A few months ago, Lisa and I went to We Bought a Zoo. We loved the movie. In the film, a family suffers a tragic loss and spontaneously buys a deteriorating zoo. The antics of running a zoo bring the family together. The movie tugged at me because, in addition to my dream of an Apple Orchard, I would have some land filled with a variety of unordinary animals–my own wild kingdom of sorts. Buffalo (American Bison) are my favorite due to my South Dakota roots. I’d also have a few caribou, maybe an emu or two, and some llamas. I’ve always loved Llamas. There was a llama farm near where I grew up and, when I was little, every time we would drive by, I’d yell: “Llamas in pajamas!” (The pajamas are their shaggy, multi-colored coats.) My affection for llamas grew out of several trips to Peru, particularly as we crossed paths often hiking on the Inca Trail.
When we arrived home to Lisa’s farm for Easter, the mood was a bit solemn. Barb, Lisa’s mom, had a horse named Jack who was very old and ill. He had to be put down that night–and he was a favorite horse. After the incident, Barb announced that she was finished with animals. This was a sad announcement because a yard full of animals is an institution at Lisa’s farm in Worthington, Minnesota. Barb is known for taking animals that need a good home–they take in retired horses and have had everything else from donkeys to peacocks. At dinner that night, I immediately suggested Barb should get llamas. Barb, of course, reiterated that she was done with animals.
The next day, I called the same local llama farm that we drove past regularly when I was young. It was a bit of a strange call: “So, my mother-in-law just lost her favorite horse and we think she should get a llama to fill its place.” “Oh, okay…” said the voice on the other hand. “Can we come out and see your llamas?” I replied. “Sure, she said, anytime is good, just call.” “We’ll be there saturday morning at 11 a.m.,” I said.
When we got back to the house that night, I announced to everyone that we had an appointment at the llama farm in the morning. Everyone laughed. Then I said was serious and they looked surprised. Barb said she wasn’t going to get a llama, but she would go and look at them. Glenn was excited to see them. Lisa couldn’t believe I actually called.
The next morning, I woke up bright and early for llama day. As soon as I got upstairs, Chris (Lisa’s sister’s boyfriend) broke the news that Barb said she wouldn’t get a llama and didn’t even want to go see the llamas. By 11 a.m. she had changed her mind–but we were “only going to look.”
We all piled into the truck and drove 2 miles down the road to the llama farm. There were llamas everywhere. Hundreds of them–and alpacas. Little did I know, this seems to be one of the larger llama farms in the U.S. They sell llamas all across the country and have their own multi-page llama catalog and make llama accessories, such as halters.
First, we saw the alpacas–common in Argentina–they stand about 4-feet tall and are rather adorable. The llamas stand 5-6 feet tall and just look funny–long necks, bulging eyes, shaggy coats, and pointy ears. The llama farmer yelled, “Come here!!” and all the llamas got up across the pasture and started running to us at the fence. I think Barb was sold at at the sight of hundreds of llamas running toward her. The llama farmer described how llamas keep the grass mowed and keep away predators–coyotes, foxes, raccoons–and even rabbits. Between grass mowing and coyote defense, Glenn was ready to bring some home. “Maybe we will get one,” she finally admitted. “But I want to think about it.”
When we went back to the house, Barb looked us: “Maybe we should get the horse trailer and go pick up three of them.” Everyone was excited. We all sat around as she called the llama farmers back and to tell them we would be over to pick up three llamas. A minute into the phone call, Barb suddenly said, “Seven?!? …If we buy three, they will throw in four more… Um, I’m going to have to talk to Glenn about this.” Lisa starts yelling: “Mom, just start with three!” Renae is laughing hysterically. Chris appeared to be in disbelief of what was happening. I, of course, began cajoling her to take the seven. Glenn said, “They’re free? Just take them all.”
Two hours later, the llama truck pulled into the Kremer’s farm and seven llamas poured out the back.
My favorite image was Barb with five lead ropes being pulled by her herd from the llama trailer into the pasture. I laughed until I cried. She had, indeed, bought a zoo. The sad loss of the horse was quickly surpassed by joy. It’s amazing how a little spontaneity and imagination can turn things around in an instant. As Lisa said that night: “That was one of the best day’s ever on the farm.” As Chris remarked: “I’ve never had a day like this.” It’s just like We Bought a Zoo.
But, don’t worry, the llama fun doesn’t stop there. More fun was on the way the next day… to be continued..