January 3, 2019
You’ve pictured it: Gentle, fuzzy alpacas grazing in a green pasture, those big eyes welcoming you as you stroll out for a visit, maybe even a slow motion running to greet you. Or perhaps you’re spending a warm afternoon under a tree, reading a book, as they sit nearby humming happily. Ahhhh, the peaceful farm life.
Let me introduce you to Journey. Or, Journey the Jerk as he’s better known. (There have been other monikers, but this is a family publication.) While some of the boys watch you with that side-eye look, Journey looks at you head on, nostrils twitching, and says, “Bring it.” Journey is the cage fighter of the alpaca world, he’s a badass and he knows it.
Right after shearing a year ago, I had headed to Austin for a business trip. We had a decent snow storm here while I was gone, which seems to happen more often than not after shearing, so Jim had coats on the alpacas as it was pretty darn chilly and they were naked. My first morning back it was predicted to be a nice warm day, so my first goal was to get the coats off of them. The coats we use attach with Velcro, two straps around the belly and one around the neck. Waterproof outside, fleecy inside, doesn’t restrict movement, all in all pretty nice. Which would make you think they would appreciate our efforts to keep them cozy in inclement weather. You’d think.
While most of them are fairly tolerant of the whole coat-on-coat-off process, the Velcro makes enough noise to make them a bit jumpy. That, combined with the fact that you’re holding them still while making said noise, is enough for things to get dicey. That morning, I headed into the first boys’ stall that housed Mr. Big, Steven Ambrose, and Journey. (How some of our more curious names came to be is a story for another day.) First up was Steven, and he’s a pretty mellow boy overall. He stood there like a little gem as I undid the two belly straps and the neck strap. Zip, zip, zip, done. Next, on to Mr. Big. He’s made a career out of eye injuries (I swear hay just jumps up and pokes him in the eye on a regular basis), so over the years he’s become very used to being handled. Stands like a champ and zip, zip, zip, done. During this whole process Journey is watching me like a hawk, pacing like a prize fighter heading into the ring and I swear he was thinking, “Go ahead, give it your best shot.”
I look over to Journey is his red coat, preparing my strategy. If I can get him into a corner and hold him long enough to get the belly straps undone, the neck strap should be a piece of cake. I’m going in. Knowing his usual MO is to rear up, I put one hand where his neck and shoulder meet (usually an effective move) and reach over his back to undo the belly straps. (Note to self: next time make sure the ends you need to pull are facing towards you, not on the other side by the wall where you have to go over the top to reach them. This was my first miscalculation.) I actually got both of those undone and was feeling a little cocky about it when, instead of rearing up, Journey reaches out a front leg, hooks my legs out from under me in what could only be called a stellar MMA move, and next thing I know I’m flat on my back. In the muck pile. I lay there in awe while he does a victory lap, red coat swinging out from his neck like freakin’ Superman, and before I can blink he then jumps on me and bites me in the arm. It took much kicking, screaming, and threatening to make him into sausage before I was finally able to get out from under him, grab the darn coat, and make my escape. (The sausage threat did nothing to save me, he knows I bluff. He has nice fleece.)
So, if you ever come to visit the farm, know you’ll likely get a cuddle from Cody, a kiss from Jezebel, and the stink eye from Journey. Give him a wide berth.
Sally Ball and her husband Jim own Rivendale Farms and spend their time with 18 alpacas, 2 very large dogs, and 2 incredibly spoiled cats. Sally is a Realtor and heads up the KW Land division for Keller Williams Foothills. Some speculate she chose to specialize in Farm & Ranch simply because she likes tromping around outside and hanging out in barns.