Louisa Learns a Lesson

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

Life as an adult is not all it’s cracked up to be.

This year I asked Santa if I could please trade in my over-21 ID; yet Christmas has come and gone, and I still I find I am required to do too many irritating things. The list starts with getting up in the morning and only goes downhill from there. I greatly admire people who have that kind of military discipline to be up, showered, dressed smartly, and have their beds made and shoes polished before the sun has even thought about making an appearance. They seem very pleased with themselves, and frankly, they look great. Whatever they’re taking, I’d like some, too.

Then again, I think farm life puts more demands on your average human than a city dweller’s existence. I have discovered new delight in absolute sloth whenever I can swing it, given the relentless requirements of rural living. But, as my dad would have said, “buck up.” It’s when things go beyond relentless that I find I must protest. The case of the Lost Llama named Louisa would be one example.

Louisa is a willowy, timid, brunette llama. She came to live on the farm in July after her long-time owner, a disabled Vietnam veteran, realized he would soon be confined to a wheelchair. She immediately took up residence alone in a far corner of the upper pasture, only venturing out of her space when she knew I wasn’t looking and goats weren’t about. She has gradually made friends with our other llama Jean Claude and Angel the Jacob sheep and I now often see the trio wandering around and grazing together. On Christmas Eve, returning from a trip to the lower pasture, the two llamas started doing a strange and funny dance together, running and swinging long necks in the air gumby-style. Angel pogo-jumped on all fours all the way up the driveway, and then the three of them chased each other back down and up again. But usually Louisa is a loner; it’s as though she keeps telling me that she’s only temporary.

Though she shows little interest in me, I’m quite enamored of her. In the late autumn hurricane that came with brutal winds and rain, I was out checking on animals every few hours. Numerous times I found Louisa huddled at the bottom of the driveway, soaked to the skin and shivering violently. Each time I herded her with some difficulty up towards the barn and shelter, getting soaked myself (and undeniably cranky) in the process. But she would only stay under the shelter for a few minutes to eat, then was back out again in the elements.

The issue of shelter worried me ever since. After the cows walked through their fencing in protest of the mud and relocated themselves to “her” pasture, Louisa took up residence under a large cedar tree by the driveway. We had an unspoken agreement that I would carry down hay for her bedding and food every night, respecting her wish for privacy. Yet it just didn’t seem right.

Then one day in December it snowed and sleeted; the wind was bitterly cold, and if I had to name the number one top thing I did not want to do, that thing would have been going outside. Loyally, though, at feeding time I bundled up and trudged down the hill with Louisa’s dinner. And found her gone.

As a rule, these situations arise at night. They also happen when there are no flashlights that work, I’m wearing eyeglasses that are not quite the right prescription, and all the hooded sweatshirts are in the wash so cold water makes its way down inside my shirt. I walked half blind and thoroughly chilled through every muddy pasture calling her name, and pretty soon began to have a Very Bad Feeling. I hate it when that happens. A run of the mill bad feeling is one you can quite possibly walk away from and trust that morning will bring a satisfactory resolution; a Very Bad Feeling, however, keeps you away from your hot dinner, PBS, and mulled wine in front of the woodstove. A Very Bad Feeling forces you to conscript neighbors who do happen to own flashlights into the search party who also, however, would prefer to be permanently ensconced indoors. In other words, this Feeling generally sets an entire evening on its ear.

We did find little Louisa huddled miserably under a leaf-stripped tree, outside the farm, alongside the main driveway. The details of getting her back through the gate, out of the reach of the steers who were having an early New Year’s celebration, causing at least one member of the search party to quite spontaneously vault the four foot fence and land in a mud puddle (the clean version of his comment being “no, seriously, I’ll never do THAT again”), are of not much interest. What is remarkable is that the next morning, Louisa was in the central area behind the barn. She was actually in the sheep shed, along with half a dozen sheep. And when I brought out hay, she ate right alongside them as though she’d always belonged.

I guess we all dig in our heels at one time or another. I remember my mother telling my father after every beach excursion, party, or other event he vociferously refused to go to but somehow ended up going to anyhow, “now aren’t you glad you did that?”

I suppose early risers with the polished shoes can say that to themselves daily. Alas, I do know that given the opportunity, I will sleep in, and Louisa will wander off. But isn’t it great when we’re roped back into service?

“If we don’t discipline ourselves, the world will do it for us.”
— William Feather
Till next time,

Farmer Anne
Star Gazing Farm 501(c)3
A haven for retired farm animals and wayward goats

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