Meet and greet

07 Alpacas.jpg

A.R. Teague, ’Cotswold Alpacas’

We smell them first. Ammonia – a rush,
assailing nostrils, clinging in the throat.
And then, the sounds of sweeping, brush brr-ush!
The east wind whips; I’m grateful for my coat.

We’re ushered in. We’re seven; they are eight
in white and beige and chestnut, grey and black.
They loiter, humming gently, by the gate,
or traipse towards us, turn, and sidle back.

I’m introduced to Otis, gelded male.
Just stroke his neck, says Jo, our barn hostess.
His hair’s so soft, it’s like a fairy tale,
and very dense. He blinks as I caress.

The humming’s reassurance, Jo explains;
a constant checking everyone’s alright –
no signs of fear, no nasty aches and pains.
Alpacas shriek, she adds, when they’re in fright.

Geronimo, I think, and grit my teeth.
The black alpaca here, though, seems to smile:
her bottom-row incisors long beneath
her upper lip. Aunt Biddy. She has style.

I wonder if they think about Peru;
dismiss this, as, once more, they venture near,
their humming not unlike a wood kazoo
in chirpy tone and mood. They check and cheer.

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Published on The HyperTexts, Spotlight, November 2021

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For my birthday earlier this year, my cousin Ruth suggested I might like to visit Cotswold Alpacas, a farm made up of 12 acres in Cowley, Gloucestershire. I’d been moved by the news story of Geronimo the Alpaca. Geronimo was thought to have tuberculosis, which would’ve presented a risk to local cattle herds. He didn’t have TB, but the government executed him anyway.

I visited Cotswold Alpacas with my parents, an aunt, and my younger brother (who took the above photo). We had a wonderful time meeting the alpacas and learning a lot of things about them. Jo the barn hostess was friendly and incredibly knowledgeable, ably assisted by a pleasant young man named Zach. After the meet-and-greet, we were treated to a spinning session! I thoroughly recommend the experience and I’m already looking forward to a return visit to see the alpaca babies next year.

As it happens, I have an Aunt Biddy myself, but she isn’t an alpaca. The alpaca Aunt Biddy is the black lady with protruding teeth in the photo.