You may recall that in part two, I left off with Frenchie being “cornered” on something over 50 acres of fine lush grass. A virtual llama paradise! Oddly, she was in no hurry to get home from this new place. Luckily for us, she was in no hurry to do much of anything except eat the plentiful, lush, green, grass our neighbor had so graciously provided. This gave us the time we needed to formulate a plan. In the military, a plan is known as something that immediately goes out the window upon first contact with the enemy. First contact with stubborn llamas is no different. When you come at a llama from three different directions, the llama does not care. Why, you ask? Because the llama has 3 other directions it can simply trot through to escape your puny human plan to corner it out in the open. One simply does not “corner” a llama with three people. Naturally, it took us around 12 attempts at doing this before we realized it just would not work. Time to modify the plan!
I’m pretty sure that mankind retains its primitive hunting instincts from ages past. Even in today’s world of plenty, a little voice in the back of your skull will sound off in a situation like this. It says something like, “Yo dude. What you’re doing ain’t working. Keep it up and you will die of starvation. You will also die tired.” Of course, this would normally sound off when you were stalking a tasty wooly mammoth on the plains of the Serengeti and failure to get it would result in your entire tribes extinction. Still, a llama looks a teeny bit like a woolly mammoth from a distance, if you squint some. I’m pretty sure that’s what kicks in the old primitive brain function. That function allows keen primitive powers of observation to break through faulty modern human courses of reasoning. I noticed that, while we were NOT surrounding Frenchie, we were MOVING her. DING, DING, DING!!! Even ol’ Zug could put two and two together in primitive times and realize that if you could move an animal where you wanted it to go, you could eventually trap it.
The team gathered back together and I shared this new found primitive knowledge with them. It was received with approving grunts and nods. While we did not have a primitive stockade built or a box canyon to herd our llama quarry into, we did have something that might work. A corner. Ranches have corners! (Don’t ever build a round ranch by the way. It’ll only bring you trouble.) So I spread my team of newly minted vaqueros into a line and we began to herd Frenchie in the direction of the nearest corner.
About this time Balto (the Derp) noticed the action going on next door. Great Pyrenees have several interesting breed traits that make them good herd guardians. Sarcasm just doesn’t happen to be one of those. The Derp saw what was going on and could not wait to tell his buddies about it. I’m pretty sure that dog barking and dog laughter sound very similar. Since this corner we were moving to bordered my property, the Derp and his buddies were given an unrestricted view of our progress and helped us immensely by adding their chorus of woofs to our efforts. I can only suppose Frenchie did not bolt through our line because she knew these particular dogs. I also think the dogs may have been realizing at this point that the entire escape plan really only benefited the llama while they, on the other hand, were
still imprisoned in San Quinton freely roaming the lands of the Double Portion. I guess everyone wants to see new places from time to time. The help of our herd guardians did not go unnoted by me. Had I been the vindictive type, I would certainly have stiffed them their bone treats the next 32 or so times they asked for them. Jeez I’m a sucker.
The moment of truth finally arrived. Frenchie was cornered, literally! The I noticed that our neighbors fence didn’t actually touch my fence at that particular corner. In fact, it looked to be about a llama sized gap. My heart jumped to my throat as Frenchie noticed the gap as well. Instead of busting through our puny human line as she easily could have done, she went for the gap. As it turned out, God was favoring us (while getting a hearty laugh out of the situation as well I’m sure) and the gap turned out to be about one inch narrower than Frenchie. Whew! This allowed me to use all my über cowboy skills and walk up to her and put the lasso around her neck. Have I mentioned yet that Frenchie has never actually had a lasso around her neck? I thought not. If you have ever seen an old western movie where the cowboys are breaking wild broncos to ride you might have noticed that those horses go completely bat poo insane when they get a rope around their necks for the first time. Funny. Llamas do that too! Who’d a thunk it. Fortunately, Frenchie was stuck between the two fence posts when she got lassoed, limiting her initial insanity. She’s also pretty smart so when we finally got her to back out of her stuck place she mostly just tried to pull away from us rather than attack us and pummel us to death with llama hooves. This would explain why I am still alive to write this tale.
