Mary Licklider started life as a dairy farmer's daughter in Washington, Missouri. She did all the usual farm-kid stuff growing up. She learned to drive a tractor and spent hours helping with field work, participated in 4-H and showed the family's Guernseys at local fairs, sewed her own clothes, and complained about too many drafts and not enough closet space in the 2-story farmhouse her great-grandparents had built.
After high school and the local community college, she married Gary Licklider and moved to St. Louis County to finish a degree in English. Mary taught junior high and high school students in Webster Groves, Pacific, and Columbia, Missouri, over a career of some 22 years that included the acquisition of master's and doctoral degrees in education. She eventually left the schools and took a position at the University of Missouri where she has developed a campus-wide network of grant writers.
Mary and Gary moved from the St. Louis area to Columbia, Missouri in 1979 and within a few years had purchased land and built a house west of town. This is where they started Curly Eye, their alpaca operation, about 10 years ago. It's not unusual for visitors to ask how the Lickliders got into alpacas. Mary answers that alpacas are as close as possible to the sweet-natured Guernseys that she grew up with–without having to get up every morning to milk! The deadline-driven nature of grant writing work can be stressful, and the calm of the alpaca barn is good therapy. Beyond that, Mary's years of sewing her own clothes enable her to recognize a good fiber when she sees and feels it, and another of the attractions of the alpaca business for her remains the excellence of alpaca fiber. It was a "natural" for her to join Heartfelt to develop another venue for the fiber she and the other Heartfelt farms produce.