Thursday, December 1, 2011

Beauty and the Beast

Winters of 1978 to 1983, Nevada, Iowa

The first two llamas we bought were called Ozzie and Harriet, named after the famous 1950’s TV series. Harriet was pregnant, but Ozzie was not the father. Within a few months of bringing them home from the Chamberlain South Dakota Exotic Animal Auction, tragedy would strike and Ozzie would kill Harriet while she was giving birth to Andy.

My Dad was away on business at the time and I felt pretty guilty knowing Harriet was suffering on the hilltop while I was lying down with my headphones on a pillow listening to X Los Angeles or London Calling. The neighbor Bud, a sheep farmer, made the call to the Veterinarian but it was too late. Andy became our pet after that, and he often sat in the family room with us watching TV and humming, as all young llamas do.

After Harriet died, my dad wanted to recoup his $2,000 loss by finding another female and breeding her with Ozzie. If the baby were female, a one in four chance, then he would be on the right track. Meanwhile it was just Ozzie and Andy, two orphans ruling the pasture where horses had once run free.
One of my weekly chores was to feed Ozzie. During the winter, with the dirt road iced over or the long driveway blocked, it was easier to just cross over the pasture, take the bridge over the creek and climb the hill to the barn. Only problem was that Ozzie would be there waiting at the top.

I had to take a large stick with me and wave it in front of him or whack him in the face with it so he wouldn’t trample me down. He was a good 300 pound spitting machine with hooked teeth like a serpent, wielding his dragon neck at me with bulging eyes, hissing stinky fire. I usually could hit him squarely in the balls a couple times and he got the idea until I went in and closed the door to the barn.
We find out later that Ozzie had been raised by humans too, bottle fed just like we were doing with Andy. He imprinted humans as natural enemies, and his aggression came from being coddled by some unwitting children in a petting zoo. Andy got too big to come inside anymore, so we put him back in the barn with Ozzie. The Veterinarian told us he died of heartbreak.

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