I believe the most quintessentially American American, the person whose face should be on every denomination of our currency, is this woman who was pinned under a camel and escaped by biting its testicles. If it was up to me, a gigantic sculpture of this event would replace the Statue of Liberty. Someday, I will make a 127 Hours-style drama about this woman’s ordeal and then immediately get sued for titling it The Patriot (2000) – Mel Gibson.
It’s a tragedy that in today’s media environment, 99.9% of those who know this story only saw the headline, or a screenshot of it, then briefly smirked and moved on. There are so many beautiful layers here that if we ever sent out another Voyager-style satellite to make first contact with aliens, the disc on board would need only to include a copy of this story. From that alone, they could extrapolate literally everything else about our civilization.
Just for old time’s sake, let’s do this up in list form:
1. It Happened at a Truck Stop’s Exotic Animal Menagerie
In September 2019, a 68 year-old woman named Gloria Lancaster from – let me just double-check here – Florida, was eating dinner with her husband and her elderly dog at the Tiger Cafe, which is inside the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. This truck stop has 15,683 fans on Facebook and the cafe inside is currently rated as the #1 restaurant in Grosse Tete on Tripadvisor, with 3.5 stars. “But why was there a biteable camel scrotum on the premises?” you ask. Unsurprisingly, that will actually take a moment to explain.
See, it is called the Tiger Truck Stop because for decades, they kept a number of tigers on site, much to the consternation of animal rights groups. One of their old tigers is still stuffed in a glass case above the bar:
Long before the truck stop became world-famous for having a woman bite their on-site camel in the family jewels, it was already the center of a Tiger King-style legal controversy — there was a whole New York Times article about it years earlier, in 2013. Activist groups repeatedly sued and eventually got the laws regarding truck stop tiger ownership changed in 2006, but the Tiger Truck Stop kept fighting. The owner said he racked up over $1.2 million in legal bills over the years but refused to give up out of principle, i.e., because tiger people are universally fucking insane.
If you go to the truck stop’s website today, you are greeted with a pdf notifying you that their final tiger, Tony, had to be euthanized in 2017. Getting a new one would have been a legal nightmare, so the owner replaced him with a number of animals, including some ducks, chickens, a kangaroo… and a camel named Caspar, whose balls were destined by the stars to collide with a particular woman’s face.
2. The Woman Claimed The Camel Attacked Their Dog, Then It Turned Out She Was Lying
Gloria Lancaster, her husband and their dog walked over to go visit the camel after dinner. One way or the other, their little dog wound up inside Caspar’s enclosure. The couple crawled in to rescue it, at which point the 600-pound camel knocked Gloria over and sat on her. She supposedly yelled to her husband, “Get the dog, get out of here, I’m already dead”, which is a line that’s going to sound amazing in my movie’s trailer when Florence Pugh says it.
Then she bit the camel on the scrotum. She bit it so viciously that the camel jumped off and her husband was able to drag Gloria to safety.
The question you should be asking right about now is, how do we know that? About the biting, I mean. If you got trapped under an animal and had to bite its unimaginably filthy ballsack to get out, would you tell anyone? Sure, I would, because I put food on the table by saying shit like that, even when it isn’t true. But you wouldn’t think your average God-fearing Pensacola-area senior citizen would want that to be their legacy.
Well, what happened is she told the story to the police on the scene, probably because that’s the best possible answer you can give to, “Ma’am, why does this camel have your teeth marks on his majestic, untamed scrotum?” The sheriff then immediately turned around and told that to the news, completely failing to conceal his glee:
“This is the only camel in Iberville Parish,” he said to local TV cameras, “and I’m sure this is the only camel that has ever been bitten by a human on his testicles.”
A viral story was born, resulting in hundreds of millions of clicks across thousands of websites, bringing microscopic hits of dopamine to countless brains around the globe and generating upwards of 50 or 60 dollars in banner ad revenue. At that point, this woman could cure cancer and the top Google result for her name would still be the time she munched down on a camel’s leathery marble bag.
Lancaster told police the camel had aggressively reached outside of the pen and snatched up her dog, forcing her and her husband to go in to rescue it — you know, camels being famously carnivorous like that. Unfortunately for her, there was a security camera that captured the whole sequence:
That video revealed that the dog was off its leash (in violation of the law) and wandered into the pen on its own. The woman and her husband went in after it, startling the camel. Police then found dog treats inside the pen, implying the woman had thrown them to the camel (to attract it over to the fence, maybe?) and that’s likely what caused the dog to go inside the fence in the first place. That was enough for the police to charge the couple with trespassing and violating leash laws.
3. She Tells the Story With a Suspicious Amount of Enthusiasm
Most people would, you’d think, be eager to see this story fade from the headlines. If you spoke of it at all to the press, you’d likely play down the scrotum-biting part (maybe even insisting it didn’t happen at all, that the police just misheard your statement). Instead, Gloria got in front of the cameras and, in a local TV interview, said four of the most spectacular sentences in the history of the english language:
“But God will always make a way where there is no way. And on the side of my face lay [the camel’s] testicles. I couldn’t do anything with my arms. And I’m not gonna lie, I bit them.”
