Tag Archives: farming

Would YOU Remember Being Spit on by a Llama?

 

I reported last week that my teenage writing career was jumpstarted by interviewing my nearest neighbor, a local Langdon, ND farmer who bought two llamas. Yea, that was big news for a weekly newspaper in a town so small the gossip about you arrived home before you did. While reviewing my old newspaper article, I kept getting this strange sensation to call the farmer’s daughter and ask, “Hey Liz Anne, do you remember when your Dad’s llama spit on you?" 

But that’s kinda’ lame.

After all, being spit on by a llama isn’t really big news, except in Langdon.  I bet the farmers that visit the bakery each morning to talk about crops, weather, and local news gossip are still talking about the Quam’s llamas as they roll dice to see who pays for the morning’s coffee and donuts.

Llama Spit

I double-dog dared myself so I wouldn’t chicken out.

It was easy enough to find Liz Anne after all these years. I didn’t  make a long-distance call  to information (555-1212)  or call someone from Langdon. I used a search engine, found Liz Anne, and learned she’d lost both her parents. My resolve to call grew from curious to personal.

I poked out her number on my cell phone and pushed send. Her spunky voice and friendliness transported me back 33 years in time. We chatted easily, catching up on the decades concerning schooling, marriage, kids, and careers. We both went through cancer. We’re both still writing, except she’s smarter – she’s a Professor at Moorhead State University in Moorhead teaching Public Relations Writing. In other words, she probably doesn’t stay in her jammies most of the day.

When I expressed my sympathies about losing her parents she said, “They were "an astounding couple not to be matched." Her admiration and love for her parents increased the grief I felt for her loss.  We reminisced about her parents, and she said, "Did you know my Mom shot at my Dad?”

 

Schills and Brauns 142

(A country road near the Little Pembina Ranch, typical North Dakota summer scene)

I hadn’t heard that story, or I would have written another article for the newspaper.  Being shot at is way more exciting than being spit on.

Liz explained that as newlyweds, her parents, Don and Geneva, had moved to her family farm, the Little Pembina Ranch. The two college-educated people were a little bored living alone on the prairie farm so close to Canada. One day Don came home after working in the field and found Geneva sitting on the front porch with a loaded .22 lying across her lap.  She was known to be a good shot, so Don wasn’t initially surprised.

Until Geneva lifted the gun and said, "Dance, Don, or I’m going to shoot.”

Don laughed, but didn’t dance.

Geneva shot. She warned again, "Dance, Don, or I’m going to shoot!”

She shot again, “I’m going to shoot until I run out of bullets."

Don danced until the gun was empty.

Life on the farm was never boring for the Quams after that, it was filled with hard work, laughter, family, pranks, friends, love, community service, and neighborly deeds.

Liz and I caught up to the point of the call, the sheep and llama adventure.  She said her parents ventured into sheep, in addition to the grain, because they had been a money-making venture for farmers for a few years. She took off the spring quarter of college to help, arriving home to a herd of sheep and the two llamas.

 

Two Llamas

 

"Those llamas were perfectly worthless as far as predator control, because they were no good at keeping coyotes away," she said. The strategy was to have one llama on each end of the field, but the llamas always stayed together.

The llamas a failure and so were the sheep. Soon after Don and Geneva ventured into sheep, the market tanked and the Quams eventually lost their family farm. When generations have lived and farmed the land, losing the family farm is more than losing a business. It’s losing your heritage. Sometimes settlers were born and  buried on their land. It’s a tie that goes deeper than mere tradition.

But, happily-ever-afters aren’t just for fairy tales, they sometimes happen for farmers. An aunt died and left money to Don and Geneva, and they bought the farm back. Even though I heard the news years later, I rejoiced with Liz.  We both know too many families who permanently lost their farms.

