Characters turn out for curious competition |

Characters turn out for curious competition

Teri Vance
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

When I was a kid, my parents would sometimes leave my sisters and me with babysitters.

But it was never a bubbly teenage girl with little arts and crafts or whatever. My dad would get the ranch hands to watch us.

It varied sometimes, but mostly it was Dave and Emery who got stuck with the job. (We found out later that they always came together not because they enjoyed hanging out with four little girls like we thought at the time, but because whichever one my dad would ask, he would force the other to come along).

They were both in their 20s and not what most people would consider quality babysitting candidates.

Polio had left one of Emery’s legs skinnier and shorter than the other, but he used staples to tailor the one pant leg. Dave had a near afro of dark, curly hair and wore a hoop in one ear.

No one in my family drank alcohol, but we kept some beer out in the meat locker for when they came over. Come to think of it, that may have been the only payment they received.

Sometimes, we had to feed them. Once, Emery showed up and all he’d had to eat all day was an onion.

Occasionally, we would spend some time with them in the bunkhouse. There was never any food there – just a bottle of Tabasco sitting on a wobbly table.

They’d tell us to stay away from the one wall that was lined with a knee-high stack of pornographic magazines.

Looking back we sometimes wonder what our parents were thinking leaving us with them. But the truth is, we loved Dave and Emery. We always had fun – even when it was at their expense.

And I think it cultivated in me at a young age an appreciation for people living outside the mainstream. Which is one of the things that make the Virginia City International Camel Races so great.

I remember the first year I went. Former city reporter Amanda Hammon and I went to try out the Media Grudge Match in 2002. Only we were the only members of the media.

The rest were girls from area brothels. With camels groaning, jockeys giving instructions and bordello girls handing out business cards, Amanda whispered to me, “I feel like I’m in a parallel universe.”

“I know,” I responded, giddy at the thought of it.

I do love racing those camels every year, but it is equally enticing for me to meet the people who participate.

Whether they’re serious about it, or just trying it out, they’re an interesting group and feed my appetite for finding characters.

I’m hoping this year more of my colleagues will show up for the media day – the last few years have been a little sparse. However, fewer people showing up does increase my odds of winning.

But the truth of the matter is – although I’m obsessed with winning every year (and I have a tiara and a necklace to prove it) – the true prize is in meeting the people.