Llamas on the loose
WORTHINGTON -- It all started a week ago today, when Barb Kremer's son-in-law, Jay Milbrandt, wanted to add a little cheer to the Kremer farm.
Two days prior, Barb and Glenn had to say goodbye to their beloved pet horse, Jack, and the loss had cast a pall over the family's rural Worthington home. The horse had been sick for about a month.
The loss became an opportunity for Jay to try to talk his in-laws, once again, into getting some llamas.
Barb Kremer was pretty sure she didn't want llamas -- that was until she took one look at the herd at Stevens Llama-Tique.
"The minute I saw them running to Judy, I thought we could get one llama ... to replace Jack," said Barb. "By the time we left, I thought three llamas would be nice, and an hour later, Judy (Stevens) called and said, 'If you buy three, I'll throw in four more.'
"So, we got quite a herd," Barb added with a laugh.
The llamas were delivered that same day, and on Easter Sunday, the Kremer family gathered lawn chairs and sat in the llama yard to watch the animals and listen to the humming sound they make.
A short time later, the Kremers' golden retriever, Cooper, excitedly entered the pen and unintentionally spooked the llamas. Two of the older animals, LaPluma and Xia Xiang, bolted toward the back fence and pushed open a gate that wasn't secured.
The llamas ran toward the southwest in the fading sun, and Barb, thinking they were on their way back to the Stevens, made a quick call to them. As darkness set in, there was little they could do.
Barb rose early the next morning in hopes of seeing them out in the yard, but they were still missing. At that point, the Kremers set out to capture the runaways. Jay, on the other hand, went the family-owned business, Bedford Industries, to work.
"We thought they'd be fairly easy to round up," he said.
He was proved wrong.
About mid-morning Monday, Jay was on his way back to the Kremer farm when he met a llama running in the ditch along the old U.S. 59/Minnesota 60 along Worthington's south side.
"It was completely bizarre," he said. "I turned around and went after it. I was just praying no cars would come."
When LaPluma reached the residential neighborhood on Nobles Street, Jay parked his car and sprinted after the llama.
"We were going through back yards, trying to get this thing under control, and it slipped out through one of the fields," Jay explained.
He was walking back to his car when Lisa and Barb showed up. At that point, Jay and Lisa drove out of town to find LaPluma and Barb went in search of Xia Xiang, who'd been spotted out in the marsh behind Worthington Ag Parts.
Armed only with some rope to lasso the llama, the Milbrandts traveled back roads until they spotted the llama sauntering down a dirt road.
"That's when this intense llama chase began," Jay said. "It was going 20 to 25 miles per hour and I was trying to keep close to the llama while Lisa tried to lasso it."
Eventually, they sensed the llama begin to tire.
"Finally, right after we crossed one of the highways out there, it just gave up," Jay said. "It decided it was going to have this final stand, and that's when we had this altercation in the middle of the road."
Though a Worthington native, Jay is quick to point out he is not a farm kid. In fact, he said, "My friends would attest I don't know what I'm doing out there."
Jay is director of the Global Justice Program and interim associate director of the Nootbaar Institute of Law, Religion and Ethics at Pepperdine University School of Law. He might also be amenable to a new title ... that of llama catcher.
Spit and shout
In his blog (www. jaymilbrandt.com), Milbrandt detailed the altercation between himself and the llama. What follows is an excerpt of his blog:
"So there, in the middle of nowhere between empty fields in Minnesota, the llama and I had it out.
"We don't have to do this any longer!" I screamed.
"Brahhhhhh!!!!" the llama roared.
"Ahhh!!!" I screamed back.
"The llama looked out into the field and gave a distress call -- as if looking for its herd. I threw the rope. It hit the llama, but didn't lasso the neck. The llama screamed again and took a fighting stance. Throw two: Another miss. The llama spit at me several times -- it was a very, very mad llama. Throw three: Around the neck! The llama fought and screamed, and I pulled. It spit and got me square in the forehead. I yanked the leash. Reluctantly, it gave in."
In what Milbrandt called a "duel to the death," he secured a halter on LaPluma somewhere in the neighborhood of Meyer's turkey farm, about three miles east of Worthington and roughly five miles from the Kremer farm. They waited on a neighboring farm for the Kremers to come with their livestock trailer.
With LaPluma captured, all attention went back to Xia Xiang, still hanging around by Worthington Ag Parts.
Ultimately, Steve Dudley from Worthington's Veterinary Medical Center was called in with a tranquilizer gun to help capture Xia.
"By (Wednesday) it wasn't fun anymore," said Barb. "I really started fearing for them being out on the tar road and people getting hurt by hitting them."
On Thursday afternoon, Xia Xiang was recovering from her sedation in a yard separate from her six other herdmates. She was eating and drinking, and Barb said they will all be OK.
"Now, when they see me in the morning, I call them and they just come running," said Barb. The llamas are accustomed to their new home, their new family and Cooper, the dog that started the adventure.
As for Milbrandt, though he has returned to work in California, he's made frequent calls to the Kremer home this week.
"I want to make sure that she's not regretting her purchase," he said with a laugh.
Barb said she has no regrets, and she's actually had a little more insight into her son-in-law through the blogs he wrote about the experience.
"I can just picture Jay saying, 'Alright, we need to stop. This makes no sense, llama, why are we doing this? Just come home,'" she said, laughing at the memory. "It's a llama, Jay, it's not a client.
"We just had the best weekend ever -- it was so much fun," she added.
In all, about 12 neighbors helped in the search, and more called to report sightings, including the Nobles County Sheriff's Office.
"Now, having them here, seeing them graze, I'm glad that I have as many as I have," said Barb. "They're wonderful animals."
Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.