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Humming, clicking, snorting and the alarm call were the sounds we had come to recognize. A hum could range from an inquisitive high-pitched squeal to a low grunt. If we separated our two males, Tumbleweed would call to Levi in almost a bleat. “What’s going on? Where are you?” were perfectly contained in the sound.

Posey often hummed when she was sitting quietly next to a pile of hay, perhaps nosing around in it. She made a soft sound, and seemed contented. Levi sometimes made a sound like that, only greater in volume, if he had been staked out for some time. When he wanted to go back to his field, he could be very persistent in humming, and you understood that he wanted a change right now.

Clicking and snorting were other llama sounds. So far, only Posey had made them. She did so when she and the males were posturing to each other. When she made these sounds, she stood up very tall and sometimes put her ears back.

Posey was the first to give the alarm call. I was reading in the trailer, Cider on the floor beside me. We both heard a strange sound, a cross between a donkey’s bray and a loud hiccup. Cider jumped up and began barking enthusiastically. I let her out, found some shoes, and followed.

All three of the llamas were looking toward the paved road. Just as I came out, the sound happened again. Cider ran in circles, excited by it. I discovered it came from Posey, who was moving around in prancing steps. An unfamiliar dog was standing on the road, where the llamas were looking. I assumed the intruder was the cause of the alarm, given Posey’s history with dogs.

Whenever I heard an alarm call, I went out to investigate. But often I couldn’t tell what Posey had seen. Was her vision better than mine, or were we just interpreting things differently? Once it appeared that a large crow had set her off.

On a warm, moonlit night around two in the morning, Posey gave an alarm call. Cider yapped. Posey called again, and Cider echoed it. I looked out and saw Posey’s white neck as she moved about. I curled back up next to Kelly, who had barely moved.
Posey gave another alarm call, louder and longer. I put on a robe and went out. I could see nothing but three llamas and many mountains in the moonlight, but it was pleasant to be out in the quiet night. “Posey, I don’t know what you saw,” I told her. I curled my nicely cooled body around Kelly and slept till morning.

Another time the call interrupted my writing. “Posey, I’d better tell you the old folk tale about the boy who cried wolf,” I grumbled as I went outside. But this time it wasn’t Posey.
Tumbleweed was giving the alarm call as several large cows walked up our driveway. It was open range in the area, and the cattle were moving into the cooler elevations. We didn’t want cattle on our land, as they could damage the several hundred small trees Kelly had planted the previous spring. We ran down to chase them off, and applauded Tumbleweed for being a good watch-llama.

Of all the posturing, I found ears the most expressive. When our llamas were looking at something in the distance, they moved their ears forward. When we brought them some grain, the forward ears showed interest. When they were listening to something, sometimes one ear was forward and another one back.

Like horses and perhaps other animals, llamas put their ears back as a sign of displeasure or aggressive intent. The two males communicated through slight changes in ear position. In one exchange, Levi’s ears were back a little as Tumbleweed approached where Levi was eating. Levi’s ears lowered an inch. Tumbleweed didn’t leave. Levi lowered his ears further and raised his neck. Tumbleweed left.

Through signals such as these, the two of them worked out their living arrangements. Their system seemed to have some advantage over human ways of handling the same issues. I began indicating my mood by placing my hands at the side of my head in the appropriate position.

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