Llama T-Shirts


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We continued through the grounds, passing a gazebo and going through a gate that brought us out to the back lawn. There was our van, with Cider looking out the window. In the door stood a chow, its blue tongue showing as it barked at Cider. Ken quieted the dog and invited us in for tea.

We sat by the fire with Ken and his wife Marge, and talked of llamas. They had once, years before, stopped for breakfast in the town of Sisters, in eastern Oregon. They drove past the Patterson ranch, which even then had a large llama herd. One thing led to another, and they soon found themselves the owners of Bonnie and Clyde. “They’re grandparents to that small one you looked at,” Marge said.

I was in the habit of asking llama breeders for their opinions about llamas as an investment. Where most cattle or sheep ranchers I’ve met would sigh or swear about their financial prospects, llama breeders tended to smile.

Ken smiled. “Oh, I think they’ll continue to be an excellent investment,” he said. “Suppose you kids got to the point where you could sell a pair of babies a month. Build up your herd a while, and look where you can be in ten years’ time.” His words cheered me.

The Safleys were so hospitable that we stayed for hours, absorbing information, swapping tales. We were to give them a call the next day, or come by, if we wanted to buy the little female. As soon as we started driving, Kelly said, “We’d be crazy not to buy her.”

“I wish I liked her face better,” I said.

“I like it,” Kelly said. “She’s got character. Did you notice how still she was once we caught her? She’s a pretty calm cookie.”

“I’m glad I don’t have to decide this very minute,” I said. “I’ll probably be clearer in the morning.” The Safley’s place would be right on our way home the next day.

Night had fallen by the time we got to Dan’s place, and it was raining hard. He was willing to go out with a flashlight and find Whiskers, so the three of us ran through the pitch-black fields to the barn. The rain was finding its way down my neck, my feet finding their way from one puddle to the next. The barn light shone dimly on huddled llama shapes.

Dan brought us into his barn, an old two-storied one, with a trap door to nether regions. He left us there while he went to find Whiskers.

It was almost Halloween. “What a great place for a spooky party,” I said, peering down through the trap door. “I wonder what’s down there.” The rain on the tin roof was suddenly softer, and we could speak in normal tones.
“I love the look of black llamas,” said Kelly. The rain was louder on the roof again, and we saw an approaching flashlight.

The Halloween mood continued as a door banged open, and a shape entered, all black except for a bit of white in front. It shook, and revealed itself as a wet llama. “Whiskers, I presume,” said Kelly.

Whiskers roamed around the barn. Another llama wandered in, this one much larger. Dan came last. “The black one is Whiskers, of course,” he said.

“He already introduced himself,” I said.

“This one is Kemo,” Dan continued. Kemo was a giant next to Whiskers. “I brought him in for contrast.”

Whiskers was about Tumbleweed’s height, but more delicately boned. The tip of his nose and mouth was white; everything else black. In the dim light of the barn, he looked very black.

“You say he’s trained?” Kelly asked.

“Yes, he leads very well. I took him to the state fair, and he was very good there among all the crowds. Here, I’ll show you.” Dan put a rope on Whiskers, and led him around the barn. “Whiskers, sit down,” he said, with a slight tug downward on the lead rope.

Whiskers sat down on the board floor. “I wish now that I hadn’t, but I gelded Whiskers’ father. His mother died last year. So one good thing about Whiskers as a breeder is that he won’t have a bunch of close relatives running around.”

Dan handed me the rope. “Tell him ‘up,’ and pull a little upward,” he instructed. I did, and found myself face to face with one alert llama. I led Whiskers around the barn, skirting the open trap door. Dan and Kelly were discussing barn construction.

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