Lance Rougeux's DEN Third Annual Virtual Conference Keynote: The Benjamin Button Effect
It was my fault. There. I said it. I would love to find someone else to blame, but I can't. Sometimes you just have to accept that you yourself have made your worst nightmare come true. I will never forget the date. It was the Discovery Educator Network's Third Annual Virtual Conference, April 25, 2009, and showtime began about 8:45 am. I had two laptops running, and when Steve Dembo asked us virtually how many were on-site attending, I typed into the chat room, "Do my three llamas count?" Steve chuckled, as 1100 people globally listened, and I knew he had read my note. He told us, "For you, RJ, we'll count your llamas; for anyone else, no." It's part of the archive, and I can't wait to listen to it again. Funny moment. I thought I had finally beaten the virtual jinx that has followed my attendance at this annual event, always cutting short my attendance because a day became one of those days. By noon, I had three posts on the PA DEN blog, when I took a break to check on the girls. I'm getting to the llama part of this post, promise.
I decided to bring in the large industrial fan, because the heat was rising to 90 degrees, a potential danger zone, even for sheared llamas. It took a refrigerator dolly to move the monster, and as the gate swung open, I continued to struggle with the fan, moving it toward one of the stalls. When I turned around to close the gate, the last llama was slowly exiting for greener pastures. A nightmare times 3. They quickly found their way to upper pastures, but unfortunately crossed a main road to the other part of our farm. Long story short: they were gone over 3 hours before we herded them home.
Image via WikipediaHerding them home is at the heart of the story. I went after the girls on foot but let me tell you that llamas can cover more ground faster than horses. So, I grabbed the mule, because they were cavorting and enjoying their freedom far too afield for my liking. But the Kawasaki likely only encouraged them farther, so at one point I ditched the mule on the road. A total stranger saw my dilemma with the girls crossing the road, and he moved the mule onto his property. He sent his son-in-law Jason to help us. A fire policeman was driving by, put his blue light on, and quite literally stopped traffic on 2 different roads throughout the afternoon. My husband got one of the golf carts and as our neighbor Albert drove by, he sent out the "alarm" on the mountain and another farmer and his son joined the hunt. Together we spent the afternoon herding the girls. When they tired of the sport, we finally corralled them. Would I have succeeded on my own? Likely not, and possibly not without the girls falling into harm's way.
(The best image of Albert is this wintertime short film that captures his essence so well). What was so totally gratifying is that half of the people who helped us I had never met before. They walked and ran up and down hills (my husband does not know how to buy flat land) and it was hot. Then there's Albert; he is as much family as if he were born to it. Without his help, his ability to gather a group, the girls could have been doomed to a different fate. I could have lost my foundation stock and critters who are dear friends. When safe and sound was finally the wrap of the day, we leaned up against our vehicles and just talked. We tried to pay Adam, Albert, and Justin, (the others just waved goodbye as we shouted thanks) but none of them would take a single cent. Adam said it best: That's what neighbors are for."