Catch me if you can… (Part 3)

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…


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