Looking back on a camel racing legend and all-around nice guy
When the competitors enter the race track Sunday afternoon for the championship races at the 48th annual Virginia City Camel Races, many of them won’t see what – or more appropriately who – is missing.
For most of his life, Roy “Nevada Smith” Jones did two things, handled firearms and rode camels.
Jones grew up in Virginia City, worked in law enforcement, even losing a thumb when it was shot off, and rode camels for most of his life.
Jones said in an interview that he rode his first camel in 1916 – the year he was born.
He was instrumental in getting the camel races at Sacramento County’s Discovery Park organized and was a featured rider in the race for several years.
Jones was born March 21, 1916, in American Flat and attended the Fourth Ward School in Virginia City. He was a conditional member of the American Law Enforcement Officers Association’s National CB Radio Posse and a member of the American Legion.
Jones starred in more than 20 motion pictures, including “The Shootist” and several others with John Wayne.
He created a traveling Wild West show, the proceeds of which benefited the Eagle Valley Children’s Home in Carson City. Jones, along with his band of volunteers would “rob” the Virginia and Truckee Railroad by asking patrons for donations to the home.
They also put on gunfighting and wild west shows for donations to the home.
In a letter to Jones after a visit to the Eagle Valley Children’s Home in June 1979, the director of nursing sent Jones a letter thanking him for the almost $200 donated.
“We all want to thank you for caring about our Eagle Valley Family,” she wrote. “People like you are very special people. It’s nice to know that there are still those who help others in the community.”
Jones died Aug. 15, 2006. He was 90.