How fake camel became celebrity in Buckeye community of Tartesso
Watch Jan. 17, 2023, security footage of the dromedary, which was definitely not what any Tartesso resident ever expected to find in the yard.
Provided by Marina Ferriera Dublin
Marina Ferreira Dublin was annoyed when someone rang her doorbell on a calm Tuesday evening in January. She had been watching Netflix after dinner with her husband, and she mentally cursed the solar sales representative who she was certain must be on her porch.
Instead, she found a 6-foot-tall single-humped camel.
When she showed her husband, he “was like, ‘There’s a big-ass camel outside,'” Ferreira Dublin said. “I was like, ‘What?'”
The dromedary wasn’t real and wasn’t in pristine condition. His back half was tattered and torn, and on one of his front legs, the cloth had ripped, exposing his wooden bones.
He was, however, life-size, heavy and definitely not what any resident of Tartesso, a planned community with about 3,000 homes in the far reaches of Buckeye, ever expected to find in the front yard.
“I thought it was hilarious,” Ferreira Dublin said. “My husband didn’t think it was funny. He thought it was a little creepy and weird.”
Perplexed, she turned to Tartesso Chat, a private Facebook group for her community. Usually, residents use the page the same way as in any other quiet suburb, with buy-and-sell posts, announcements about small businesses and complaints about the occasional speedy driver or unruly teenagers.
But Ferreira Dublin’s post on the night before Hump Day set the community abuzz.
The camel, dubbed “Kami” in the roughly 280 comments that followed Ferreira Dublin’s post, was immediately knighted as the community’s new mascot by residents in the comments.
He also became the butt of many jokes.
“This is what happens when you order an Uber in the desert,” wrote commenter Christopher Dublin, who is Ferreira Dublin’s husband.
Where did the camel come from, and where did it go?
Commenters quickly put together that someone had rescued the camel during the community’s bulk trash pickup day. Before that, one group member wrote that he had lived in her mother-in-law’s backyard, where he was used as a Christmas decoration. And a homeowner with security cameras shared a video of a silver pickup truck prowling neighborhood streets with Kami standing tall in the vehicle’s bed.
Ferreira Dublin eventually figured out that one of Dublin’s friends in the community was the culprit. He dropped the camel in their yard as a prank, took a few selfies with it, and then rang the doorbell and slipped away into the night.
But she still had a problem on her hands. The Tartesso community is governed by a homeowners association with strict rules on home appearance standards.
A life-size camel isn’t included in the list of acceptable lawn decorations, Ferreira Dublin said.
So, after standing outside for several hours to see if anyone intended to take back their camel, she began searching for volunteers. Eventually, one of her mother’s friends agreed to take it.
“I didn’t know what else to do with it,” Ferreira Dublin said.
Camel sparks community mascot ideas
Some residents quickly grew attached to Kami the camel.
“It was just a funny weekend gag,” resident Christina Keech said. “It brought great laughter and a fun night as we tried to locate the camel — to solve a camel mystery.”
They began thinking up a game of tag that would move the camel from one house to the next around the community. The idea was designed to bring some neighborly joy while hopefully avoiding HOA fines for recipients of the dromedary.
But that plan was foiled when Ferreira Dublin gave it to someone outside the neighborhood. Now that he’s gone, some residents have floated the idea of getting a new pass-along mascot. Proposals in the group range from a fake flamingo to a 12-foot-tall skeleton.
Keech said the new mascot is still in the planning stages, calling it “a big possibility.” But in the meantime, she said the camel incident is emblematic of the neighborhood’s spirit.
“This is one of many things that goes on around here,” she said, pointing to her neighbors who help host a farmers market and holiday events. “These are not HOA-funded, just very active community members that (make) Tartesso extra special.”
And there’s still a possibility that Ferriera Dublin may try to retrieve Kami. She’s now known as “the camel lady” in the neighborhood, and she said she feels bad that giving it away ruined her neighbors’ fun.
Plus, she’s not sure what her mom’s friend needs it for, anyway.
“I have no idea what she’s planning to do with it,” Ferriera Dublin said. “But I’m thinking about getting it back now.”
Sasha Hupka covers Maricopa County, Pinal County and regional issues for The Arizona Republic. She doesn’t usually cover camels. Do you have a story to share? Reach her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter: @SashaHupka.