In my last post, I mentioned that the llama’s feet were sore. Llamas are very stoic creatures, and it’s hard to gauge how they’re really feeling. One good sign that they’re not feeling so good is that they don’t want to go anywhere. That’s where I found myself Friday, the 1st of March, as I literally dragged the llamas into a horse arena. I had been directed there by a man named Dan Reber, who said the owner would let me keep the llamas there for a few days. I showed up at the same time as dozens of “duley” pickups, pulling fancy horse trailers. There was a roping competition at the arena that weekend.
Friday night with nothing better to do, I watched the roping competition. I’d never been to one before. The gate would open and a little Coriente calf would race out into the arena, closely followed by two ropers, each riding a horse and swinging their lariats. The lead roper would fling his lariat, and rope the calf around the horns. Then the second roper would lasso the calf by the hind feet. The head rope seemed like a real feat of skill, but the way the second roper was able to loop the calf’s hind legs seemed to be a mystical magic trick. I could only watch with amazement, a team would make their catches look easy, Later, I was told that this roping event had a prize payout of over 50,000 dollars. Roping is a big sport.
The next day, I started asking questions to see how to continue on with my journey. Did anyone know of anyone who had a mule or a donkey, broke to lead, for sale? Kelby Hughes, the arena owner, took time to help me out, even though he was in the middle of the big roping event. He told me about a donkey rescue service nearby in Scenic, AZ. I called them, but their regulations wouldn’t allow them to sell me a donkey. Then, Kelby suggested I get in touch with Brandy Williams, back up in Beaver Dam. “If anyone can find you a donkey or a mule, she’s the one,” he said. “She can find anything that looks like a horse.”
This was Saturday, the 2nd of March. I didn’t have anything else to do, so I hitch-hiked back up to Beaver Dam, and knocked on Brandy’s front door. Brandy answered, gave me a cup of coffee and got on the phone to see what she could find for me. As it turned out there wasn’t much out there in mules or donkeys for sale. “What about EZ-Boots?” she asked. I didn’t know what an EZ Boot was, and Brandy told me it was a rubber boot that goes over as horse’s hoof. Maybe they made one small enough to fit on the llama’s foot.
So on Sunday, off we went to Cal-Ranch in St. George. “We” included myself, Brandy, Brandy’s husband Ronnie, and their kids, Jonna, 15, Gavin, 7, and Tristan, 6. Ronnie is a long-haul truck driver, and one of the nicest guys anyone would want to meet. Both Brandy and Ronnie make it a priority to help out anyone they can.
We bought two EZ Boots, to see how they would work, and in the process, decided we might be able to make llama boots, if the EZ Boots weren’t the answer.
Back at the Williams spread, we put the EZ Boots on Jasper, who is more mellow than Chalcy about having humans mess with his feet. He shook his foot and the EZ Boot flew right off. It was back to the drawing board, literally, to see if we could make some llama boots.
After taking a tracing of Jasper’s foot, I was able to fashion a boot out of a piece of trucker’s tarp and a piece of rubber mat from a horse trailer. I slipped the boot over Jasper’s foot, and taped it on with vet tape. It stayed on. Even after walking him around for a while, the boot stayed put. Success!
Monday morning, I said my goodbyes to the Williams clan, and took off with high hopes. The llamas started off ok, but all too soon, they slowed to a crawl. I could tell that even though the boots protected Jasper’s feet from the gravel, his feet were still too sore for him to want to go anywhere. In five hours, we barely walked three miles.
So, just before I crossed the Virgin River on the Bunkerville Road, I had to make a go-no go decision. If I decided to limp along at this snail’s pace, we could travel maybe eight miles a day, and I could keep my fingers crossed that the llama’s feet would heal as we went. But what if their feet got worse, instead of better? The further I went, the harder it would be for someone to come and rescue us, in the event they couldn’t go on at all, especially once I climbed atop the Mormon Mesa, just down the trail. It just didn’t seem to be a risk worth taking. I called Brandy and said, “If you’re not too sick of me, I think we’ve got to come on back.” Within two hours, Brandy was there with a horse trailer to pick us up.
So now the plan is to find a mule or a donkey to continue the journey. Brandy said, “Why not wait until Thursday, and go with me to the auction in Cedar City? We’re sure to find a good mule or donkey up there that will work for you.”
“I don’t know enough about mules to even know what to look for,” I said.
“Don’t worry about that. You’ll be with me, and I know horses and mules. We’ll get the right one.”
So, that’s the plan right now. In the meantime, I’ll make myself useful around here, cleaning corrals, horse pens, and whatever else I can to make a contribution. Because of the delay, I don’t think I’ll be able to continue on to California. My work as Water-master in Boulder begins in April, and I need to be back before the irrigation season begins. So, I’ve scaled down my goal this year to make it through Las Vegas. It is only another 100 miles, and if I can find an animal that can make some tracks, I can reach the Blue Diamond summit in a week and a half.
I want to make a plug for Brandy and her horse business. She really does know her stuff, and all you have to do is call her and tell her what sort of horse you want, and she’ll find it for you, no problem. She and her crew are accomplished horse trainers, farriers, and know every aspect of the horse business. You can find more about Brandy Williams by clicking here.
Right now I’m hopeful and a little nervous too. Hopeful than we can continue on our way and make it to Las Vegas. Nervous because I have some real desert to cross, and I’ll be doing it with a type of animal, and an individual animal, I haven’t worked with before. The good news is that in terms of total real isolation, it isn’t actually there. The route of the Old Spanish Trail will cross under I-15 on the way to Las Vegas, and nowhere along the route of the original trail will I be more than ten miles away from that freeway. It will be nice to know there are thousands of people speeding along, just over the next ridge, as I tackle this next stretch of the Old Spanish Trail.