Llama T-Shirts


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One night, Kelly was awake for a long time, his mind racing. He had a new thought. What if we didn’t live with llamas? He thought about all the work involved, taking away from his video and music time. He thought about the difficulties of finding other people to care for the animals. He thought about the need to stay home–for weeks sometimes–around the time of birthing. He thought about the hard times we’d had with some of the births.

But we couldn’t give up the llamas as well as the ranch, all at once. It would be too hard. Or would it?

When he told me of his thoughts, I burst into tears. I could hardly bear to think of not looking out the window at woolly faces. How could I wake up in the morning, without my llama fix? I was an addict.

“There’s no way I could sell them all,” I pronounced.

“Remember that tee-shirt I told you about?” I threatened. I had giggled over a tee-shirt that showed a woman saying, “He told me it was him or the animals.” In a second frame, she’s surrounded by pets and saying, “Sometimes we miss him.”

I didn’t want my animals without Kelly. I wanted it all.

Could we board our llamas somewhere? But where? It would have to be a situation where the people already knew a lot about their care. I wasn’t one to be casual about who took care of my animals; that had made it hard to find people to stay even for a weekend.

“What about Linda and Nelson?” Kelly suggested.

“Hey, good idea. I wonder if they’d be interested.”

We had met Linda Rodgers and her husband Nelson Leonard a few years earlier. Like us, they had moved to southern Oregon from California, where Linda was a nurse practitioner and Nelson an archaeologist. Like us, they had bought undeveloped land and a few llamas. Yet to have any baby llamas, they were just getting started.

As our friendship had developed, we had been to their place several times. Elk Hill was very secluded and peaceful. The driveway was three-quarters of a mile off a little-used gravel road. The weather was warmer than at Juniper Ridge.

We’d met their first llamas, Twister, Duchess and her daughter Querida, and Bethany. We’d walked down to their spring and to the ancient apple trees which Nelson had pruned. They showed us where they were building a house, right where there had been homesteaders a hundred years earlier. Linda and Nelson were living in a charming old mobile home, graced by stunning antiques, while they built their new house and developed their llama facilities.

I called Linda and asked if they might be interested in boarding our llamas. “We thought of it ourselves,” she said.

We talked it over. They would have to do more fencing and to build a barn that they were planning to do anyway. They were willing to drop their other projects and tackle these. It took a while, but we figured out possible financial arrangements. Kelly and I didn’t know how soon we’d leave–we still hadn’t decided for sure that we were going to! But it was a wonderful feeling that if we needed them to, Linda and Nelson would be delighted to care for our herd. We knew how committed they were to llamas.

Soon we decided. We would buy a house in town, keep Thundercloud and our ladies at Elk Hill, and sell our other males. If we missed our llamas too much, we would move again. It was reassuring to think that no decision was set in concrete. We did know people who had sold all their llamas, only to buy more within a year.

We put our place on the market. The day that we listed it with a realtor, we went into town late in the afternoon. It had been a hot summer day, and after signing the papers, we walked around in some of the neighborhoods that interested us and had a late supper at a restaurant. It was after dark when we got home.

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