Liz’s kids grew up spending the summers on the farm learning skills city life doesn’t quite teach you, and spending the time with the crazy Grandpa who once went 140 miles per hour with a college-age grandson in his little Mercedes because "someone was trying to pass me." She lost her mom, Geneva, to Alzheimer’s, and cared for Don in her home for his final four years.

She inherited the farm after she lost her parents.  With the tenacity of her ancestors, she decided to farm. A city-dwelling professor during the school year and a country-living farmer by summer, she  manages the baby farm of 500 acres of the original family farm. She hires someone to do the planting, and dreams of adding an orchard to the blank spot of canvas in North Dakota that’s hers.

And for the finale you’ve all been waiting for, yes, 33 years later she did remember the spitting incident and said, “It was vile!” She hadn’t provoked the animal, she only walked up to it, but went down in Langdon history as the only person spit on a llama.

After catching up,  I think she’s wrong thinking her parents are “not to be matched.” I see the spunk, brains, and beauty of her mother, and the work ethic and humor of her father. 

She’s Don and Geneva, minus the llamas.

How Two Llamas Jumpstarted my Writing Career

 

 

flashback friday

In 1981, big things were happening in the world.  Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as president, the Iranian hostages were finally released, and Judge Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman on the US Supreme Court

During the  tumultuous hostage crisis  our nation was glued to their TVs for days, watching world events unfold.

That summer I was hired by the local newspaper, the Cavalier County Republican, as a reporter. A 16-year-old kid in braces, I was thrilled to have a part in providing my journalistic slant on the changing world.

Except the news in Langdon, North Dakota, a small town you skip through on the way to Canada, wasn’t nearly as exciting.  For my first interview my editor had the scoop of the century; a local farmer had purchased two exotic animals.

The farmer was my next door neighbor, Don Quam, a man who could tell tall tales bigger than Paul Bunyan’s and tell you true tales you wished were tall tales, with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his tan, creased face.  No, it isn’t a cliché, his eyes did twinkle.  Geneva was his perfect match, a spunky blonde who kept him in line.

Two Llamas Jumpstarted

Two llamas, two friendly neighbors, how hard could that assignment be?  Except  I’d never written a newspaper article before, not even in high school English class.  I hadn’t used a 35mm camera in a few years.  A pad of lined yellow paper, a pen, and a Canon camera were thrust into my hands.

While interviewing Don and Geneva  I scribbled frantically as they joked and spoke wise words worth quoting about their llamas, Lleo and Llouis. Because I didn’t have a telephoto lens, I cautiously entered the pasture for close-up pictures.  I’d learned the llamas were walking on lethal weapons and could spit.

My story was typed and submitted without any feedback from my editor.  I still wasn’t sure if it qualified as an article, but it was printed.

All errors aren’t necessarily mine, cringe, because the typesetter, who got an A in high school typing but not  in English, often felt the need to “correct” my work.

 

LLAMAS2 Stitch

(click on pic to enlarge and read or read full text below)

A few days later my jubilant editor waved a Grand Forks Herald in my face and pointed to a llama story.

He bragged that my first article was picked up by a big-city daily newspaper and assured  my career was off to a great start, thanks to Lleo and Llouis.

Thirty-three years later, the reporter in me wants to write a follow-up to my exciting career launch.  Would Liz Anne remember the llama spit?  Would she remember me?

Is it really suitable  to call someone thirty-three years later and ask, “Hey, do you remember being spit on by a llama?”

I know you’re wondering, too, right? Do ya’ double-dog dare me?

Stay tuned.  Monday’s follow-up is surely to be picked up by the Herald.

 

Tweet Two llamas jumpstarted a writing career.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Llamas can be put to good use on farms
by Melinda Brainard
CAVALIER COUNTY REPUBLICAN, Page 5, Wednesday, June 17, 1981

Lleo and Llouis have long, shaggy, blonde hair, cute little faces and spit when they are angry or are attacked.

No, they’re not members of the latest punk rock band. They’re a pair of llamas that reside at the Don Quam farm, The Little Pembina Ranch, north of Langdon.

