Alpacas Anyone?

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I was watching Bill O'Reilly last night, a man who is more reasonable than the blowhard charicatures of him would suggest, but that is not my point in this piece.

I was struck by an ad during his show for alpaca farming, or perhaps it is "ranching."

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I've seen the Bible DVD ads and the ones for inexpensive steel buildings large enough to house blimps, but this was a first.

Anyway, the ad showed a man tired of the medical profession who had followed his muse to the alpaca breeding industry, where where my guess is that the occasional muse gets pretty lonely for other muses to chew the fat with. I mean, how many of us, even on our most trying day, when the story isn't coming together or there are too many coming at us at once, have longed for the life of an alpaca farmer. A piece of Bill Gates' bank account, sure, or to waste away in Jimmy Buffet's Mararitaville, yup. But Farming?

Anyway, this guy seemed happy enough and eager to share his good fortune. And no voice came on to yell at me three times: "alpacas, apply directly to the forehead." So I checked out the ilovealpacas.com Web site and found all sorts of useful information, like this: "It is difficult to compare alpacas with other investments as pure investments. How much is peace of mind worth? Unlike the stock market, alpacas are depreciable over five years, giving the investor an immediate investment return in tax savings while the herd is growing."

Sounds good to me, kind of like the dream of Oliver Wendell Douglas in Green Acres, but we know how that turned out, or do we?

It also reminded me of an uncle I once had who tried to raise chinchillas in a climate best suited for sunbathing. The animals, whose mother had not raised any dumb chinchillas, produced spotty coats that let in plenty of that sunshine but left too much to the imagination for furriers to be much interested.

Having worked on a farm, I can tell you it is far from sitting on the porch with a lemonade and watching your investment frolic and gambol toward the bank.

The guy in the ad seemed to be peacefully living off the fat of the alpaca when my experience suggested raising four-footed critters is more like an often back-breaking, albeit rewarding, 14-hour day, six-plus-days-a-week-for-life kind of thing where you rarely get to take a vacation without wondering what gate you might have left ajar or what hungry nondomesticated animal with less regard for your investment as an investment than you had was lurking somewhere in the dark.

In case you wondered, the gestation period of an alpaca is 11 monnths, or far longer than most TV shows with marginal ratings are allowed to incubate. And, if you are worried about hoof and mouth disease, as I recall, "the only high security quarantine station that was in operation in Key West, Fla., was closed permanently by the Clinton administration."

Still, best to keep your day job, even if it means dealing with testy, two-footed reporters.

That is all.

By John Eggerton

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