It began innocently enough. I had noticed a photograph in a local newspaper of a woman craning her neck upward, lips pursed, as an interested llama sniffed at her face. I am always on the lookout for unique Smooch! photo opps. The possibility of adding a llama to my collection was intriguing. I called Kathy, the sheepherder farmer who owned Chiquita, the llama, to describe my project and ask if she would be interested in participating. The following weekend, I made the two hour drive to her farm to meet her and her llama for a possible photo session.
There is no photo to document what happened. This is probably a good thing. I learned a lot about llamas, both during my visit there and in my online research following. Turns out that llamas are not very demonstrative creatures. They don’t like to be touched. They are easily irritated. They are jealous and territorial. Their huge liquid eyes seem to watch the world with a cool distaste. I don’t know why Kathy was so surprised at what happened. After all, she had owned Chiquita for more than four years, keeping her for her wool and to protect the sheep. Llamas guard their flocks, warding off intruding dogs and unsuspecting humans. They take their jobs very seriously.
Later, Kathy theorized that Chiquita had taken one good look at me, with my black camera bag over my shoulder, and decided I was a sheep shearer about to mess with her sheep. The llama strode out into the field among her charges and would not come when called. Kathy asked me to hide in the barn, out of sight, while she marched out into the distance to entice Chiquita to return. I watched through a dusty window. The scene was set: Thirty yards away, the farmer, four or five sheep, the llama. After a few unsuccessful efforts to reach Chiquita, I saw Kathy bend over a sheep and stroke it. Chiquita deliberately strode towards them. Ah, I thought, the llama is jealous of the attention being given to the sheep. Good plan, Kathy! Well, I was wrong. When Kathy stood and faced the llama, Chiquita spit directly into her face.
They call it spitting. I had read about this but never before witnessed it. After some discussion with a friend, we decided spitting was far, far too mild a term. Spewing seemed much more appropriate. I saw Chiquita spew the contents of her first stomach into Kathy’s face. I was more than 90 feet away and it seemed much more like a short powerful burst from a garden hose. I saw the llama lean forward, the clear spray hit Kathy’s face. The rebounding splash sparkled brightly in the sunlight. It seemed like a lot of fluid. Standing in the safety of the barn among the chickens, I can still easily replay the audio content of the scene: I softly said, “Oh, my!” Kathy shouted, “What’s the matter with you?!” The chickens chuckled, “Cluck. Cluck. Cluck.”
Kathy marched back to the barn, sans Chiquita, wiping her face off with any part of her shirt that seemed reasonably dry. There were bits of grass stuck to her face and shirt, in her hair. I left right away, as her primary interest was taking a shower. I offered to come back if she wished, if she thought there would be a different outcome. A second invite never came. I was not surprised.
There is no photo to display with this post, Smooch! or otherwise. But in my later research, I did come across a hilarious video (at least to me) of an American man encountering a llama in an Amsterdam zoo. His experience was much, much worse than what I saw that day on a Minnesota farm. For those of you possessing strong stomachs and a quirky sense of humor, you’re invited to view the YouTube video entitled The Llama Was One Unhappy Mama.
I’m drawn to the Smooch! Project because of Bonnie’s passion for it. Her desire to share the heart-warming feeling you get when smooched is absolutely something to promote. Why not pay it forward? It only gets better!