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We were looking for another female or two. It would take a number of years to develop a line of small llamas, if we could do it at all; we were eager to try. Much as we loved Posey, she wasn’t tiny. Her lovely looks and long wool would be assets in our herd, though.

After many years when our savings account rarely exceeded a hundred dollars, we were slightly astonished to find ourselves able to afford female llamas. Real estate was the reason. We had sold our place in California for far more than it had cost us seven years earlier, and I had inherited some money from the sale of my family home in Washington, D.C. We felt a responsibility to use this money wisely. Late-night talks had ultimately boiled down to llamas, with some of the funds going for developing our land. We were keeping our housing costs minimal, the better to get started with llamas.

So we were in the right mood when we heard of two small llamas for sale, one a female and one a male. We didn’t think we needed another small male yet, but this llama aroused our curiosity. He was at Dan Schoenthal’s. All black with a white nose, Whiskers was several inches shorter than Posey, very intelligent, and already trained.

Our most urgent autumn chores were done: the llama sheds were built, water lines buried, firewood collected, driveway graveled. It was late October, and still Indian Summer, a lovely time for a trip. We cleaned up our old van, found a llama-sitter, and headed north.

We took Cider along. She perched happily between us on the engine cover, looking out the window at everything. She was a year old now, and beginning to grow out of her puppy excesses.

Indian Summer gave way to Oregon drizzle as we entered the green Willamette Valley. Our first stop was at Safley’s, a llama ranch we hadn’t seen before. They had the small female.

The place was an enchanted forest. “You’ll recognize it by a llama statue out front,” Ken Safley had told me on the phone. The large statue was set in an open field, and suggested that this was no ordinary ranch. Behind the field was woodland, and flitting about among the trees we could see the delicate shapes of dozens of llamas. The continuing rain made the place seem all the more magical: with no clues from the sun, we were suspended outside of time.

Ken gave us a tour, beginning with the forest. Surrounded by beautiful female llamas was the bushy-eyebrowed stud, John L. Lewis. The herd was graceful, mostly medium-sized, with long wool. They were friendly, but stand-offish enough that you could walk easily among them. “I don’t like a herd that crowds you,” Ken said.

It was fairyland with practical touches. The trees were wrapped with wire, to keep the llamas from eating the bark and killing the trees. There were two latches on the gate between pastures. “That way, if I should miss one, the other will hold,” Ken pointed out, as we moved into the next field.

Here were the little ones, six months and younger, with their mothers. The woods sloped down to a creek, very full this rainy day. A rounded footbridge led to more pasture. Ken showed us the mother and the grandmother of the little female he had for sale.

Finally we came to her. She was in a large, open barn, with a group of newly-weaned six-month-old babies. She was eleven months old, and shorter than any of them, though more filled out. We walked among the babies. They ran this way and that, continuous movement swirling around us. The one we came to see was standing still, watching us.
She had inherited her father’s bushy eyebrows, I was pleased to see. I liked her looks: a nice straight back and thick, wavy wool.

And she was so very small. “She’ll grow more,” said Ken, “but both of her parents are on the small side. She’s not going to be a big llama.”

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