A question about a certain camel won in one of Brave Little State's recent public voting rounds. Sadly, our reporting did not go as planned.
Note: Our show is made for the ear! As always, we recommend listening if you're able.
In January, listener Julie Corwin (no relation) joined the ranks of winning Brave Little State question-askers. Her question was: “What's the story behind the camel on Route 7 in Ferrisburgh?”
Julie said she would drive South on U.S. Route 7 occasionally, and “every time I passed by I just got happy.”
She wanted to know the camel’s story. If our social media feed is any indication, you were curious about the camel, too. After Julie’s question won, you shared gifs of celebrating babies, Will Farrell doing an inverted fist-pump, and camel emojis.
Vermont and ????. My dream is coming true. https://t.co/JkFZQsC5LI
— Jenni Tilton-Flood (@jtiltonflood) January 27, 2020
— Adam Salsman (@asalsman) January 27, 2020
— UVM Humanities (@UVMHumanities) January 27, 2020
We were as excited as you were. But unfortunately, before we could answer Julie’s question, the camel died. His name was Oliver, or “Ollie,” and he died in late February. He was 17, which is a bit young for a two-humped Bactrian camel like him.
Ollie's owner, Judith Giusto, is a fiber artist. According to a 2010 interview with The Middlebury Campus, she kept Ollie for his fur, alongside her herd of merino sheep, and an alpaca. When Ollie shed his coat, Giusto collected the fur, and sent it off to be made into yarn.
Giusto wasn’t keen to chat with us when we reached out. But we also asked you, our audience, to share your memories of the camel. And boy, did you love Ollie.
“When I was in nursing school, my friend Alice and I used to commute from Burlington all the way to Castleton,” said Emily Barry in a voice message. “On big test days we would always look to see if Ollie was out and if he was, it meant we were going to do well on the test."
“Route 7 just won’t be the same without Ollie,” said Jim Squires. “My wife Debbie and I are snowbirds, and whenever we return to the state we crank our heads to the right to look for Ollie. And we’ll be sad to know Ollie’s no longer there."
When I first moved to the area, I commuted to work on rt7 past Ollie the camel. I wondered how did a camel end up in VT? Feeling out of place myself, seeing the camel felt welcoming & brightened my daily drive. Thank you, Oliver ??, you will be missed.
— Mission-Driven Morgan (@Morgan_Rhiannon) March 6, 2020
Whenever we drive south to Albany or beyond, my kids and I look for the camel. Sorry to learn that Ollie has passed on ??
— Anne Miller ?? (@crosscutanne) March 2, 2020
I don't remember the first time I saw Ollie, because I've driven that road so many times but I do remember thinking "hey! I just saw a camel!" And wondering why it was there.
— Robin Ann Barron (@RobinAnnBarron) March 1, 2020
“He was really loved by a lot of people,” said Julie, our question-asker. “I think I saw when my question was up for voting, a lot of people really wanted to hear more about him, and people were sort of shouting out their love for him. So I think he will be missed and he was really, sort of, an icon.”
Rest in peace, Ollie. Vermont will miss you.
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