She also makes a point of saying, “I would do it again,” in a prime example of being weirdly eager to answer a question no one asked. When I said Gloria was the quintessential American, I wasn’t just pulling shit out of my ass to fill out the intro. She embraced the zany “Florida Woman” character the media had created for her, because you give the people what they want. And hey, I get it. As a former class clown, I can tell you right now that having the world laugh at you is ten thousand times better than being ignored. I just never thought I’d see the whole country turn into the teenage, armpit-farting version of me.
Possibly related: It’s not at all clear how injured the woman was by the camel-crushing. In various interviews, she claimed to have a broken collarbone, broken ribs and a punctured lung, including the detail that she had to have blood drained from the lung and would require multiple surgeries. Then, at other times, her chest injury became “bruised ribs.” In the original police report, the cops on the scene went out of their way to note that she was walking around fine afterward, calmly hanging out and smoking a cigarette when they arrived. You might say she was setting the stage for a lawsuit but if so, I can find no record of one being filed.
“I do not want to hurt the camel,” Lancaster said in another interview. “That’s not what this is about. The animal was only doing what God designed him to do. It was taking care of his territory.”
But … was it?
4. I Think the Camel Was Trying to Fuck the Woman’s Face
“Wait,” some of you are saying, “didn’t the woman die? I swear I heard that she died, and that the camel was trying to hump her.”
No, believe it or not, you’re thinking of an entirely different viral “camel crushes woman” story that happened back in 2007. A 60 year-old Australian woman received a camel for her birthday and it crushed her to death. A cop told the press the camel was trying to mate with her and I think he was half-joking, but the result was headlines like, “Humped to death by a pet camel.”
The logic, as far as I can tell, was that this is always what a male camel is trying to do when it lays on you, unless it just, like, didn’t know you were there? But if so, why didn’t anybody suggest that Gloria Lancaster’s attacker was trying to fuck her in the face? Hell, I’m surprised she didn’t suggest it. That’d have been a whole other news cycle.
Everyone keeps framing her case as a frightened camel defending itself. Are they saying that if a camel runs into a pack of wolves in the wild, that its instinct is to cram its wrinklepurse into each of their faces? It seems cruel that the dead Australian woman has “Camel-fucked to death” on her tombstone and Gloria Lancaster escaped that stigma completely, even though hers was the only case that involved genitalia.
5. The Truck Stop Capitalized On Its Fame
After the incident, the truck stop put up a billboard cashing in on the viral story, featuring a picture of the camel with the slogan, “Stop in for Gas and a BITE.” They were literally promising customers that they, too, may get the chance to devour a camel’s spunk bindle.
They were right to do it: Visitors flocked to the location. This is 21st Century America, attention is all that matters. Any kind of attention. There is nothing else.
The camel was fine, by the way; a vet came to check on it and prescribed some antibiotics in case the human bite on its nuts got infected. Later, the camel and all of the other animals at the Tiger Truck Stop were relocated after the business changed hands, the new owners deciding it just wasn’t worth it. Logically, you might think that’s the result of the endless lawsuits and complaints from activists, but I personally believe they feared future visitors would intentionally try to crawl into the enclosure to get their own taste of viral fame.
6. This is America
It would be incredibly reductive and insulting to try to claim this freak incident says something about the future of our nation, so let me just go ahead and do that. Regular readers know this is my third column in a series about freaky dong trauma (Volume 1, Volume 2). Those of you who read the first piece about the Russian(?) man caught on video kicking a horse in the penis might have noticed that I’m being less charitable to this woman than I was to him, even though his actions were arguably harder to justify. I will admit, this is my own bias at play.
When a senior citizen from the Florida panhandle disregards local laws, signage and a fence to get inside a camel’s enclosure, and then says she believes her subsequent biting of the camel’s scrotum was a divine miracle, I have strong suspicions as to which party she votes for. If you think I’m being unfair or succumbing to stereotypes, feel free to tell me, but Trump did win 73% of the 2020 general election vote in her home county.
It appears to me that this woman is a member of one of America’s largest and most distinct tribes, a group whose defining traits are A) Their belief that their every action and circumstance is the pure expression of God’s will and B) An internal resolve that is actually made stronger by mockery, disgust or derision from anyone outside the tribe.
There are tens of millions of them and understanding this group is paramount, considering they control like half of the country. I think about all of the viral videos of bad COVID behavior I’ve boosted, as if granting the target fame is some kind of punishment. “But everyone is making fun of them,” you say. Sure, but what good does that do, if they are 100% confident their lives are an expression of God’s will and that any mockery is really an insult to God himself?
Do you think they’ll relent, or double down?
“Go ahead,” I imagine them saying. “Shove your balls in my face and find out.”
Jason Pargin’s writings can now be found on his new site hosted at Substack, you can read his columns there or have them emailed to you if that’s too much effort. He is the author of the novel Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick and his new book will be out next year.