In retrospect, the smart thing to do at this point would probably have been to cut the fence, point Frenchie in the right direction and let her go. I think “retrospect” is French for “didn’t think of that at the time.” but I’m not sure. Did I mention that Frenchie is stubborn? She knew she was caught. She also knew she out weighed us by close to 2 to 1 and was certainly stronger than we were. This meant that if she did not want to move, she didn’t have to move. Three people, a rope and a cattle prod would not budge that llama. It only barely allowed us to keep her there with us. We actually had to wrap the rope around a tree to keep her there. It was during this process that I discovered Frenchie was a fully normal llama in every way. I had never seen her spit before. Yup, llamas, like camels, spit. It’s actually more like a full lung cough/hack mucus expulsion. The result is spewed out in a pattern a shotgun could only envy. Llama spit is a defense mechanism for the animal. It works by reeking so badly that any predator would assume that if something that foul could come out of the prey it was pursuing, it could not possibly be worth trying to choke down and eat. While our plan did not involve eating Frenchie, she didn’t know that. So, she got rather, uh, defensive. And spit. And spit some more. It does not come off glasses very easily by the way.
We found ourselves in a bit of a stalemate. Not to mention reeking due to being covered in llama spit. I had only one last trick up my sleeve to get this llama to move. Clifford. Clifford is the name of my big, heavy, powerful, 4 X 4, red pickup truck. I decided to tie Frenchie to the bumper and pull her back to DP territory. I know what you are expecting at this point but God’s favor shined down upon us once again. The truck neither got stuck, nor did Frenchie ever once get “drug” behind it. That’s not to say she approved of the idea. Indeed, she did her level best to choke the life out of herself and stop all progress by wrapping the rope around any available tree or bush encountered on the way out of Paul’s property. Frankly, I was surprised she lived to make it out the neighbors gate. Then something rather pleasant occurred. Just as those horses in the old western movies learn what’s being asked of them, Frenchie seemed to start to catch on too! Once we got on the road she figured out that if she kept up with the truck all seemed to go well. Unfortunately, she reasoned that if she went faster than the truck, things would be much better. During those moments she epitomised the expression of being “at the end of ones rope”. Much like the charging dog forgets where the chain stops them, Frenchie had no concept of not being able to dash off past where the lasso would stop her. This resulted in several sudden stops on her part that made the rest of us wince each time. Yet, somehow, someway, we made it back to the gates of the Double Portion.
We were literally just a few feet from this hours long ordeal being over. We knew that and Frenchie knew that. The Derp and his buddies may or may not have know that but they never shut up the entire time. Once again ‘retrospect’ reared its ugly head. What I should have done was untied the rope, opened the gate, and let Frenchie go. This would have cut about 90 minutes and most of the heart stopping drama out of the story. But that didn’t happen. She knew she was about home and home looked really good to her right about then. She was very eager to get back on home turf. Instead, things went down like this. I opened the gate, left Frenchie tied to the bumper, and drove through the gate. Frenchie followed. At a rather high rate of speed I might add. She never did grasp the concept of the rope being a finite length. This time when the rope went taut, Frenchie discovered physics. Suddenly stopped forward momentum plus gravity, combined with temporary llama insanity results in a llama on the ground, tangled up in a rope, bent at very unnatural angles. I was certain she’d broken her neck at this point. She obviously hadn’t or she would not have still been violently struggling against the rope, but I wasn’t very rational myself right about then. All I saw was my llama on the ground choking and struggling with her neck bent back.
