“Me & Clarence” by Harry Kuhn

In the long line of great western heroes, many outstanding and trusty steeds have been associated with the legends who rode them into adventure after adventure.  Three come to mind as I write: The Lone Ranger and Silver, Roy Rogers and Trigger, and Me and Clarence.  While the Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers were clearly the rightful riders of their mounts, Clarence’s ownership was a matter of some debate.

Clarence was originally given to my sister Olive as a stuffed animal to lay on and watch T.V.  It became clear, though, that at first she did not take a strong liking to Clarence.  I, on the other hand, was a cowboy without a horse and in my eyes Clarence the Stuffed Camel would be a worthy substitute.  So I began a shameless campaign of begging, whining, and pleading to be allowed to have Clarence for my steed.  Eventually my persistence paid off, much to the displeasure of my sister.  My dad took Clarence and gave him to me.  Thus began the legendary adventures of Me and Clarence.

Many a long dusty trail and open plain were traversed with the trusty Clarence beneath me.  Together we fought bandits of all stripes and angry natives too numerous to count.  Often Clarence and I would round the corner at home into the hallway and I would tumble off him in a heap, felled by the arrow of a hostile enemy or the bullet of some nefarious bushwhacker.  In true, heroic, cowboy tradition I would pick myself up while Clarence stood by my side and remount my camel to pursue the despicable varmints.  Secure on Clarence’s back I rode the range and survived many a brush with disaster.

As time went by it became clear, sadly, that the hard riding life of the old west was taking its toll on Clarence.  Eventually I sat on two thin strips of cloth with whatever stuffing remained inside Clarence congealed at either end of him.  Finally, my oldest brother Jim convinced me that Clarence’s time had come.  One afternoon, atop a pile of burning wood and unusable items out in our yard, we gave Clarence a Viking funeral.  Standing by Jim’s side I was silent as he placed what remained of Clarence atop the burning pile and we both watched as he was consumed.  Sadly, an era had passed in the old west.  Me and Clarence rode the range no more.

Over fifty years have passed since that solemn day but Clarence is not forgotten, neither by me nor by my sister Olive.  From time to time I will bring up Clarence in a conversation with her and the fires of disagreement flare anew.  She has never retracted her claim to Clarence and I am adamant that he rightfully belonged to me due to her neglect of him when he was hers.  When I cannot convince her to see my point of view, I resort to an old stand-by position; dad gave him to me making me the owner.  We never agree and the matter is dropped ’til the next time I bring up the subject, still trying to get her to concede that Clarence truly was mine.

This Christmas I received some gifts from Olive.  Among them, safely wrapped in bubble wrap, was a transparent, candy statue of a camel.  A handwritten tag on the package read, “REMEMBER CLARENCE?”

How could I forget the excitement, the adventure, the near disastrous gunfights seated on his back?  Those times will never come again when the west was a safer place because of The Lone Ranger and Silver, Roy Rogers and Trigger, and Me and Clarence.

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