..."watch out - llamas spit"...


This time of year - late winter/early spring brings to mind our llama.

LONG, long ago, my parents were driving me from the quiet and civilized suburbs, up to university for the first time. Being an only child, and very close to my parents, I know it was very difficult for them - especially my Mom. I was a bit sentimental about it as well, but my excitement about a new chapter in my life awaiting to unfold drowned out any melancholy I might have been feeling that day.

As we came closer and closer to the the campus, reading the various signs along the road such as: “Mommies, kiss your virgins goodbye”, “Students, leave your teddy bears in the car!” etc. etc., my Mom became more and more quiet, and in time, I realized she was quietly crying, and I must admit, I was becoming slightly stressed myself…

Just before the turn off for the campus, a local zoo came into sight, and as we drove past it, we were able to see some of the various animals housed within. Most notably were the llamas, with their noses in the air…I remember making some wise crack about them, and then before I knew it we were pulling up to the residence. I bounced out of the car, as upper year students greeted us, and started helping with my gear (incidentally, one of the 2 upper year students that day later became my husband). I hugged my father, and we exchanged lovely words, and then came the time to hug my Mom goodbye, who by now was quite broken up…. I told her I loved her and I thanked her for everything she had done for me etc…., she took a jagged breath in, in order to say something… and paused, trying to gain composure, and said the infamous (to our family) parting words: “Watch out….llamas spit!”. That was all she could manage to say at the time, and she began crying again. With those words, one chapter of my life ended, and I jumped into the next.

Perhaps my Mom had some prophetic skills, because, many years later, I found myself married, with 5 very free-spirited children, living on a farm. I was using cloth diapers, cloth “female products”, making my own baby food, baking our own bread, making our own beer, maple syrup, jam, and deodorant etc. etc. (you get the picture - right?). We also had dogs and cats, a peacock, free range chickens, ducks, geese, and sheep, as well as donkeys (to guard the sheep and chickens from coyotes). How life can change eh? How does an only child (who NEVER wanted any kids) from the quiet suburbs end up here ... I still scratch my head and wonder ?????

Well, those donkeys did not do such a great job protecting the live stock from coyotes - because every year we continued to loose quiet a few chickens and sheep to those rascals….As they say … “if you have live stock, you have dead stock”.

One day a friend of ours - who was a sheep farmer, dumped his llama off on us. He had had it with the animal…and I wondered why some one would not want such a funky creature to add a certain texture and character to their landscape?????

We named our llama “Llama”. Our donkey’s name was “Dolly”…so we thought it was pretty clever to have “Dolly & Llama” as farm animals… We quickly came to see why some folk do not take to llamas - their personality totally matches their appearance. She was a complete snob! I have never met such a self-important, anti social mammal. If anyone ever got near her - she would let fly such “spit” you cannot imagine! My mother's warning from years ago was very accurate.

However, llamas do NOT spit …. no, they actually “SNOT”!!!! They blow the contents of their nasal cavities at a great velocity at you! ….with unfailing accuracy I might add!

Several years ago - right around this time of year, we had a heavy ice storm. As a result there was a huge area of our back field that was covered in ice. One afternoon, we kept hearing a heavy, muffled sound now and then that none of us could identify. It went on for quiet a while. Finally one of my girls yelled from the bathroom: ”It’s Llama ... come look!”

We all crammed into the small bathroom to peer out the window, past the old Maple tree dripping early spring sap into the metal buckets, to see poor old Llama stranded on the ice patch. it did not take long to realize the source of the strange sound…..she had been struggling to get off the ice - and the ice was winning! As soon as she tried to move, her feet would scramble just like a comical cartoon, then her legs would fly straight up in the air, and she would land with a heavy thud. Because she was such a snob, and had that constant look of superiority, it was quite hilarious the first time we watched her wipe out, but after it happened several more times, and we realized that this had probably been going on for quite some time, it became rather pathetic. She needed our help…

So, my husband and our son Sam went out with a large rope, and entertained the bathroom audience ever further, as they were now also scrambling on the ice, trying to lasso this arrogant creature, who wanted nothing to do with them - even in this - her moment of need. We laughed until we peed as we watched both men duck and grimace simultaneously as Llama projectile “spat” horrific green globs from her nose toward the hard working rescue team. It took many attempts, but finally the target was ringed! They were able to slowly (and very ungracefully) drag Llama off the ice and onto more stable ground. The men came in making all sorts of strange noises themselves as they displayed the enormous amount of “who knows what” that had come from her nostrils and was now all over their coats, on their faces, in their ears and hair…it was truly disgusting!!!

This funny moment has a sad ending unfortunately…. for, 2 days later my son found Llama belly up, (and very bloated) on the barn floor. We assume she must have damaged herself severely with all the falling, and probably succumbed to internal bleeding….

I must say, despite her lofty air of snobbery she was the BEST at keeping coyotes away. When the sound of howling was heard, she would simply strut right up to the barn-yard fence, toward the sound, and just stare at them - head high, eyes bugging out, teeth protruding wildly, with nostrils locked and loaded! We did not loose a single creature to the wolves while she was standing guard! Apparently the threat of her projections was somehow known by the coyotes … and my Mom many years before…


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