My first job was on my neighbors’ alpaca farm. Since that time, I’ve referred to my job title as “farm manager.” In all reality, I was a poop scooper.
Every Saturday, I would do my chores. This consisted of cleaning out the stalls, cleaning the fields — pretty much cleaning wherever the animals relieved themselves. Most of the time, I didn’t do a whole lot of “farm managing.” When my neighbors were on vacation, however, I got into full-on manager mode.
I managed that farm like nobody’s business.
The farm was my responsibility for an entire week. I took care of everything — feeding the animals, weighing the baby alpacas, and trying not to kill all the chickens out of frustration. Don’t worry I never laid a hand on the chickens. To be quite honest, they scared the living daylights out of me.
Anyways, I went over every morning before school and every night before I went to bed. I made a little extra money. It was a win-win. What could go wrong?
The farm consisted of two separate locations — the main fields and the quarantine pen. Just as it sounds, I spent most of my time in the main fields. That’s where the main barn was located. All the females and young alpacas lived there.
Next to it was a smaller paddock where the males lived. Each paddock had its own fenced-off field where the animals could graze. The only thing connecting the two was one steel gate right in the middle of the farm. Every time I went through the gate, I closed it. Every time.
A Minor Mishap
Almost a year earlier, I was over at the farm on a Saturday doing my weekly cleaning. I would have to drive over to the quarantine barn where my neighbors kept their tractor. I had to drive, because the tractor battery needed to be jumped every single time I started it.
Every. Single. Time.
I would start by cleaning out the main barn. I took a large shovel into the feeding area and went to town. I’d take out piles of you-know-what and dump them into a trailer. Once I filled the trailer with alpaca droppings, I would drive to the very back fields where we dumped the fecal matter.
They were piles of poop up to my waist.
To get to the poop piles, I had to corral all the alpacas into their barns. This was usually one of the most frustrating parts of the entire day. It can be somewhat difficult for one person to try to corral 10–15 alpacas. Those animals have a mind of their own. Finally, I corralled the females to their barn and the males to theirs.
I opened the gate.
I started taking loads of alpaca turds back trip by trip. Finally, I was done. I drove the tractor through the gate. I went back to let the males out of their barn.
I closed the gate. Simple, same as always.
I went back through the gate to the female barn to let them out. I did so as usual, and proceeded to drive the tractor back to its rightful place over in the quarantine barn.
Same as always.
About 20 minutes later I came back to write down my hours. But something was different.
Not the same.
I noticed a few more alpacas in the female’s field. A further inspection revealed a frightening development.
I hadn’t closed the gate.
Well, I had closed the gate, but I forgot to latch it. Those…motivated…male alpacas had blown through the unlatched gate and into a pen full of females. By the time I got there, all the…excitement…had died down. I hurriedly corralled the males back to their paddock and made sure to latch the gate. Everything was fine, I thought. No harm done and nobody knew what had happened.That was early fall.
The Seventh Baby
Back to my farm managing.
While my neighbors were on vacation, one of my chores was to weigh the baby alpacas to make sure they were eating enough and gaining a healthy amount of weight each day.
A paper nailed to the door of the barn outlined all more chores, including all the alpacas that needed to be weighed. There were 6 alpacas on the list.
I weighed all the baby alpacas. When I got to the final one, I noticed a strange occurance.
I had used up all the outlined slots for weighings. But there was still one baby left. I figured there had been some mistake. I jotted down the weight of the seventh baby. Then I called my boss’s cell phone.
I explained the situation to her. She went on to tell me how preposturous an idea it was that there was an extra baby. I mean, they carefully and strategically bred their alpacas. They knew how many babies they had.
And yet, the seventh baby remained.
I did my chores and went home. The previous fall’s mishap didn’t even enter my mind. That is…until my neighbors came home.
My boss called me the night they got home.
“You were right,” she said. “There are seven babies.”
Then she asked me a question.
“Did you ever leave the gate open?”
I started to say no. Then it all came rushing back. The tractor. The barn. The gate.
“Uh…actually…yeah, I think I did.”
There was nothing we could do about it now. Thankfully I didn’t get fired. The seventh baby was all cute and fuzzy.
Aaron Charles is a writer and marketing account executive from Indiana. You can connect with him on Twitter, Medium or Instagram. Aaron and his wife Sarah run a Medium publication called Cooking With Sarah that documents their weekly cooking adventures.