Llama Mama in the COVID Age

By Katiedid Langrock

September 19, 2020 5 min read

"Watch out. She spits," the teenager said.

"She spits?" I asked.

"Yeah, she's pregnant and peeved off."

Only he didn't say "peeved." I knew what he meant. I've never felt more seen as a woman.

"And, like, she's a llama," the teenager said.

Don't ruin this for me, kid. The angry pregnant spitter and I are having a moment.

Not that I'm with child. On the contrary, I'm with children. And husband. Twenty-four hours a day. Seven days a week. And I may spit on the next person who gets too close.

I recently read an article about how we all feel touch-starved in the age of COVID-19. We miss hugs and high-fives and pats on the back and affectionate embraces. I believe this, fully and completely. But as the mother to young children who haven't been to school since early March, I'm touch-saturated. A little space would be welcome.

This farm has not offered space. We parked our motorhome here for the evening, seeking some space from the crowded Walmart parking lots we've been spending evenings in as we travel east to escape the smoke and flames on the West Coast. But the farm is just as crowded. The over 50 animals are extremely friendly and clearly have not been informed about the 6-foot social distancing guidelines. Even without so much as a single oat in our hands, the goats, donkeys, horses, pigs, rabbits, ducks, mules and alpacas come running over to be pet. To be touched. To be loved. To welcome us.

It's a familiar welcome. And for as much as I'd welcome some space, it's the welcome I want to focus on.

I want to focus on how we've crossed this great space and found ourselves welcomed, time and again, by strangers who greet us with a metaphorical hug in the absence of being able to give a true one.

When a loud hiss of air blew out from under our RV and we limped into a tiny town on the outskirts of Death Valley, a local mechanic drove to us and stood in 115-degree heat to look in our engine and speculate about the cause. The town — which, from what I could see, had nothing more than a gas station, a barbecue joint, four bars and a brothel-turned-massage parlor — was populated by the most welcoming people. They invited us to share the shade under the only working umbrella at the restaurant. They offered the kids free ice pops.

And I realized that space is a commodity for when things are going well — so well that you don't need other people. But when, really, is that?

We've had strangers invade our space to help us navigate a tricky parking spot and a park ranger who gave us her life story along with directions and friends who welcomed us into their home when our campground was evacuated — friends we would not have otherwise seen during the pandemic. And now we have a small farm, which raises animals for children's petting zoos, opening its yard for us to spend the night in.

And though none of it has granted the space I so desperately crave, all of it has been lovely and gracious and kind and born of a deep friendliness — a desire to connect above all else. I'm grateful.

I thought a farm meant wide-open spaces, but the animals are choosing closeness over distance. I must admit that the pigs and the donkeys, the mules and the rabbits, the sheep and the cows — even the secretly plotting barn cats — all seem to get along swimmingly. They nudge one another for affection as they nudged us.

"It's because we colony raise them," the teenager said when I asked him about the animals' extraordinary friendliness and ease.

"What's colony raise?"

"It means we keep them all together, in one big field, instead of separated by species."

The species that live together love together. I had to admit, it was getting harder to hate the cat that was on my lap purring. And I hate cats.

"So they never get a break from one another?" I asked.

"We tried to lock Lotto (the llama) away in a pen just because she seemed so irritable, but you see what happened," the teenager said, pointing to the pigs by Lotto's feet in the pen.

"Poor Mama," I said.

"Nah, she let them in," he said. "She may be peeved and need space, but she also welcomes the company. She needs it."

Same, llama. Same.

Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Follow Katiedid Langrock on Instagram, at http://www.instagram.com/writeinthewild. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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