Hi Jolly Exhibit and Human Leg Bone
Fort Irwin, California
"Hi Jolly" was the name given to Hadji Ali, a camel driver from Syria. He was imported by the U.S. Army on May 14, 1856, to shepherd a camel train (also imported) across the American Southwest. Hi Jolly passed through this stretch of the Mojave Desert on his travels, which is reason enough to include an exhibit about him at Fort Irwin's National Training Center and 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Museum.
The exhibit features a real stuffed camel (although not one of Hi Jolly's), and notes that the camel driver once saved the lives of five Americans under attack by Indians. "Hi-Jolly drew his Scimitar and charged them yelling 'Bismiallah' (God is Great) with his great cape flapping in the wind. The Indians had never seen a camel or such a rider and fled in a state of terror."
The Army's experiment with camels ultimately failed, and Hi Jolly settled in America and was eventually buried in Arizona. The exhibit notes that the camels were excellent desert pack animals, but that they scared the horses, were noisy, and didn't get along well with the U.S. soldiers. When the Civil War began, the camels were set free, and they did all right for themselves. The last reported camel was sighted in 1941, near the ghost town of Douglas, Texas.
In addition to the Hi Jolly exhibit, the museum contains "many unusual pieces" according to director Neil Morrison, all of it relating to the history of the Fort or of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, which has seen combat all over the world. One exhibit from the Philippines is a "poking device" made from a human leg bone. "You'd poke the enemy and try to kill him," Neil explained. Also on display are two primitive combs, again from the Philippines, dipped in poison. "There was no cure for it," Neil said. "They would scratch you, and you died a horrible death."
"One fellow made a necklace out of fingers," Neil added, "but we didn't get it."
Fort Irwin is the "opposing force" training center of the U.S. military. This means that it uses real people against U.S. troops. With over 1000 square miles of land, the Fort once regularly hosted tank battles against fake Russians. Now, according to Neil, "we employ over 280 Iraqis who live out there," in over a dozen fake villages, to season soldiers in middle eastern urban combat. Tourists aren't allowed onto the training sites, but they can visit the museum, which displays some of the fake Russian stuff and has a dummy of an Arab with an RPG and an explosive vest. One bad guy Arab, one good guy Arab -- it's a stalemate here.