Fortunately, I don’t panic easily. I didn’t panic then but I really wish I’d had a knife on me at that moment. I didn’t. So instead I struggled to untie the rope from the bumper of the truck while Frenchie continues to thrash around on the ground just inside the gate getting more tangled and pretzelfied each second. You may recall earlier in the story how I mentioned it had been raining a lot recently. There are only two places on the DP ranch that hold any water after a rain. Down at the back end of the property is one. Right next to us at the front gate is the other. Naturally, this is where Frenchie learned about gravity. Luckily, she landed only inches from the pool of mucky water. Unluckily, this meant that the rest of our rescue efforts involved standing in that very water. Just one more thing to add to an already eventful evening. Anyway, I got the rope untied and Frenchie was free, though spent. She’s laying almost motionless on the ground with her head bent back and breathing heavily. Breathing was about the only good sign I saw right then. Daughter Raye and I checked her over and did not find an obviously broken neck, so as gently as possible, we tried to get her into a more llama like shape rather than the pretzel like shape she was in. Her head was right next to the pool of water and all I could see happening was her going through all this just to drown to death at the end of it. Much praying ensued. Once we got her “unpretzeled” she would not move. We tried moving her legs to see if she could move them on her own. She didn’t. All we could do now was let her rest and stand next to her making sure her head didn’t go in the water. Even the dogs knew this didn’t look good and finally shut up. Probably only because they knew “teh hoomans” were freaking out. They also knew something else. Frenchie is a drama queen. If you could imagine someone who’s got the back of their hand permanently velcroed to their forehead with an expression of angst always on their face, then you can imagine how Frenchie approaches nearly all interaction with humans. Besides, what better way to get even with people that just drug you (not literally) behind a truck for 300 yards, out of grassland Nirvana, only to have you unceremoniously dump on the ground once you got back to familiar territory.
Frenchie was not hurt. She was tired though and had no problem laying there making us think she was dying while she got her breath back. Raye and I have our own stubborn streak though and we could not just leave this animal lying here, possibly paralyzed, near death (as were our thoughts at the time). So we tried to roll her onto her feet. Up hill. Away from the muddy water. This resulted in us finding out that Frenchie was not, in fact, paralyzed. As we tried to roll her, she moved her legs. A wave of relief flowed over us but Frenchie knew she’d been found out at this point. We finally got her rolled upright with her legs under her and her head up and looking around. We were satisfied that she hadn’t broken her neck or anything else as far as we could tell. She still refused to get up though. We were now thoroughly exhausted and emotionally drained. All we could do was head up to the house. I decided I’d come back in a few minutes and keep checking on Frenchie.
After we had gotten inside and caught our breath, I got something to drink to rehydrate myself. While a fifth of bourbon looked good at that point I figured it would be counter productive. Once I had recovered a little I headed back down to the gate on foot with my big honkin’ 23,000 lumen flashlight. I can see Oklahoma with it at night. As I got closer, Frenchie was still sitting where I had left her. She just watched as I walked closer. Then, she decided the events of the evening were over. While just out of my reach, she got up and simply walked off with her nose pointed high and her usual air of disdain for all things human. And that, my friends, was the end of the Great Llama Escape of 2013. I went back up the hill, went in the house, and collapsed in bed. Needless to say I took the next day off of work.
The moral to this story is… Well, I’m not sure if there is one really. Maybe it’s just to never expect to come home to your ranch and have an easy night. It also makes farming look pretty good. I could guarantee you that a row of corn would never have caused near as much trouble as these animals. Opposable thumbs and extra gray matter do at least tip the odds in our favor even if not ensuring success every time. This time, however, was a success. All llama drama aside…
In our last episode, you will recall that the plan worked; ambush successful. The llama escaped. And the ‘hooman’ wound up on his keister. Oh, did I mention it’s been raining a lot down here lately? Rain plus ranch equals mud! Pretty much everywhere. Including where I had just fallen. But I digress. I got up and brushed myself off. I was now in condition “red”. The OODA loop had advanced so far beyond me at this point that it was merely a history lesson. I had a loose llama on a stretch of road that sees at least 3 to 4 cars a day and I was surrounded by angry mutton. Not wanting to be completely foiled (I was, I just didn’t know it yet), I made my way out the gate to try to reason with Frenchie. I tell my wife all the time not to reason with our dogs. That pretty much goes the same for llamas. I’d walk toward Frenchie and she’d walk a little further down the road, stop, and take a big mouth full of lush green grass. And snicker. I’m sure she was snickering on the inside. I still had one shot though. I went back to the truck, cautiously I might add, and retrieved my secret weapon. A bucket of llama treats! Surely I could lure her back in with those. Funny how they don’t compare to tons of lush, green, grass. The treat trap failed.
