Animal Dilemmas – Vicuña Llama
The Llama found the herd it had left on the same flat field on top of a low hill near a giant settlement. The herd and the giants that herded it thought the Llama long dead and were surprised to see it back. They interrupted their grazing but not for too long. They paused for a few stares before trotting on with the important business of eating.
Grazing was indeed their most precious task for if they went to their enclosure hungry they had to eat the dry fodder the giants left for them. If they didn’t eat their full they would bend legs at the loads that giant had them carry through the mountain passages.
The herd was mostly llamas and a few alpacas.
‘Trot on into the barracks, where the rocks are made of salt and fodder never ends,’ said one of the alpacas.
‘So you like it here,’ said the Llama?
‘Like it? I love it, I have never been anywhere else. I am not some crazy wild vicuña!’
‘What is a vicuña?’
‘You will see one soon enough. They come to graze here at night. They know the grass here is the sweetest but they live in the wild. You will see them from the barracks.’
‘I lived in the wild until now and it was beautiful.’
‘Oh, please don’t start. You were there a few months when there was plenty of grass. What in the winter. When the grass is dry and the wind cold? What then?’
‘Do they have fresh grass in the winter here?’
‘Well no, but we have a roof and four walls and very little work. The winter is vacation time. We stare at the hills all day it is beautiful.’
‘It’s dark in here. All of us fit in this room?’
‘Yes, and in the mating season you just climb a top and make cubs.’
‘Why some of you have short hair?’
‘The giants cut it and cover themselves with it in the winter. See they don’t have enough themselves. See out at the field, the vicuñas are coming down for a bite before the sun hides completely.’
‘Why they don’t come during the day?’
‘They used to but we don’t get along. And the giants try to catch them to cut their hair. They don’t like that.’
‘This fodder is disgusting how do you eat it!’
‘Yes, it’s not the best but if don’t think about it it’s fine. What matters is that we are protected from wild cats. See the dogs they patrol on order of the giants.’
‘Shshsh,’ said a llama.
‘Time to sleep, more tomorrow.’
The Llama couldn’t sleep that night. The enclosure was packed with feces and the air was thick with the smell. In the morning the giants came and herded the animals into an open space enclosure where they attached belts around their bellies and tied them in a column with a single long rope. The herd was led out into the hills, loaded with freshly cut timber and led back to the farm. The round was repeated three times until the Llama’s legs felt like tree shoots that didn’t obey its orders. On the last round a small pack of vicuñas grazed by the goat path and laughed at the site of the loaded llamas and alpacas.
This night the Llama slept and woke up very hungry. The fodder tasted like the freshest grass. The timber season was just beginning and the next few days the Llama wished it had never returned from the wild. The vicuñas kept laughing from the high wild slopes.
One night just after dark fell, a vicuña appeared on the window of the enclosure and peaked in.
‘If they see you they will soon you for that fancy fur of yours,’ said the alpaca.
‘Seems to me they are skinning you every day. And butcher you when they get tiered of eating guinea pigs.’
‘We are happy here, go back to the his where you belong!’
‘No we are not,’ said the Llama. ‘I want to come with you!’
‘So furry up trot out of there hop the fence and follow me.’
The Llama climbed on the back of its neighbor and hoped over the fence into the field. The vicuña bolted into the night and the Llama followed it.
‘Keep up llama! We are not going to wait for you.’
‘I will keep up. I lived in the wild for several months and…’
‘And what, can kill wild cats with your farts! I don’t care, just run and keep quiet.’
They joined the small group and without ceremonies started for the hills. After some hardship keeping up with them and scratching its legs on the sharp rocks, the Llama found them still under a cliff.
‘You made it llama. We had to hurry because the giants want our coats. See yours is common place but ours is reserved for their kings only.’
‘I lived by first few months here and can’t give up my freedom for the security the giants provide.’
‘Yes, yes, you said that before. You probably dreamed it up because you could possibly survive out here as a cub.’
‘I did, I lived in a giant shell of ancient god, a few hills over.’
‘I have heard of a llama living out there in they giant turtle shell. The wild cats always gossip about it, how they could catch it,’ said another vicuña.
‘That is me.’
‘Yes, well, I am thrilled for you. Time to sleep keep it down. The wild cats are just begging their hunt.’
‘It’s very cold here,’ said the Llama.
‘See that is why our coat is more sought after. It can handle the mountain. Sweet dreams.’
The Llama could sleep from the cold. When it was younger it had a faster metabolism and had lived in a valley among the hills protected from the harsh winds. Now it was on an unprotected slope with northern exposure. By morning it was stif and tired. The vicuñas woke and started for breakfast but the Llama couldn’t move.
‘What happen llama!? You are not an early riser!’
‘Don’t let me hold you back. I will catch up.’
‘Or we are concerned! We will see you around!’
They left. The Llama could hardly move. It strafed down in the direction of the farm but tripped several times. As the sun rose its strength grew a little. But it was still moving also and it would take it the whole day to descend from the mountain.
It thought of the warm smell of fesses and dry fodder.
That was when the wild cat appeared.
‘You have put some weight since the last time I saw you,’ it said.
Stay tuned for next week’s installment of Animal Dilemmas – Tuesday, August 23rd
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photograph by Carlos Olaizola