`THE llamas hum!'' my friends Carol and Jeff wrote from their new farm in southern Oregon.Skip to next paragraph
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Did they create musical tunes I could learn and maybe dance to?
Or was their humming a way of talking to creatures of their own kind, as whales and dolphins do? If so, could I decode the llamas' lingo and talk to them?
And what did they talk about?
I knew nothing of llamas, except that they were increasingly popular in the United States.
``Come visit us,'' my friends urged.
In addition to acquiring a mother llama, Heather, and her two-month old son, Cedric, my friends now had a horse and a dog, two cats, three donkeys, guinea hens, and chicks - and innumerable bats that flew out from under their roof at dusk.
I wanted to see them all.
``The llamas hum,'' I told the woman sitting next to me on the crowded bus from Seattle.
Her eyes had been drifting shut, her head wearily resting against the windowpane.
Suddenly she was wide awake. She sat up.
``I'd like to buy a llama, but I don't know anything about them,'' she said.
``Tell me your questions. I'll ask my friends. Then I'll write to you,'' I promised.
``Do you need a high fence around them?'' she began.
I repeated her questions at the end of the day as I excitedly talked with Carol and Jeff. We were rattling along the highway in a truck toward their farm.
``No high fences are needed for the llamas themselves,'' replied Jeff. ``Although I've seen Cedric stand still and suddenly jump straight into the air! But if neighboring dogs are a threat, you'd do well to have a fence five feet high, or higher. Electrifying it would also help.''
``Should a person have more than one llama at a time?'' I asked.
``Yes,'' replied Carol. ``Otherwise a llama can become overly attached to humans. That could cause a problem with breeding. A man down the road is going to bring his young llama to play with Cedric soon.''
We turned onto a dirt road.
``We live at the end of this road,'' said Jeff. ``When we searched for a farm to buy, Carol required one thing: that we not see another house in any direction, and we don't.''
The road led up the mountainside with towering evergreens tapering into the sky. Carol pointed to a relatively level stretch with a pond on my right.
``That's our lower pasture.''
Then I saw them - above the lower pasture, in the barnyard near the road: The mother llama was resting with her legs folded under her, and standing near her was young Cedric. Both white, they looked as though they'd been sculpted from moon stuff, illuminating the thickening dusk.
``Beautiful!'' I exclaimed. ``I hope I'll get to hear them hum!''
JEFF explained that llamas hum when anxious. Heather, concerned about Cedric wandering too far, might call him back by humming. Llamas, especially young ones, also hum when content. The humming sounds a bit like a harp.
At the road's end, we stopped before a two-story house perched on the mountainside. Even though we were unaware of even a slight breeze, we stood listening to the song of the trees, and the bass croaking of frogs in the pond below. What a change to be away from city sirens and night cries, away from the lights of civilization! I was surrounded by trees and mountains.
The next morning, occasionally slipping ... sliding ... on a pebble or stone, I followed Carol down to the barn. I was trying to recover my country legs so that I could bound sure-footed up and down the steep mountainside, just as she did. In the upper pasture, the donkeys hee-hawed to announce their hunger. Ebony, the black horse, watched, elegantly silent.