It was time to radio for reinforcements. Except I didn’t have a radio. So I got in my truck and drove up the hill to the house instead. Mary, my faithful wife and all around ranch partner, had started to feed the critters. I’m sure she marveled at the easy time she was having since all the animals were busy pummeling me just down the hill out of sight. I drove up next to her and yelled “The llama is loose!” Then I rolled down the window and yelled it again so she could hear me this time. She dropped the feed bucket right there and hopped in the truck. Then we noticed that the herd, knowing that it was dinner time, had followed me up the hill. So we hopped back out of the truck and got them into the corral where we normally feed them and shut the gate. That, at least, got most of the perpetrators out of the way. Then we hopped back in the truck and went down to the gate. Frenchie had not gone far. She was just standing there, eating the plentiful, lush, green, grass. And snickering. I’m sure she was snickering. I told Mary to try to get on the other side of her and move her back toward the gate. Mary, like a lot of people, has things she’s good at, and things she’s bad at. Maneuvering around animals and coaxing them into going where you want them to go would fall under the “bad at” category. Frenchie just kept going down the road a few feet at a time, stopping to get mouthfuls of the plentiful, lush, green, grass and snickering. I shouted at Mary that I was going back to get the rope and the cattle prod. I raced back up the hill and found that Raye, hearing the commotion, had wandered out into the yard. I shouted at her that the llama was out and to grab my lasso and the cattle prod. She ran back inside to do just that. So I waited.
After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, it dawned on me that I had hung my lasso up on a hook in the house that “I” had to reach up and stretch to get it down from. I’m six feet tall. Raye is about four feet tall. After I did the math, I figured I just might be waiting an eternity if I didn’t go in there and help her. Sure enough, she had drug a chair over to where the lasso hung and was furiously trying to get it down. Had it not been tangled up, she might have succeeded with no help. She’s talented that way. Since I was there, I grabbed it and we both ran for the truck, got in, and drove down the hill. I never did tell Mary to stop trying to get around to the other side of Frenchie. They were both now down to the end of the road (which is fairly close to the gate). We drove down there and tried to rope Frenchie. I may dress like a cowboy a little but I have not one finger full of cowboy talent when it comes to roping. Frenchie just snickered. But being the free spirit she is, and currently being free to boot, she decided now would be a fabulous time to run! And run she did. Down the neighbors driveway. Around here it’s pretty much all ranches. So when you think “driveway”, it’s not the subdivision type of driveway. It’s more like a long dirt road. Frenchie came to a literal fork in the road. Well, not a literal fork like you eat with, but the road did actually fork, as opposed to the metaphorical fork in the road. Fortunately, instead of turning toward the river and endless open spaces, she chose to go into my neighbors property. I did my best Dukes of Hazard impression and slid the truck sideways into the gate, blocking her escape. Actually it was more like a bad parking job but you get the idea. This area was fenced so we knew we had her! There could only have been 50-75 acres for her to run around on now. She was virtually cornered!
My neighbor’s property has no animals grazing on it. There are acres of plentiful, lush, green, grass. Frenchie was in llama heaven. Humans, on foot, are slow and unwieldy. We suck at trying to catch virtually anything faster than a sloth. This was no exception. We are, however, marginally smarter than llamas. The neighbors property was, as many a ranch is, squarish. Thus, it had corners. Had it been round, I would likely still be out there to this day trying to catch Frenchie. Our team of three gathered quickly to discuss strategy. About this time Paul (not his real name), my neighbor, came out on his porch. I explained the situation and asked permission to do some llama wrangling. He agreed. I’m sure he figured this would be highly entertaining. Once again I find myself tired as I re-live these events. I tell you what, it’s not easy dealing with PTLSS (Post Traumatic Llama Stress Syndrome). So if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going to go to my online therapy session and call it a day. Tune in next time for the final chapter of Frenchies Great Escape! Same llama time, same llama channel.
Who knew llamas could be so ornery, cantankerous and stubborn. Lets not forget to add cocky, agile, as well as a keen sense of timing. Oh, and apparently they use teamwork. With different species…
Ask me how I know this, g’head, ask.
