Camel helps pay student’s way through college

CNJ staff photo: Sharna Johnson Edwin Snell said he and Caesar the camel, who he took to college with him in Las Cruces, have been together 11 years.

Sharna Johnson

A college student would be lucky to have a wingman like Caesar.

And Edwin Snell is.

Caesar the camel is not only a companion after 11 years together, he’s also an attention-getter and, to top it all off, he’s paying Snell’s way through college.

Giving camel rides around the Hastings/Hobby Lobby parking lot through the weekend, Snell said the $5 strolls have gotten him through to his junior year as an international business major at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, where he also does camel rides to pay the bills.

Home for the Thanksgiving holiday, he said they are working between visits with family.

By Saturday about 150 people had ridden, he said.

“It stretches your legs out a lot,” said 12-year-old Grady Pohly.

“He didn’t wobble as much as I thought he would.”

Nestled between Caesar’s humps, kids and adults took turns being led through the parking lot Saturday afternoon, with passing traffic slowing so curious people could get a look.

“I want a camel,” laughed Ashley Hernandez of Portales as she rubbed Caesar’s thick, woolly coat.

On her way to go eat, she said when she saw Caesar in the parking lot, she had to go meet him.

And Hernandez said Saturday was a fun day for her because she got a tattoo and got to ride a camel.

“I’m scared of heights and I loved it,” she said with a big smile.

Caesar stands at nine and a half feet tall and weighs about 3,000 pounds.

Snell said he got him when he was 3 years old.

“I enjoy him. He’s kind of like my dog,” he said, explaining when he left for college, he packed up Caesar and his half zebra, half pony and took them with him, planning to do rides in his free time to earn money.

With only temporary accommodations worked out, Snell said he put up fliers all over town until a man who runs a feed store offered to board the pair for him.

It has worked out well, he said.

Snell said he too rides Caesar — who is trained similar to a horse — and they ride all over downtown Las Cruces, even going through fast food drive-through windows.

Caesar has been trained not to spit, with one exception.

He hates large, dark colored sunglasses, Snell said.

“I warn people,” he said with a smile.

“He’ll kind of spit on people (if they’re wearing them).”