the new fangled roads
those Romans are building everywhere.

We moved fast that night - and for the next few nights - putting distance between us
and that king. We never saw a sign of his men - and they certainly never saw us!
Then we could slow up and take a more leisurely pace
and I could ask about those boxes that Rahan had carried all the way there.

It's a strange thing, but there has never been any problem in getting Rahan to kneel
after that. He was a beautiful animal before but since that night in the stable yard
he has become special. I think he will lead the caravan when Aisha retires.
Rahan is willing to learn now.

And I don't think that making my fortune is quite so important .

We both changed that night.


Copyright (c) Elizabeth Tolson 1999

This story is dedicated to the owners of the "real" Rahan - our granddaughters Sheenagh and Katherine.
Rahan is a soft toy brought to them by their Aunt from a country in the Middle East and came with a
story book about a racing camel. (To pronounce it correctly, say RAY - HAN.)
Rahan has a rich brown plush coat and is powered by batteries so that if pressed in a certain way
he makes the loud noise all camels make when slightly annoyed!
Rahan is the sort of toy beloved by children but not quite so popular with grown ups!


We would like to thank

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for graciously allowing to use all the camel graphics on this page.
Please be sure to visit!

18th August 1999.

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