A Llama Tale - Adventure's of a 12 year old girl and her llama, Moche
I didn't get much farther that night. I woke up the next morning in the room with that beautiful llama rug on the wall. I was on the bed under two blankets. They were heavy but soft and warm. I thought the bed would have been hard and uncomfortable when I first saw it but it was soft and cozy like the blankets. The bed had a thin mattress about the thickness of a big pillow that was laying on a network of ropes. The mattress had a lot of different layers, some firm like a rug and others that were soft like foam. Anyway, there I was - snug in a warm bed on a cold morning.
"Hi." Mom always has this special, happy, tone to her voice in the mornings.
"Mom, I'm hungry." Mom had come into my room.
"Ok, come with me."
I was starting to feel hungry now that I remembered most of yesterday. I remembered the llama cave and the three tunnels. My room (this turned out to be my room) was at the end of the middle tunnel.
"Mom, where do the other two tunnels go? Where's the kitchen? Are you hungry? Did you see the beautiful rug on the wall of my room? This is my room, isn't it? Where's your room?"
"Hush. Here, take my hand, and lets go to the kitchen."
The tunnel on the left (of the three tunnels) led to the kitchen. This passage sloped down and the middle tunnel to my room passed right over it. After a short distance this tunnel (the left one) forked and turned both left and right. We went to the left and came into a sunny room with two big holes on the far wall that were windows.
The holes were higher than my head. They made two long narrow slits that stretched the entire wall. There was no glass so the air was nice and crisp in the room. I could have crawled through them but I don't think Mom or Grandfather could.
There was a fireplace in the wall next to the tunnel. Little shelves were cut into the inside walls of the fireplace. Later, I learned that this is where the food was cooked and then kept warm. There was a wooden table that stood in the middle of the room and a long stone bench that ran the length of the windows. I could smell fresh bread and there was a big jar of honey on the table.
"Hi Grandfather. Boy am I hungry. Can I look out the window?"
I walked over and stood on the bench. The slits in the wall that made the windows were through solid rock that was almost three feet thick. I could see the sun and blue sky. These windows didn't face the llama valley. Across from the windows was a cliff that stretched up and down as far as I could see. This was a deep crack in the mountain or maybe the space between two mountains. But I could still see the blue sky, the bright rising sun and feel the nice cool breeze that blows up from the lower slopes each morning.
"There sure are a lot of neat things to see here." I was stretching on my tip toes to see up and down the cliff.
Grandfather put breakfast on the table and said, "Come Sandy, have breakfast now and then we'll go do chores."
Breakfast was good. Fresh baked bread, honey and three or four types of jams and jellies. There was hot tea and jug of water so cold it made my teeth tingle.
After we ate, Mom and I did the dishes. Then Grandfather and I went to the llama cave. Mom went off to work on a project of some sort. She and Grandfather had talked about it during breakfast but I didn't understand what they were talking about. It had something to do with "warping" a loom, but I didn't know what a warp or loom was.
Grandfather and I walked to the llama cave. Grandfather called it the stable. We went through the large hallway I had explored the day before. When we came to the stairs by the waterfall I could see there were no llamas in "stable" except Moche. He was wandering around, sniffing the different piles of hay. Every so often, he would jump up and skip around to another spot that looked interesting. He saw us when we started down the stairs. At first he was startled, then a little curious. He came over to us and sniffed a little, then jumped back and ran out into the llama valley.
"Do you think he likes me, Grandfather?"
"Yes I do, Sandy. You'll find llamas pretty much like everyone. You'll need to learn their ways and understand their language. A person can only be friends with an animal after they have taken time to understand them and make sure they understand you."
"Will I be able to play with Moche?"
"Yes, it'll be nice for Moche to have a friend. You're going to be busy with your studies and Moche needs to study too."
"Why does Moche need to study?"
"A little llama needs to learn a great many things and he can only learn them from other llamas."
"So Moche will be in school while I am."
"Yes, I guess that's a good way to look at it."
"Is there a school with other kids here?"
"No. I'm afraid it will be a little lonely for you from that perspective. There are children in the mountains but none anywhere near to us up here. Your Mom will look after your studies and I'll help you with lessons about the wilderness and our llama friends."
"What will Mom do?" Mom had always worked in the same building as Dad, but I didn't know what they did.
"Your Mom will spend some time spinning and weaving, I think. She enjoyed that when she lived here before and I know she'll spend a lot of time with the llamas."
"Why didn't you ever come to visit us?"
