September 24, 2019

Warning: Don’t make llamas spitting mad

           Farm visitors ask, “Why do you have all these animals?”
            “Pasture ornaments and pets,” I reply.
            And then I say, “Come with me.”
            Driving toward the barn, I blast a few beep, beeps on my truck’s horn. By the time we walk under the shelter, there are 12 critters in the welcoming committee.
            Many guests don’t know the difference between a mule and a donkey. We have both. As Maggie fusses, expecting an apple, I explain, “Mules are sterile. It is very rare for them to reproduce. A mule is a cross between a female horse and a male donkey.” Maggie’s mom was a spotted mare that was romanced by a big brown jack. But you couldn’t tell it. My extra-tall mule is red with black stockings. And Maggie will steal your heart, right after she lifts—with her velvet lips—a Granny Smith from your open palm.
            Standing next to Maggie is her sidekick, Spanky, a spotted miniature donkey. When you see one, you see the other. Mules and donkeys get bum raps for “being dumb,” but that’s not so. On blistering days, you will see Spanky standing in the shade, beneath Maggie’s belly. Spanky knows the barn routine. He wants to munch on an apple, too.
            Besides a herd of donkeys and a big mule, there are four attention-craving llamas. When Georgette pokes her head over the rail, folks stumble backwards. From a safe distance, the visitors will gasp, “I didn’t want it to spit on me!” And then I launch into our pet-llamas-have-never-spit-on-anyone sermon. “Let me show you,” I say, leaning toward the long-legged could-be-a-cousin of a camel with banana-shaped ears. On cue, Georgette will stretch her neck and plant a fuzzy kiss on my cheek.

            A few guests will take a turn in the llama-kissing booth, but not many. They are convinced llamas are born to spit. “Nah,” I’ve always said, until last week at dusk. With a full moon rising, I hurried to check on the animals. I was alarmed to see Georgette’s year-old son in a full gallop, chasing miniature donkey Jenny’s 6-week-old daughter. The onyx little girl, with a white nose, was terrified as Dahli was hot on her heels.
            I took off in a full gallop, too, clomping across the fescue in my rubber boots, hollering, “Noooooooooooo!” I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to do, but I knew I was going to help Jenny save her baby from the rascal chasing it. We made three laps around 4 acres before I got the mama and Miss Prissy in a safe-harbor corral.
            Next, I eyed Georgette and her mischievous offspring, Dahli Llama. Pointing at them, I said, “Y’all are going to another pasture.” And with that, the llama rodeo began. I used a feed bucket to “lasso” them into an empty stall. Once the gate clanked shut, lovable Georgette wasn’t in a kissing mood. Folding her ears backward, she lifted her nose and started gurgling. To her credit, she had warned me.
            When I moved closer, Georgette fired the first missile. I was still wearing Ray-Bans, so the spit dripped off the lens.
Wiping my face, I swung open the next gate and waved my arms. The pair bolted in the right direction, but not before Georgette sprayed me again.
Guess I’m done bragging, “These pasture ornaments don’t spit.”
And now, I’ll never underestimate the value of soap and hot water.
Or a good laugh.