Llama T-Shirts


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When the van finally came up our driveway, Kelly grinned and held up two fingers. Then I saw the two woolly heads.

After hugs and hellos, we coaxed our new llamas out of the van by tugging on the lead ropes attached to their halters. The light breeze lifted their fuzzy wool, and the late afternoon sun made shadow patterns on it. The llamas looked around.

Our dogs investigated the newcomers. Cider, the puppy, jumped on Ajila and ran long-legged circles around the llamas, inviting them to play. They watched her. Martha, the ancient one, surprised me by barking and trying to nip at the llamas’ back feet. They watched her too, and deftly stepped out of her way.

Ajila was exploring. We had moved since her last visit, and it was all new to her. “Wow, what a view!” she said, looking south to where snow-covered Mount Shasta, some fifty miles away, was gleaming.

“Which is our land?” she asked.

“Let’s walk up to the ridge with the llamas–we can show you better from there.”

Kelly and I were each holding one llama’s lead rope. Both llamas walked easily on lead, sniffing at each other and us, leaning over for a mouthful of one plant or another. The dogs came along, Martha growling intermittently at the llamas.

“Kelly, the llamas are really here! Both of them!”
“Yes, I was so pleased when Sally said she’d sell Tumbleweed too. Hey, they’re pointing their ears forward, maybe because of the squirrel under the juniper tree. They sure do watch things.”

Levi sniffed my shoulder. Tumbleweed stayed further away from us. He seemed to be more adventurous about exploring new places, as he went along the ridge from one snack to another. Kelly followed at the other end of the rope. The two llamas were already showing differences in personality. I liked how each of them blended calmness and curiosity.

Kelly showed Ajila the boundaries of our land. From the ridge, the cliffs dropped down to a flat meadow. “We like to hike there,” he told Ajila. “We have sixteen acres below the cliffs, including a place we call the Magic Place. We’ll take you there. We’re planning to live on top here–we are still thinking about what we want to build. There will be llama sheds right near it.”

Ajila looked at the panoramic view of mountains, turning luminous as the sun set. “Sure is different from Louisiana,” she drawled.

As the evening progressed, I kept popping out to the llama yard, to watch how the llamas sat down or stood up or had a drink of water. Once Levi rolled over on his back–to scratch it, I surmised.

The llama yard had been the dog yard; now the dogs were in the trailer, where they much preferred to be, and for now the llamas had a space the size of a small suburban back yard, sloping up the hill by the trailer. A large juniper tree provided shade and nibbles. A few bushes provided more nibbles, and there was some grass.

The main course was hay, in and around a cardboard box. I had brought the hay home in our tiny station wagon, carefully arranging it so I could fit three bales in. Munching hay, the llamas seemed right at home. Soon we would build a llama shed, fence a larger pasture, and buy a pickup truck.

Ajila considered her choice of accommodations. The tiny second bedroom in the trailer was already my office, so we offered her our camping tent, pitched on a flat place next to the llama yard, or the van in which she had arrived. She chose the tent, and neatly arranged her things in it. Cider slept with her in the tent, an arrangement which didn’t last past the second chewing of our good down comforter.

Kelly and I walked up to the ridge. There was a breeze, as usual; our land was on a mountain pass, so if the wind wasn’t blowing from California, it was usually blowing from Oregon. This evening it was blowing from the south, appropriately, I thought, considering what had just blown in from California.

The western sky was still glowing as we strolled hand in hand. As we came back toward the trailer, the llamas were sitting with their legs tucked under them. Levi’s ears were forward; Tumbleweed’s were back.

“I thought ears back was an aggressive signal,” Kelly commented, “but Tumbleweed keeps his that way a lot. While I was driving, I watched the llamas in the rear-view mirror, and his ears were back most of the time.”

“He hardly looks aggressive now,” I said. He and Levi were gently chewing.
We could see them from our bedroom window. I woke up several times during the night and looked out, but there was no moon and nothing much was visible. At first light I woke again and peered out. Levi was sitting tucked up, and he was looking at me. I was thrilled. He didn’t miss a beat as he chewed his cud.

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