Scholla: Lincy’s Luck A Camel Caravan January 7, 1943

“O gook a mole, was lange hats weich te cadeary.”

The above quotation is extracted from Hugh Lindsay’s autobiography. It is a sample of the clown’s effort to write in the dialect. We challenge our readers to translate it. Scholla will publish the best translation received through the mails. The following account will provide a number of clues, but honestly,  we confess that we are completely at a loss, ourselves, to make out the three words in the middle of the sentence.

The first camels ever exhibited in Berks County formed a part of Miller’s Allentown Circus and Menagerie in 1824. At that time Hugh Lindsay, the subject of a series of sketches in previous Scholla, was employed by Miller as a clown, a roustabout and camel driver. As clown he was on duty from the opening of the show at noon to its close near midnight; as roustabout he worked in the forenoon driving stakes to raise the ten. The intervening hours, from midnight to dawn he drove the camels over country roads. The other animals in the menagerie were carried in cages on wagons but the camels were forced to hoof it from place to place. The trek had to be made in darkness lest the public be treated to a free exhibition of the living wonders. Poor Lindsay got very little sleep and no chance to participate in the frolics which usually followed the closing of the show. “I often had a chance to go home with the gals,” he writes, “poor I had to go off with the camels.”

He rode on a horse while the camels trudged on ahead through the darkness. In the black of night, through thunderstorms and fog he swam his beasts across rivers and tried to prevent dogs from yapping at the legs of the queer creatures. One of the great dangers encountered was the chance meeting of a horse and buggy on the narrow rutted roads. Horses were frightened at the sight of the desert beasts and the mere scent of the approaching caravan frequently resulted in having the horse stage a runaway.

One night the camel train met a farmer who was returning from the mill on horse back. The camels were chained together and the clanking of the chains combined with the odd shapes in the moonlight convinced the farmer that he was seeing an apparition. Joe Brouse, the farmer, had imbibed too heavily while at the mill. He abandoned his horse and ran home. He told his wife that the devils had appeared to him as a warning to mend his ways.

On another occasion Lindsay and his odd charges met a four horse team pulling a wagon on which a large number of women and children were seated. He warned them to pay attention to their horses but the people merely gazed at the camels and said:

“O gook a mole, was lange hats weich to cadeary.”

When the horses came along side the caravan they gave a snort, wheeled about and threw the wagon box from the wheel frame and the people sprawled on the ground.

In Frost Town, Lycoming County one of the camels poked his head through a window while the farmer and his family were eating their evening meal. The frightened family fell to the floor fearing that the devil had paid them a visit. Lindsay jumped from his horse and ran to the rear door of the house to explain the incident. His words served to allay the fears of the prostrated family and they soon forgot their fright when Lindsay ordered the camels to lie down and the family lit pine knots to see a free exhibition on their own lawn.

One night the camels were stabled in a livery stable which there were a number of horses. Bedlam  broke loose, the teamsters came running out of the barroom of the hotel.

“Wo! Hoof!” The teamsters were nearly all Dutchmen. They called to one another, “Cumm Rouse Buver, Eppis ish hinter de Gile. Vas der Dival iss lose.”

Lindsay finally managed to separate the camels from the horses but for his thanks he received the abuse of the teamsters. They charged him with bringing elephants to eat their horses’ food and at a “Dutch justice of the peace” they brought charges for broken wagon tongues and injuries to their horses. The justice consulted his “Purdons Digest” but could rfind no laws against driving camels on the public highways. The manager of the menagerie was summoned and after “a long Dutch talk” the circus paid fine of $20 for damages. Unlucky Lindsay.

Circus Parade Penn Square in 1910. Courtesy of the Berks County Historical Society.
Circus Parade Penn Square in 1910. Courtesy of the Berks County Historical Society.
P.T. Barnum Circus Parade at 5th and Penn Streets. Courtesy of the Berks County Historical Society.
P.T. Barnum Circus Parade at 5th and Penn Streets. Courtesy of the Berks County Historical Society.
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