I’m glad you did! Frenchie, our llama, escaped Tuesday evening. It was a well orchestrated escape. Precision timing and teamwork, combined with opportunity, made this one an escape story for the books. It has it all, well, everything except explosions. I couldn’t figure out how to work those in. So to set the mood, go out on YouTube and play the theme from the old Mission Impossible show. That’s how it started, seriously, I swear I heard that music. Allow me to introduce you to the cast of characters in this story. Take a moment to watch the video. I shot it and my daughter Raye edited it like a pro…
After a typical day at work I had to stop to get some feed and some caulk to fix a roof leak. This meant I was running late. There were showers forecast for the evening and I had little light left to get up there and make the repair. I had already called Mary and coordinated with her to feed with our daughter Raye while I did the repair. I knew she’d be happy to help that night since the leak is over her room, mwuuhahaha. After getting all the stuff I headed for home. Everything was normal up to the point where I arrived. In retrospect I should have suspected something. At the very least, my situational awareness was not up to par. I was almost home. The sanctuary of my ranch, my home. What could possibly happen? My first clue might have been that the herd was milling “innocently” about the fence line next to the road as I drove up. Until they saw me. Then their carefully laid plan almost started to unravel. They could not contain their excitement and started jumping around and moving toward the gate.
Silly me, I thought they were just happy to see me.
They were actually. It turns out they had been planning this for months. I’m sure they practiced at night while everyone else slept. Likely bribing the roosters to shut up for a while so we wouldn’t awaken and bust them. My second clue was watching Frenchie aka ‘Houdini’, start running toward the gate. She was coy though. Take a few bounds, stop, walk slow. Keep the human off-balance. It worked. It looked to me like I had plenty of time to get the truck inside the gate and close it behind me before they would be “on me”. I knew llamas could sprint. I just wasn’t expecting this one to sprint right out the gate right that moment. Her success was immediate once she got between me and the gate. She had won at that moment, however, the plan was still in action. No chances were being taken. I couldn’t go after her. Obviously phase two of the plan kicked in at this point. The rest of the excited herd started milling about and threatened to get out as well. This cleverly forced me into having to dash the gate closed with me still inside the fence to prevent more escapes. Mind you, I left the door to the truck open while doing this. A mistake that would bite me shortly. Frenchie was now clear, but the flawless execution of “the plan” continued.
Pistol, aka ‘Eye Candy’, our hand raised lamb, is extremely agile and has the ability to appear out of nowhere. Usually right under your feet. This part of the plan still relied on subterfuge. Pistol always wants her sheep treats. The come in the big red truck, so when that shows up, it’s treat time. No matter where, no matter when. I still can’t say for certain if Frenchie actually included Pistol in the detailed planning sessions or if she simply relied on Pistols rock solid predictability. Either way, it worked like a charm. Now I am trying to get this lamb out of my way. First I have to get her head out of the truck. Then get her out-of-the-way of the door so her head doesn’t get smashed. Then close the now clear door. And finally, get by her to get back to the gate. Pistol’s job was now done. Now it was time for phase three. It was time for Rambo, aka ‘Muscles’, to take over.
As you may recall, I recently tried to “educate” Rambo on proper corral etiquette during feeding time. This seemed to have one obvious effect on him. He instantly had respect for the cattle prod. That just didn’t include me personally. And while sheep are not the most intelligent animals on the planet, they do appear to be smart enough to recognize when “de hooman do not hab his hurty stick” with him. I’m seriously thinking about getting one for the truck now. This is where Rambo joined in the fracas and starts to try to head butt me. Mind you, I’m already very mentally distracted. I’ve been caught with my situational awareness completely gone. And I’ve basically been forced to try to multi-task during this ordeal since so many things were happening all at once. Have I ever mentioned that I’m wired serially, not in parallel? For you non computer or electrically literate out there, in a parallel circuit, many things can happen together at basically the same time. They function much like women do with their spaghetti wired brains that can fire all synapses simultaneously and not explode. In a serial circuit, only one thing can happen at a time. That one thing can be done well and it can be done fast. It cannot, however, be combined with anything else or it will turn into a poo sandwich in short order. THAT is how I am wired. Multi bad, serial good! This was definitely a multi situation. Back to Rambo. When he butts you, he has a problem that works against him. For some reason he has to back up a few steps in order to get an effective butt in. If you close on him and put your hand on his head when he steps back, it completely frustrates his efforts. That’s great if that’s all you have to do and you don’t have any other distractions going on at the same time. Remember, multi bad. BAD multi! BAD! Aaaaaaannnnd POW! Yup, Rambo knocked me right on my keister. Don’t know if this is the second or third time this has happened now. The little toot is talented in this area, not to mention persistent.
