Last weekend Sunny and I drove from Chicago to Cincinnati and spent several hours on the Indiana Interstate.
"Not that Illinois is that much better, Sunny said. "But I'm so glad I don't live in Indiana."
"Yeah," I said. "What's the deal with Illinois? I never think about Illinois. Just Chicago. What's with the rest of Illinois?"
"Who knows? I'm surprised whenever I remember Chicago's in Illinois. I always think Chicago's like DC."
"I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've ever thought about Illinois."
We sped along I-65, quietly considering the mystery of the 21st State, the Land of Lincoln, and thinking uncomplimentary thoughts about the Hoosier State. Until I remembered something nice about Indiana.
"My parents' friends Yasna and Jim have a farm in Sunman, Indiana, I said. "They spend every weekend in the country and swim in a huge pond and have horses and lots of land. AND LLAMAS."
And for some reason this was so funny to us that we almost swerved off the road. We realized that not only are we not sure what llamas are FOR, but we're not even sure what llamas ARE.
We made a list of what we think:
1. Llamas are not camels and llamas are not elephants and llamas do not have feathers.
2. Llamas belong in South America, in the the Andes Mountains.
"And what about ALPACA? What's that?" Sunny asked.
"I think alpaca is what you call the hair after you get it off a llama and make it into a hat."
She didn't believe me, "THAT IS SOME MADE UP SHIT."
"Well, you don't shear wool and go, 'look at my sheep sweater,'" I said.
"Oh. I guess you don't admire silkworm shirts, either," she said.
"No. You don't. DAMMIT. Where is Google when you need it? Maybe we can pick up wireless from one of these barns. Slow down."
Llamas are in the camelid family of the central plains of North America from 40 million years ago. Three million years ago, they left for South America. 25,000 years ago, llamas were common in modern day California, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Missouri, and Florida, but by the end of the last ice age (10,000-12,000 years ago) they were extinct in North America.
Alpacas are cousins of the llama. The Incas used the llamas for transportation and alpacas for their hair, which is finer and silkier than woolly llama hair.
According to the many llama websites I found, people outside the Andean Range now have pet llamas. Because they're nice. Even though they spit and sometimes wrestle with each other, they're fun to have around. They walk around and hum and don't often jump the fence.