Don answered an ad in the newspaper advertising the Wahpeton Zoo had llamas for sale.

“Well,” explained his wife, Geneva, “after Don read the ad, he called the zoo and they told him all about the animals.  When he hung up, Edwin Olson, a friend of ours, said he’d buy one if we did.  They were only six months old when we got them late last fall.”

Llamas are a member of the camel family and originated in South America, where they were used for beasts of burden.

But why llamas in North Dakota?

“To keep coyotes away from our sheep,” laughed Geneva. “We had read an article that told about a rancher who leased llamas to other ranchers to keep coyotes away.  See, llamas are very inquisitive animals and will scare the coyotes away.

“Yes,” added Don, “anything comes into the pasture and the llamas are right there poking their noses in, seeing what it is.”

“When we first got them they were especially curious about people on bikes.  They would walk right up to them and sniff them out.”

As to whether the llamas are doing their job or not, Geneva said, “We haven’t had any coyotes here yet, so we don’t know for sure if they’re going to work. But the day before we picked them up from the zoo, a deer got into their enclosure and boy, did those llamas put the run on that poor deer! That led us to believe that Lleo and Llouis would put the run on any coyote that shows up.”

Apparently the llamas are very compatible with the sheep.

“Oh yes,” Geneva said, “they graze right alongside the sheep and eat whatever they eat.  There’s no problem at all.  llamas are very easy animals to keep.”

“They don’t even bother to try to get out, though I’m sure they could jump any fence,” added Don.

“They even tolerate people taking their pictures,” Geneva teased. 

“They’re also very gentle and will eat out of your hand.  At first I spent a lot of time showing them to people, but I had to coax them over with All-Bran, or some other kind of cereal,” she added.

“Only one thing, they don’t like to be petted at all.  make sure you stay away from their hind feet, too; they’re lethal.  that was the first thing they warned us about at the zoo.”

“Though they used to be pretty wild animals, llamas can become domesticated.  I even saw a llama in a nativity scene once, so that shows how tame they can be,” said Geneva.

Though they are a member of the camel family, llamas have no hump and have long, thick, course hair that is brown, gray, black, or white.

They are relatively small animals, standing only four to five feet high, and their body is only four to five feet long.

“They really have cute faces and are very intelligent and bright looking,” pointed out Geneva.  “They have bi eyes with long eyelashes.  Their legs are long and skinny with shaggy fur and they have a very high spirited run.  But most of the time they just stand there and look darling.”

“A lot of the time they stand right next to each other, with their heads facing the opposite direction. That makes them look like the character out of Dr. Zeus’ books, a Push me-Pull me. This character is actually a two headed llama.  It’s really crazy looking when they stand that way.”

It seems that having such unusual animals in North Dakota would attract quite a few curious onlookers.

“At first there were many people out here to look at them, but I really don’t think too many people even know we have them,” explained Geneva.

“You should have seen one day when the llamas were down near the dam,” said Don, his blue eyes twinkling.  “Some kid darn near fell out of the boat trying to see what they were!”

“I suppose they are a bit exotic for this area,” said Geneva thoughtfully.

Female llamas bear one kid per year, but there will be no offspring for Lleo and Llouis, they’re both male.

“But they’re always together,” commented Don, “you never see them apart from each other.”

Llamas have a split top lip and no teeth on their lower jaw.  This unusual mouth structure enables them to spit a foul smelling saliva when they are angered or attacked.

“We’ve only had one experience with them spitting, laughed Geneva.  “My daughter, Liz Anne, was the one who got spit on.  Now we just make sure nobody upsets them.”

According to Geneva, Lleo and Llouis are the rather silent sort, but Don swears he’s heart them speak Norwegian on numerous occasions.

So, until a coyote shows his face on the Quam residence, Lleo and Llouis will just have to pass time by looking cute and innocent, and telling Norwegian jokes.