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June 04, 2007

Ollie Speaks!

Whenever I have the time on return trips from Middlebury College or the Basin Harbor Club, I enjoy stopping to visit with the Ferrisburgh camel, Ollie, who lives at the Round Barn on Route 7.  Weather permitting, he can be found grazing in the grass along with his barn-mates, which consists mainly of a large flock of sheep.

As is widely known, Ollie is notoriously publicity adverse. I don’t believe he has ever consented to a formal interview, and rarely communicates at all with the many tourists and locals who stop, get out of their vehicles and begin snapping pictures.Img_0021_2 

I respect his privacy, and when I visit with him I’m content to just hang out and watch him wander around the field and munch his cud. So, imagine my surprise and delight when, last Monday afternoon, Ollie turned his head

and . . . .

Ollie:  Hey, you're that cabbie, right?

Jernigan Pontiac:  Whoa! What cabbie do you mean?

O:  Don’t play coy with me. You know, the one who writes the stories.


JP: Yeah, that’s me all right. How do you know about my column?

O:  We like to read Seven Days. At least during the winters. So, ya want to interview me, or not?

JP:  Are you kidding? I’d be honored.

I quicky got out a pad and pen I carry with me.

O:  Fire away.

JP:  OK . . .  OK, well first off – what’s your last name? Everyone knows you as just “Ollie.”

O:  My full name is “Oliver De Tavira de Urquiza.”

JP:  Jeez, that’s quite the handle. It doesn’t sound exactly Arabic.

ODTU:  My father was from Spain


JP:  Uh-huh. Now there are two kinds of camels, if I got it straight - dromedaries and Bactrians. I can see you got the two humps, so what kinda camel does that make you?

ODTU:  Here we go. This is exactly why I don’t do interviews. This is insulting, man. You’re a homo sapien, right? Well, I’m a camel, and let’s leave it at that, OK?

JP:  My apologies, Ollie. Let’s change the subject. How do you get along with all these sheep? Do they give you a hard time? Do you they razz you a lot? I’ve heard sheep can be brutal on outsiders.

ODTU:  I have no problem with the sheep. They mind their business; I mind my business. There’s plenty of feed for all of us, so live and let live. You know what I’m saying?

At this point in the interview, a ram standing 20 feet away emitted a loud snort, and I excused myself from Ollie for a moment, and approached the ram.Img_0022

JP: Excuse me, do you mind if I ask you a couple questions?

Ram:  You can ask me anything you want.

JP:  Great! Let’s start with your name.

Ram:  Craig.

JP:  That’s it? Just “Craig?”

Craig:  Just Craig.

JP:  Perhaps you heard me interviewing Oliver De Tavira de Urquiza. He was saying that he gets along fine with you and the other sheep. Do you feel the same way?

C:  That camel is an asshole.

JP:  Excuse me?

C:  You heard me, bub. That’s all I got to say.

I walked back to complete my talk with Ollie, who appeared oblivious. Did he know how the sheep really felt about him? Perhaps it was only Craig? It was clear there was room for further investigation by a real journalist. I write for a paper, but I’m really just a storyteller, not a true journalist. Maybe, I thought, I’ll call Freyne.

JP:  Well, Ollie, is there anything else you’d like to add?

ODTU:  I’ll just like to give a shout out to all my friends in Burlington, especially the kids. I know I’m not much of a talker, but I appreciate when you stop by to say hi.


JP:  Thanks, Ollie, and take care of your bad self.

June 4, 2007 at 07:52 PM in Just Shoot Me | Permalink


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Ollie looks like he's balding!

Posted by: Erin | Jun 5, 2007 10:34:11 PM

Funny you should mention that, Erin, because Ollie and I continued to chat after the formal interview, and he brought up his thinning hair. At first, he said, it bothered him, but then he realized he doesn't really need to worry about his looks. As he put it, "What's the odds of me running into a female camel in northern Vermont, let alone hooking up?"

It's amazing how voluble Ollie became once we got talking. We were fooling around, and he told me this hilarious joke. (To get the joke you need to know that the word "schmuck" comes from the Yiddish language, and the original definition is the "male genital organ."):

So, Ira returns from his vacation to Israel with a huge slide show of pictures. He invites his friends over for a presentation. One slide comes up and Ira says, "That's me in the desert town of Beersheba riding down the street on a male camel."

One of his friend goes, "Yup, that's you all right, but how are you so sure it's a male camel."

"Well, the people on the street were all pointing and saying, 'Look at the schmuck on that camel.'"

Posted by: Jernigan Pontiac | Jun 6, 2007 11:05:27 AM

Ollie's not balding, he shed for the summer. Camels have an undercoat called "down" just like cashmere goats and over that is hair. In the summer he sheds and I use the down to make very soft "cashmere-like" yarn.

By fall his coat will be growing in and by winter he'll look like the "old Ollie" we all know and love.

This is just his summer do.

Posted by: Judith | Jun 8, 2007 4:36:29 PM

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