Meet Barney, the white six-foot llama
Northbrook Hee Haw Farm-June 1971: L-R, Rich Elliott, Abigail (llama), Robin, 11, Joan Elliott, Roxie, 9, Barney (llama) and Bunny, 14. Photo courtesy of Robin Elliott-Bear Collection
Updated: August 6, 2012 11:30AM
Meet Barney the llama from Hee Haw Farm, a 1970s five-acre Northbrook spread at 2140 Sanders Road.
“Barney was our first llama and he was a hoot!” said Robin Elliott-Bear, who was raised on the farm where an office building now sits.
“He (Barney) would open fences on his own and come to visit us at the house.”
The house, known as “the Big White House on Sanders” as many people called it,” was home to llamas, wallabies, wooly monkeys, peacocks, a turkey, at least two dozen horses, deer, a ram and 60 cats.
Barney had his own fan gallery.
“He (Barney) also took Abigail (another llama) out onto Sanders (Road) to visit with cars driving by,” said Robin.
One time: “The doorbell rang around rush hour to a man asking us if we owned the “push-me pull-mes” that were walking on Sanders.
“We saw cars stopped and Barney and Abigail walking down the line visiting with people.”
Robin Elliott-Bear, still of Northbrook, has two children with her husband Greg.
Their son Johnny, 15, is a Glenbrook North High School sophomore. Daughter Tyler, 13, is a Wood Oaks Junior High School eighth-grader.
Robin wishes “my kids could be growing up there. A llama’s fur is very thick and soft.”
“Even after brushing, it always felt a bit dirty, they were fun to cuddle.”
Robin’s parents Rich and Joan Elliott, and her two sisters Bunny and Roxie, also loved Hee Haw Farm which was, “so peaceful.”
Today, Robin sometimes parks her car at 2140 Sanders Road to reminisce.
“I think everyone would think it was crazy to be up at 5 a.m. before school at 10 years old,” said Robin. “I remember it as awesome.”
“The animals had such amazing personalities.
“Barney would give me a good morning kiss and follow me around when I was doing the feeding.
“It was such an incredible way to start the day. I could stand by the barn and watch the sun rise.”
Robin would bolt into the woods via horseback.
“We could just open our back fence and ride on the trail,” recalls Robin, who began riding at age five.
The trails reached Dundee Road to the north and over the bridge on Willow to Milwaukee Ave. to the south.
“I never really noticed the tollway, “ said Robin, “it always seemed so far away as there was another farm across the street and they had a pasture with horses in front of it.
“It was also a lot less traveled back then.”
After purchasing more horses, “we were able to take friends out with us.
“There was an open field behind the pastures which was always fun to ride through as you would see spotted fallow deer there, especially a bit before sunset,” said Robin.
“I used to love riding at that time of day or early morning, there was always wildlife (fox, deer).
“Even raising deer in our backyard didn’t change the excitement each time you saw one in the wild.
“I will never forget sitting on horseback and watching a mom and her two babies as the little ones were playing around her and (then) laughing hysterically as we were galloping to try to get away from a bee hive that one of the horses stepped on,” said Robin.
“We got away with only two stings!”
Then there’s that one story.
“I have a very strong memory of our crow getting out of his cage.
“One afternoon I was lying on a chair and he decided to sit on my head and used his beak to hold on,” said Robin.
“To this day I hate the sound of birds’ wings flapping!”
Hee Haw Farm differed from Glenview Wagner Farm.
“We had more exotic animals as pets, it wasn’t a working farm.
“We ended up with so many cats because people would just drop them off.
“We really were the first animal shelter in the area (and) were able to feed them all as we owned a deli and ground the ends of the meat for them.”
Of Barney, who was retired to an exotic animal farm: “Llamas can get “cranky” when they get older and he did.
“He became very possessive and started spitting at those he didn’t like.
“You would know too because he gave those he wasn’t fond of a very dirty look.
Barney and Abigail, “had two babies over the years, Critter and Dynamite,” also sold back to the exotic animal farm,” added Robin.
Said Judy Hughes, Northbrook Historical Society president: “Driving down Sanders Rd. today, one would never know that at one time it was home to a world of animals and childhood wonder.”
In next week’s Snapshot column, Robin Elliott-Bear takes you on a tour of the Big White House on Sanders Road.