"It wasn't possible for me to leave the llamas but I have watched you grow up through your Mom's letters."
"Why didn't we ever come to visit then?"
"Actually, you did but you were very small. Your Dad and Mom had a very important job for the government. They had planned to live here with your Grandmother and me but this special job came up that they were the best people for and it dealt with a very serious problem. They've been that busy for the past ten years, too busy to make the long trip back into this wilderness."
"Oh. Don't you have a telephone or television?"
"No. It could be possible but I've never felt I needed them."
So we worked that morning and every morning since in the llama's stable. I had never worked with animals before. We keep their house clean but they're very tidy by themselves. There are mangers along the walls where we put dry hay and grass for them to eat. What little spills onto the floor we sweep into little piles that the llamas sleep on at night. Any hay that is old or dirty we put into a small cart with wooden wheels. Grandfather piles it outside the entrance of the llama cave in a small walled yard. He told me that it turns dirt for the garden. The stable has a sweet pleasant odor that I like. I like the odor, the warm feeling that working with the hay gives me and the satisfaction of a nice tidy stable.
As we worked that first day, I said "Did you make the floor so smooth, Grandfather?"
"No Sandy, Nature managed to do that."
He smiled at me, "This cave is a Kimberlite shaft."
"Kimberlite is a soft clay like substance that forms deep in the earth. Sometimes it comes to the surface with molten rock. That's what happened here."
"So the rock stayed but the clay washed away and that's what formed the cave!" I was sure I understood.
"Pretty much, but a lot of people have lived in the cave for thousands of years and everyone did a little to make it a nice place to live."
Grandfather looked up from his work, "Who?"
"Who lived here?" Sometime it seems like you need to draw a map for grown-ups.
"Oh. Lot of different folks. Your Grandmother and I studied ancient cultures so we very much enjoyed this valley when we first found it. I think the red hair people were the first but that's only a guess. I'll show you one of these days. And then there's a lot of evidence that over the years many different Native American peoples made this their home.
"I'd rather call them Native Americans or use their own names for their cultures. That's always seemed more appropriate and honorable for such ancient societies."
"Were the people with red hair Indians, I mean Native Americans?"
"Yes and no. But that's a lesson for you on another day when I'll take you and your Mom for a walk. Speaking of your Mother, maybe I should go check on her. Would you like to walk out into the valley and see the llamas?"
"Sure, will it be ok."
"Just walk slow and don't run. The llamas will come and circle around you to sniff but no one will hurt you. I keep my hands and arms down when I'm near the llamas. That seems to make them much more relaxed around me. Max and Olin are out there too. Olin looks just like Max, they might come and sniff you too. Animals say hello by sniffing to get your scent. It's their way of being polite. Sure you want to go by yourself?"
"Yes, I'll be alright."
'Your Mom and I will be in a window high above the entrance to the stable. You'll be able to see us once you get out into the valley a little ways. Don't be afraid."
"I won't be Grandfather."
I went out of the llama cave and stopped by the wall to look at the view. There to the left stretched the valley with clusters of llamas dotted about. Strait ahead was a wonderful view of the lower mountains, surrounded by a dark green forest with a shining ribbon of river far away. Behind me the rock walls of our mountain reached up into snowy peaks that extended into the sky as far as I could see.
There was Moche, way off down in the valley with the other llamas. I walked in their direction. The valley was a long grassy meadow. There was a gentle slope down from cave entrances and then it leveled off. After I had walked a ways into the valley, I couldn't see the view of the lower mountains any more. On my left was our mountain and on my right - the valley had a wall of boulders that sheltered it from the wind. The wall was made of huge boulders on the bottom that were so large they must have fallen there from higher up on the mountain. Smaller ones had been piled in between and on top of the larger ones. Those must have been stacked by Grandfather or some of those people he had told me about, because the wall was very solid and flat across the top. The wall was about ten feet high and ran the whole length of the valley, or at least as far as I could see. Suddenly, Max and Olin were by my side.
Max was careful not to rush or jump near me. I was petting both him and Olin when I saw them coming. All the llamas in the valley were running my way. Then I saw Noah, he was standing on the top of a small crest in the meadow. Noah gave a great leap and raced to reach me first. Soon I was surrounded by fifty or sixty llamas. All shades of color and every sort of marking: spots, stripes, patches and some that were solid colors. Noah was the only llama that was completely white and Moche was the smallest except for the tiny babies that stayed close to their mothers.
