POSTED: Thursday, November 14, 2013 - 10:59pm
UPDATED: Friday, November 15, 2013 - 11:38am
White Sands National Monument, NM (KTSM) — When you visit White Sands National Monument, it looks a little like another planet, an island of white smack dab in a sea of brown.
And from from the terrain itself, to sledding on sand, White Sands National Monument is the place to go for a taste of the unexpected.
"It was fun! Just like being a little kid again," said one adult visitor from El Paso who was sledding on the dunes.
But this tops the cake. Every Sunday afternoon, like clockwork, a 1600 pound camel struts her stuff across the dunes. Her name is Matilda.
"She's pretty much a diva. She really is," says the camel's owner, George Stone.
If you really think about it, it's not that strange to find a camel in the desert, but this isn't the Sahara. You don't expect to see a hump on the horizon at White Sands National Monument. That's why drivers hit the brakes and folks come flocking, even the dogs adorn her with kisses, just to meet Matilda.
After spending just moments with Matilda, magic happens. You see, Matilda isn't just an exotic pet, for George, a preacher, she's a window into other people's lives. Just two minutes after meeting one family, everyone, camel included, bowed their heads in prayer.
George calls her his miracle.
"The Lord works through Matilda. Yeah, Matilda just seems to have some kind of magic around that," says George.
She's been a miracle since the day George met her. George got Matilda just days after his first wife, Beth, passed away from colon cancer. She was his family when he had no one, and helped him through some of the darkest days in his life.
"I've spent as much time with Matilda as I would have a daughter at this point. She's part of the family. She's not just an animal we have. She's a part of the family," said George.
George has since remarried. His wife, Sherel, actually rode Matilda to the church on their wedding day, and the couple just celebrated their 10th anniversary by buying yes, another camel.
Matilda has changed lives in a way most of us never will, providing a smile to the broken hearted, and even a shoulder to cry on for strangers battling terminal illnesses, just by being Matilda.
"Matilda just seems to have some kind of magic around that and I'm able to hear their stories and we can swap stories back and forth," said George.
She's an oasis and a healer in the most desolate of places. A miracle in the desert.