Hadji Ali, or “Hi Jolly” as his American friends nicknamed him, was a Syrian camel driver brought to the West, along with 75 camels, in 1858 as part of an Army experiment in desert transportation and freight hauling. His pyramid tombstone in Quartzsite is the most visited grave in Arizona. A few years ago, Randy wrote a poem celebrating him.
Hi Jolly Returns to Quartzsite
Friends called it folly, but bold Hi Jolly
Came with camels to the West.
The Army back east was testing which beast,
The mule or camel, worked best.
Results were abstruse, the camels set loose
To wander the West left and right.
Hi Jolly stayed, he worked and played,
And died in the town of Quartzsite.
At the top of this year, with spirit and cheer,
Hi Jolly returned to his town.
Some cosmic track ushered back
This wandering desert clown.
Floating ghostly still in the Chocolate Hills,
He scanned the valley below.
A Syrian boy feeling wondrous joy
That only long-sleepers could know.
His town was alive, like a busy beehive.
Bustling activity swirled.
Thousands and thousands of small mobile houses
Filled the largest campground in the world.
Hordes of spenders and a thousand vendors,
Sold zircon to apple sauce.
What was strikingly odd, as red goldenrod:
Hardly anyone here had a boss !
Like fog on the ground, Hi Jolly floated ‘round,
Absorbing as good spirits can,
The flavor, the scenes, and what it all means,
This massing of deep desert clans.
Something grand and dear was happening here
Hi Jolly could not have expected:
The mobile domicile and a new lifestyle
In Quartzsite were being perfected.
The sprouting seed of a brand new breed,
Living simple, light and lean.
Living happy and free as wild Cherokee
In cozy little living machines;
A life that’s bold with oneself in control
And clusters of friends in affection;
Reinventing the tribe and helping revive
Our long lost natural connection.
Choosing sunlight’s glow over ice and snow,
Acceptance over sorrow,
Adventurous game over riches and fame
And today over “iffy” tomorrow.
His mission complete, Hi Jolly took seat
And vanished on the ghost camel “Rhyme,”
Speeding his report to his spirit cohorts,
Because eternity is interested in time.
He originally came to try a new game,
So it gave Hi Jolly sweet pride
And special delight that here in Quartzsite,
Something new was again being tried.