The llamas made a great ring around me and the dogs. Just when I thought I'd be afraid, I looked up and could see Grandfather and Mom on a patio high above the entrance to the llama's cave.
"Do you think she'll be alright, Eric?"
"Were you afraid when David let you walk out into the valley for the first time?"
"I wasn't a twelve year old girl. But no, your right, it's one of the nicest memories I have. It will be for Sandy, too."
"She reminds me a lot of David, she'll do fine."
Fine is right. There I was surrounded by a hundred curious ears, eyes and noses, but I wasn't scared (much). The llamas were very gentle. I would pet the bigger ones on their neck when they'd lean over to sniff at my hair and face. They were large gentle creatures with thick wooly coats and long necks. Slowly the llamas began to drift away in little groups. Then Max and Olin ran off and I was there with Moche.
Moche began his game again. He would sniff at me, then dance sideways - skip a little bit farther away and then sneak back to sniff at me again. I sat down in the grass to watch him play in the sunshine. A butterfly came along and that diverted Moche's attention. My brown wooly friend turned all his attention to this new wonder, ears alert - sniffing - taking very careful steps. The butterfly would flit from flower to flower with Moche following behind carefully. Then the butterfly took off and flew down the valley with Moche in hot pursuit.
I could have followed but decided I should go back and see what Mom and Grandfather were doing. So off up the grassy slope I walked, back toward Grandfather's cave. I could still see the patio high above the entrance to the llama's cave. Mom and Grandfather weren't there anymore. Mom had told me about her bedroom at breakfast. It opened onto the patio through two large windows that I could see at the back of the ledge. Her bedroom was much larger than any of the other bedrooms in the cave because her room was also where the llama wool is made into yarn and rugs or clothing. Grandfather's clothes were all made of wool.
Up the slope I walked, one foot after the other. There were lots of rocks in the meadow, almost like they grew there with the pretty white flowers. I walked up to the log entrance of the cave. The view of the lower mountains and the forest was best here. There was a river far off to the left of the lower mountains. The forest was noticeably thicker near the river.
"Hi Noah. Here boy! Noahhh!
Noah was on the other side of the log entrance to the cave.
There was a meadow here with grass that was much thicker and greener that the brown grasses in the valley.
There was a path too. So I followed it.
"Noah. Noah. Here boy."
He was grazing, but he picked his head up and tilted his ears toward me. Then he walked over. Noah was the largest llama. His long thick wool stretched from his ears to way past his knees. As he walked, his wool was blowing in the wind and I thought how regal and pretty he was.
"Hello Noah. Good boy."
He was soft, like the blankets on my bed. I stroked his neck and told him he was a good boy. He made a curious sound: "Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm".
Noah and I followed the path a little further. That's when I first saw the great crack in our mountain. This was the stone cliff that our kitchen windows faced. Noah's grassy knoll sloped down to a flat meadow which extended to the edge of the crack in the mountain. The crack became a crevasse on the side of the mountain.
Later I learned it extended all the way to the forest as a deep valley with steep sides. The path went into the crack and continued on past the kitchen windows as a narrow ledge. I didn't continue because it looked very narrow. Instead I decided to look at the little garden Grandfather had here. It was encircled with a low stone wall and it had a wooden gate.
"Is this your garden Noah?"
I opened the wooden gate and walked in among the rows and rows of plants. The gate looked like it would squeak when I opened it but it didn't. As time went on, I found that everything Grandfather made worked perfectly.
"Do you guard this garden for Grandfather, Noah?"
I had left the gate open but Noah wouldn't follow me in no matter how much I coaxed him. This was the sunny side of the mountain and a pretty spot for a garden. The wind that seemed to always be blowing was much less because we were sheltered by Noah's pasture.
Grandfather had rows of cabbage and tomatoes. There were a lot of other plants but we had never had a garden and I wasn't sure what they were. I did like the little patches of purple flowers that grew next to the stone wall.
Grandfather must have scraped the ground between the rows and around the wall on a regular schedule because it was very organized and clean looking. He had left these little purple flowers though and it made the garden seem warm and homey.
"Noah! Noah! Oh, Noah."
Noah had gone back up to his grassy knoll to eat grass. I guess I couldn't blame him. I followed the path back up to the log entrance of the cave. I sat down by the door and thought about the people with red hair. Did they know what was on the other side of the forest? Were they content with this little valley and the beautiful view? Why did they come up here and why weren't they here now? How did Grandfather know about them? Boy, there sure were a lot of things to think about. I liked the sound the llamas make: Hmmmmmmmmmm. It's so peaceful.
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