Llama T-Shirts


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“It’s another boy. Another beautiful, darling, doggoned boy.”

Juliet had been awkwardly sitting down and then standing back up all morning. It was springtime, but springtime in the mountains wasn’t just wildflowers and zephyr breezes. Springtime at Juniper Ridge also meant muddy fields and drizzling rain mixed with snow.Kelly moved Juliet into the part of the ladies’ barn that we could watch from the house.

After lunch, the head appeared, and then a foot. The other foot didn’t. Kelly said, “You should wash up and reach in, Rosana, because your hands are smaller. Besides, I want to get a birth on videotape.”

I had little confidence in my ability to deal with a dystocia, or birth where the cria isn’t coming out in the normal order. All kinds of positions were possible. What would this be? If it was at all complicated, we would involve our veterinarian. Nervously I washed my hands, put on a sleeve, and approached Juliet’s rear. She had often kicked out with a back leg when I was combing her wool, but now she ignored me. My hand went in, up to my wrist. There was the other foot, twisted sideways a little. “Thank God!” I said, and turned the foot around.

Out came a black head, followed by a body with an artistic arrangement of black and white markings. I dipped the broken end of the umbilical cord in iodine and checked for a penis. There seemed to be a small protuberance. I felt a pang of disappointment; we’d had llamas for four years now, and between Lil not getting pregnant, Posey having boys, and Juliet having had a stillbirth, this ranch wasn’t a money-making operation.

I looked again at the baby. There were four teats also. I didn’t remember noticing teats on the other boys; maybe I just hadn’t paid attention. I looked at the penis again, and saw instead a shred of the amniotic sac. I looked under the tail. There was a little tab–we had our first female!

As the rain turned to snow, we put Juliet and young Blossom in a stall with a heat lamp. The stall was windy, and the baby kept shivering, so later we brought them into the rock-floored part of our living room. Juliet hadn’t been in the house before, but so long as her baby stayed right by her, she was content. We put some hay and water out for her. She and the little one stayed for a couple of hours, while we and some friends had dinner and admired the llamas. We had a rather gloomy conversation about world politics, and I was comforted by the vivid reality of the new little llama.

Posey’s baby, six weeks later, was another girl. It was a perfect, easy birth, and the baby was nursing in under an hour. “About time!” I thought. We had had more than our share of bad luck; I knew breeders who had had thirty llama births with no problems at all.

The two babies had a wonderful time together, exploring their interesting world, running back to their mothers if a car backfired on the highway. Pocahontas was full of energy; Blossom was more sedate. Around dinnertime, they would run around their field, dodging any adult llamas who were in their way. From the barn, along the fence line, through a narrow passage between the fence and some trees, up by the house, and back down to the barn, they ran and ran, till suddenly, magically, they were stotting, bouncing along with all four legs leaving the earth at the same time. What joy to be a young llama stotting on a summer evening! What joy to be a llama owner watching!

We had bred Lil Bit to our small studs with no success, so finally we tried Levi. For whatever reasons, Lil got pregnant and stayed pregnant. Posey and Juliet, both easy breeders, were pregnant too. With five females, and three of them pregnant, the ranch had a lovely feeling of fecundity.

The next spring, we blood-tested all three of our adult females, to see if they had held their pregnancies. They had! We would finally get a baby from Lil Bit! I went to the International Llama Association conference with Linda Rodgers, another llama breeder in the area. Kelly stayed at home just in case the baby was a little early. It wasn’t, and I was home before the birth.

A human baby was expected also. Some friends were living in their tipi on our land, and Desiree’s due date was close to Lil Bit’s. Woman and llama got larger and larger. Desiree had a boy, born in the tipi.

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