The welcoming party at Bobbie Borg’s ranch is strong. Upon arrival at Achen Ass Acres, visitors are greeted by a tiny herd of small dogs, all barking, eager and friendly, gathered say hello and see who’s come to visit.
Among Borg’s numerous animals, perhaps the most well-known are the llamas, which she brings inside the Pickle Factory in Nisswa every year, both after the Fourth of July parade and during the Nisswa Jubilee. She brings one of her llamas into the Pickle through the off-sale door, around the back side of the bar, through the pool table room and out onto the deck.
The tradition has been going strong since 1990- more than 25 years. Four llamas in all have taken their turn making the visit. She started with Willow, then Hershey, followed by Missy, and today the visits are made by Popeye. People ask her why she has a llama, and why she brings it to the bar.
“If you own a Cadillac or a Lincoln, you’re somebody, and I have a couple of llamas, so I’m really somebody!” Bobbie said with a laugh. Anyone who meets Popeye tends to agree.
Everyone loves to get their photo taken with the llama, and occasionally the llamas will surprise someone when it puts its face next to that of an unsuspecting customer.
“I don’t think we’ve caused any heart attacks yet,” Bobbie said with a laugh. “Probably pretty close.”
Indeed, when Bobbie (or a visitor) comes to see the llamas, the llamas come running, getting up close and personal. The llamas don’t seem to mind having their faces just inches away from a human’s face. But don’t worry, they’re friendly.
Last February, Bobbie was fighting bronchitis when the Nisswa Jubilee was coming around. Everybody tells everybody there’s going to be a llama in the Pickle, Bobbie said, and she didn’t want to let them down. Despite her illness she loaded up Popeye and hit the road.
“I walked him in and the whole place erupted into cheers,” she said. She and Popeye were in the bar for more than an hour. One recently-engaged couple got their photo taken with Popeye, which they planned to submit to the Star Tribune as their engagement photo.
“People just get a kick out of it. And it makes me feel good too,” Bobbie said.
In all the years of Bobbie’s tradition of bringing animals to the Pickle, the animals have only had one “accident” that needed to be cleaned up. And Bobbie has only missed one visit, when the Fourth of July celebrations were simply too hot and humid for the llama.
Bobbie’s two llamas have a lot of company on her ranch. They live with five Tennessee walking horses, two mini burros, three mini horses, eight dogs of assorted sizes (that friendly welcoming committee), five cats (plus four kittens!), several roosters and a flock of guinea hens.
Bobbie has taken or purchased many animals from those who could no longer care for them or which have experienced some trauma. She takes a patient approach to caring for the animals.
“I don’t push myself on them,” Bobbie said. “I let them figure it out themselves.” She has several stories of animals, whether horses, dogs or others, who didn’t want to be touched at all when they arrived at her ranch, but have come around to being affectionate, happy animals.
Achen’ Ass Acres got its name one day after Bobbie and her former husband got home from a long trail ride. He came in, sat down, and said “Ow, my achen’ ass!”
“I said that’s the name of our ranch!” Bobbie recalls. From then on, that’s when she and her happy animals have made a home- when they’re not visiting the Pickle.
If you’d like to meet Bobbie and Popeye the llama, watch for her at the Pickle Factory in Nisswa just after the Fourth of July parade Sunday, July 3. The parade begins at 7 p.m.