So, there I was ( a line that has started many a great story), flat on my keister. Hoping that Rambo would stop and not “kick” me while I was down (he didn’t). While Frenchie was doing her little silent llama laugh outside the gate while munching on the really nice grass that is just over the fence. I’m sure it taunts her daily that she can’t reach it. The plan was a complete success. The ‘hooman’ was defeated, the llama was free, and the entire herd enjoyed a well deserved dose of laughter therapy. Whew, I get tired just writing all of that and the story is just getting started! I think I will leave the rest until Part 2. So stay tuned until next time! Same llama time, same llama channel!
The annual Guadalupe County Fair was this last weekend. We put that on the calendar and made sure we went. You can’t live in a small town and not go to the county fair, it just isn’t done. Naturally the stuff I would have liked to do was expensive. This year’s trip was more of a reconnaissance visit to find out what all was actually there. Rides, fair food, and games were the prime features. The rodeo would have been worth seeing but it was more than we budgeted for this go around. At $18 a head it might qualify for a date night next year. If you don’t mind spending money you could occupy yourself there for a long time. A kid would have been in heaven there. We will absolutely do it again next year and now that we know what to expect, we’ll plan better and get a bunch more out of it. Here are a couple of shots of the grounds.
The highlight of the night for us was the tractor pull. True to form, this fair puts a unique spin on this event. As much as I like high-octane monster vehicles that sling mud and flames, the version we saw was just as entertaining. It was a kiddie pedal power tractor pull! Here’s a shot or two.
Those kids had a blast. So did everyone watching and cheering them on for that matter! You can see the guy in the pink shirt helping the kid in the far lane by pushing the wheel. He did that for several of the kids. Some were as young as four years old and were just cute as a button. For one kid he completely unhooked the weight trailer. The kid didn’t even notice!
County fairs are fun. Go to one sometime. Stop and smell the hay…
I have an upcoming uber post. Looks like it will be a three parter. Yesterday our llama went on the llam (llam, get it? yuk yuk yuk). It was a highly organized and well planned escape attempt. It took all evening to get that animal back home and left the whole family tired, dirty, sore, and smelly. It’ll probably generate a Country Wisdom post or two but the story is just to good to not tell in great, if not a tad embellished, detail. Not sure if it’ll be next but it will be soon so stay tuned!
Here’s a salute to our military on the seas. Happy 238th birthday to the U.S. Navy! These folks have the best of all the service songs/hymns in my humble opinion.
So, I was thinking about getting a male llama to give our female a mate. Her name is Frenchie. That is some kind of internet meme name daughter number one insisted on. For some reason she’s gotten her way with many of the animals names around here. Harumph! Anywho, was thinking about naming the male llama…
wait for it…
you know it’s coming…
I never used Facebook for anything other than a place holder, or more like having your name in the phone book if people wanted to get a hold of you. Due to a new development in my life I finally found a good use for it. This blog is going to be linked there just for fun so folks can keep up with all the exciting developments here at the ranch. I’m starting a business blog as well and that one will also link and hopefully assist with sales. I’ll link to that blog and mention what I’m doing in case any reader here is interested but that’ll be about it here. This is for the ranch and family and I want to keep it focused on that primarily.
Speaking of the ranch, tonight we had an episode of psychotic sheepscapades. Or they ate sheepnip or something. Normally you can’t get rid of them around dinner time until you feed them. Tonight I go out and… no sheep. Called them three times. Still no sheep. I was about to give up when about half the herd came charging, and I mean they were haulin mutton, from the back 40. I figured they were just a little exuberant for dinner. Um, not so much. They ran right up to the gate where I was and did some kind of Miley Cyrus inspired sheep dance for a few seconds, and then they turned and ran back to where they had come from! Full blast! It was probably the strangest display I have seen here yet. I’m thinking a surveillance system could provide some interesting entertainment from time to time around here. Might look into that.