Essays and Poems from The Education of a Bengali Gentleman
An Alpaca for Life
It’s November. Once again I find myself in the midst of the Colorado Rockies. Invariably we took a ride out from Ft. Collins to visit the Horsetooth Reservoir and mountains and see my favorite alpacas. You take Harmony West out of the town and facing straight west is the Horsetooth mountain named so for their likeness to horse teeth. Within minutes the homes that line the road taper off. There is nothing but the front ranges stretching north and south. As far west as you can see the steadily rising Rocky Mountains. The road takes a sharp turn north and loops back south climbing steadily up a sheer rock face. Then another climbing turn north and the town of Ft. Collins is completely hidden from view. Nothing but the mountains climbing and rolling west. The road rises and dips, twists and turns, clouds thin and thicken, the sun breaks through intermittently. The deep silence and the soft whirr of the car’s engines. We should soon be approaching the farm that raises alpacas and my heart starts to skip. Today we have made plans to pull off the road, step out and walk along the fence that separates the farm from the road. The mountain tops here are lined with pines and the rock faces are a little bit rounded unlike the razor sharp rock faces alongside the Thompson Canyon. When we step out of the car, the air is crispy and rich with the smell of ponderosa pines. The herd of alpacas have spotted us and curiosity pulls them closer to the road. A white sheep dog is also running with them. A couple of male alpacas have their own separate pen edging up to the road. They are alarmed and flustered perceiving me as a competition to their harem. One male in particular is kicking back dirt with his feet and forcing air through his nostril to ward me off. Luckily there is the barbed wire fence separating us. The adult females and their calves are only an arm distance away sniffing the air curiously. The guard dog does not perceive us as a threat and comes all the way up to the fence for a friendly pat. The calves find this encouraging and are ready to snuggle up to us. Still they are alert as shown by their flipping ears straight up and then relaxing down. Their eyes dart back and forth from our faces and back to the flock. The guard dog weaves in and out of the flock. For now I have had my fill of alpacas, curious calves and flattering adults. So we return to the road easing slowly back to town. On the way a family of deer start crossing the road. We stop and turn of the engine. Roll down the windows to get clearer pictures. The Alpha male with antlers is alternating between keeping an eye on the car and herding his family safely across. But each deer wants to stop and take a hard look at us. Finally they are all safely across. We start back and along the way everyone recounts their favorite alpaca moment. Some of us are daring to put on an alpaca expression on our faces to retell a lasting flashback. Surprise! There is a flock of wild turkeys alongside the road. Cameras come out. The conversations stop for a while. Shutters are clicking. The birds remain obviously of us, feeding as they bob their heads down and up. Then they vanish under some bushes. We pick up speed and return to the hotel to catch the closing minutes of happy hour. At night, in my sleep, baby alpacas and deer feed right out of my hands. The next morning when we returned to the market square I popped into the many novelty stores looking for an alpaca puppet. Sure enough there was one. Made from real alpaca wool. The smell of the mountains, pines, wilderness still lingering. A companion for life.