Thirty minutes on the road and you can forget you’re anywhere near Stillwater — or in Oklahoma at all. Passow’s Camel Farm, 25601 County Road 150, sits just northeast of Stillwater. To get there, drivers take busy, well-developed Sixth Avenue to Redlands Road, then use bright, red-orange dirt roads out to Perry.
The roads are dotted with oil wells instead of restaurants and lined with frack water pipes instead of sidewalks.
There are no signs to welcome guests at the camel farm.
There are no lines to announce the park.
But inside, a plethora of exotic animals roam more than 1,200 acres of open, rolling grassland peppered with white, yellow and purple flowers as well as shadowy, dense woods.
Although the park is named for its camels, it also shows off horses, miniature horses, miniature donkeys, ponies, llamas and alpacas.
The park isn’t owned by a corporation or run by a team of uniform-clad teenagers. It’s run by a self-titled “ex-cowboy” and his wife.
Ralph and Wynona Passow have been married for 54 years. The land the park sits on has been theirs for decades.
They initially bought three camels to eat weeds after Ralph developed an allergy to chemical pesticides. For myriad reasons, the couple decided to expand the herd.
“He always has to do what no one else is doing,” Wynona said.
Because there is no gate dispersing tickets, the farm is accessible by appointment only.
Guests park outside the couple’s home and wait for Wynona to chauffeur them over the extensive plains.
For small groups, Wynona drives a golf cart on the grass, needing no trail to navigate.
It takes about a minute of rough riding for her to crest a hill about 50 yards from the Passow home. There, the camels become visible.
At first, they are tiny black dots atop another hill. As the cart closes in on them, they stare, somehow illustrating excitement.
Once she is close, Wynona stops the cart. The camels unabashedly come to the cart, bending their long necks so that their faces are right next to the guests’.
It’s like a safari, but slightly more intrusive. This is especially true if the only male camel in the park is nearby.
“He’ll try to kiss you,” Wynona said.
Unlike the others, the male drools profusely, and apparently wants to share it. But only with women.
As Wynona cuts through the woods to get back to the house, a procession of horses and miniature horses queue behind the cart. The little bits of sun cutting through the trees glisten on the horses’ fur.
“They hear the motor and think it’s feed,” Wynona said.
Close to the Passow home, a small wooden shelter houses ponies. The shelter is an original homestead from the Land Run, Ralph said.
There are multiple reminders of Oklahoma’s past throughout the park.
Bald spots in the grass remain from Oklahoma’s buffalo days. The bison would rub themselves against the ground until the grass was removed, Ralph said.
Quasi-trenches run from end-to-end on the land. They are remnants of wagon trails, accidentally and purposely created before the automobile.
Across these trails lies an open area full of llamas and alpacas.
Conditioned by food into believing humans are good, all of the animals enthusiastically interact with the guests. They even pose for pictures.
The farm takes groups in any sizes, from couples to bus tours.
“We charge $2 a person,” Wynona said. “It’s a get-rich-quick scheme.”
She smirked sarcastically.
“We don’t need the money,” Ralph said.
Many of the oil wells on the way out are theirs.
The couple says they run the farm because they love to have people out, looking at animals and learning about the simple life.