Llama T-Shirts


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My hopes rose and fell with the dollars. The amplified drone of the auctioneer was hypnotic. “What’ll you give me, now five hundred, now five, now five,” he went on. “SOLD the llama, four hundred fifty dollars,” he said. I came out of my reverie to see a scrawny little thing exiting the stage. The next four llamas each sold for under a thousand. Splendid.

Somewhere in the middle of all the noise, I felt myself getting very quiet. I had been visualizing getting this llama but it hadn’t seemed real to me yet. Now suddenly came an inexplicable moment of knowing it was going to work out.

The moment passed. Only three llamas to go. My hands got sweaty, and I grabbed Kelly’s hand. It was clammy. Aha, he was getting excited too.

“An Eclipse son out of an Erroll Flynn daughter,” was announced. At four hundred dollars I raised my hand. The ringman saw me, and I was in. Immediately the bid went up. The ringman had his eye on me. Someone else bid. I bid again.

Again someone else rose it. It was going up by fifty dollar leaps. That was a good sign, I thought. Up, past eight hundred, a thousand. I never even glanced at the llama. I kept my eyes on my ringman, one of four scanning the crowd. And so we climbed.

A couple of times I wasn’t sure if my bid was the latest, and my ringman was watching more of the ring than just me. Stanlynn had told me about novices who had bid against themselves. It was confusing, but I was beginning to get the hang of it. I bid again. “Fourteen fifty, now fifteen, now fifteen, now fifteen, and I’ve SOLD the llama, fourteen fifty, buyer number…”

I wasn’t sure who’d gotten the llama. They were looking at me. “Me?” I said. The ringman nodded. I let out a whoop and fumbled around for my buyer number.

Kelly hugged me. “I knew we were getting him,” he said. “At the end you were bidding against just one other couple, and I saw them whisper to each other, and the man shook his head.”

“I want to go see my boy,” I said. We went around to see Thundercloud. The owner was just taking the fancy halter off him, and I told him we were the ones who’d bought the llama.

“I’m glad,” he said. He was taking another llama out to get back in line, and I thought he seemed a little discouraged. I believed the llama was worth a lot more than we were paying; he probably did too. I suddenly realized that at an auction, the selling price is determined, not by the buyer or the seller, but by the last person who drops out.

Now that Thundercloud was ours, I really let myself enjoy his firm, quiet presence and his looks. He wasn’t flashy by way of markings, but there was definitely a sensitive being in this llama.

We got him a ride home with some people who were taking a load of llamas to California, and we went on home to get things ready. By flashlight and full moon, we moved the ladies further from the field we would put him in–by now we had learned to quarantine new animals for a while–and we set out some fresh hay and water. The llama’s owner had given us a nicely carved wooden sign that said “Thundercloud.” I propped it up by the barn door.

Everything was ready. We had some dinner. Finally the trucker drove in and Thundercloud was here. We led him down the driveway, past our house.

Thundercloud stopped and looked. “Mmm,” he said in a soft voice.

He’d spotted another llama. One of the ladies.

We walked on toward his field. He watched the ladies. They crowded up by the fence to see him. In his new field, he gave the dung pile a thorough sniffing, then had a long roll in the dust. Thundercloud was paying no mind to our males running up and down their fence line across the driveway. He sat and gazed at the ladies.

Just before bed, I went down to check him. He was sitting under a tree, and I couldn’t see him at first. He saw me, and ran around in the moonlight. Then he hummed again softly.

“Yes,” I said. “I’m glad too.”

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