Author Archives: robynwilliams

It Doesn’t Hurt Much When Llamas Kick

by Guest Blogger Robyn Williams

The pads on their feet resemble a dog’s, not exactly soft but spongy with thick, rough skin.  Their feet spread when they walk, which I assume is something the llama evolved to accommodate rocky, mountainous terrain, and what makes them such superb and sure-footed pack animals.

When it’s time to halter them, to cut their wool or their toenails or vaccinate, they force me to follow them to the fence.  They keep their big round rear ends to me, shifting right or left as I try to maneuver to their sides.   They each kick when I’m behind them, drawing one hind leg up and out. It’s a medium-weight Bette Davis slap, but faster than you’d imagine such an ungainly creature could move.  The trajectory’s always the same, connecting about mid-shin, and doesn’t hurt a lot. But because guard llamas will kill coyotes by stomping them to death, I’m certain they could hurt me if they really felt threatened. I think they’re just being crabby.

Once they surrender and allow me to slip a halter over their noses and buckle it behind their ears, they’re mostly docile and will follow me with little argument.  Mostly.  If one balks, the other stops dead in his tracks and there’s no pulling them anywhere. All I can do is walk around behind them and force them to circle and avoid me, and once they are both moving they’re likely to keep following. On hot summer days, I tether them to the fruit trees in the back yard where they  enjoy the shade and mow a perfect circle in the grass around each trunk.

They are fat and complacent now but when they were young and still had testicles they were fierce fighters, brawling like teenage boys.  One would get a little too close, they’d square off, stretch their necks, point their noses in the air and spit. Spitting is a normal llama-to-llama behavior and though most people think llamas will spit at humans, it isn’t really common. It is entirely possible to get caught in the crossfire, however.  And it’s not merely spit but the llama equivalent of cow cud and more than a little nasty.  If spitting wasn’t enough to get  the other to back off they’d charge, butt their broad chests and bash each other with their long, muscular necks.

Their territoriality with each other is a strange contradiction to their need to be together.  If Sparky is tethered and Alf is led away, they cry to each other in a mid-pitch, throaty hum. Alf will turn to look worriedly as he’s led away, and Sparky is attentive, ears pitched forward.  It’s clear they are distressed when separated.  They are old brothers, have been alone together nearly their entire lives.  Is it just their genetic programming as pack animals? Is it the animal version of what we  know as love?

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The Wheels, I love them

If I’d been born a boy, I would’ve been a total gearhead, and am happiest behind the wheel driving anything, anywhere. I don’t know if it’s the driving or the going that’s most satisfying, but  both at once? Oy, heaven. When I was young I generally always drove a little too fast and imprudently, and got a ticket for that once, Failure to be Reasonable and Prudent, that was the actual charge. The cop informed me that was what they hand out when the offense isn’t quite bad enough for the Reckless Driving jackpot.

The first car I was allowed to drive didn’t exactly set the road on fire, though. My dad’s beloved ’66 Corvair had all the torque of a sewing machine.

So, 14 years old, Saturday afternoon with best friend Nancy, driving by the house where the absolutely most cutest boy in class lived and just happened to be in the yard with his friend, the other most cutest boy in class. We didn’t exist in their world which was pretty liberating actually, permitting us to indulge in dunderhead behavior trying to get their attention without all the risk of actually getting it.
By this time I knew I was ultra talented with the clutch and hardly ever killed the engine when the light turned green. Of course this allowed us to drive ultra fast past his house with Deep Purple on 11 and hair streaming out the open windows looking ultra sexy.  My extra smooth driving skills at their peak,  I missed second gear and hit fourth and we drove by lugging the engine at 15 mph with no hope of going any faster, at which point I dropped it back to first and we bunny hopped by his house, teeny tiny Corvair engine screaming pain and humiliation along with Nancy.

It’s probably a good thing Dad garaged the fragile little Corvair because I would’ve killed it, but that meant I inherited the vast 1970 Ford Sturdywagon with its very own snotty Republican bumper sticker. However, it also had an 8-track, which made up for some; the fact you could pack 15 people and a pony keg in it made up for the rest. And it taught me an incredibly valuable life lesson I’ve used a lot: knowing your ground clearance is a good thing.

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