I apologise to my earlier followers for publishing stories you have read before. But this new blog has attracted some new followers and some of them are from countries far flung. And because my fictional muse is on holidays for a while I will post some of my favourites.
The following story is about as Aussie as I can make it. And it is also 100% true.
Shearing Mick’s Sheep.
The day we shore Mick’s sheep was quite memorable. I’ll set it up for you. I bought my house from a local cow cockie* who owned 640 acres of reasonably prime real estate just the other side of Lake Burrumbeet. – I guess it depends on which side you’re coming from.
He cut out ten acres surrounding the family home, and included the old dairy, the old shearing shed, a tumble down chook house that now held a small family of tiger snakes and the big old machinery shed. I didn’t need all those sheds but it made me feel a bit like a real farmer.
Mick Kennedy had a few acres up the road but he had no sheds. I haven’t changed the names to protect the innocent because no one involved this day was innocent. Mick was an Irishman with a most difficult to understand accent but a heart as gold as any you’d find at the end of a rainbow. Mick’s a good bloke.
I had a young kid staying with me at the time and he’d never been outside North Blackburn or Surrey Hills in his life and ‘life on the farm’ was a new experience for him. I knew his dad from teaching days.
So one day Mick dropped in and asked if he could bring a few sheep down tomorrow or the next day and use my shearing shed. I won’t try to put that in Mick’s words because you wouldn’t understand him – I only just got it after a while.
“Sure, Mick,” I said. “Who’s going to shear them?”
“I tort I’d get Dad Shepherd to do dat for me,” he said.
Now Dad Shepherd was a good shearer. He was a rascal, and he swore worse than anyone I knew and he was quite unreliable. Sometimes he woke up in the morning unconscious and didn’t turn up for work. But when he did turn up he was brilliant. And he could use the Queen’s English like a professor. Every word he used – leave out the swear words – was perfectly appropriate.
It was a hot day. About the hottest we’d had that summer and the sweat was pouring off Dad like a tap.
“So, how you feeling today, Dad?” I asked during a brief stoppage in play.
“Not too bad, young fella. But the humility is getting to me.”
He then turned to Matthew, which was just as well because I could tell that Matthew was nearly going to correct old Dad. As I said, Dad might swear a lot but be didn’t use the wrong word unless he meant to.
“What does your dad do for a crust, youngster?”
“He’s the President of the Baptist Union of Victoria,” said Matthew.
“And what in the name of the Almighty does the President of the Baptist Union of ……….Victoria do?”
“He sort of bosses all the Baptist Ministers around and makes sure they do their job right,” replied the young son of a senior Baptist minister.
But none of this stopped Dad from using the worst language ever heard in the shearing sheds of rural Australia.
Then a car came over the ramp and Matthew rushed out to greet his father.
“Dad, you have to come and listen to this guy in here, the shearer. He swears better than anyone. I’ve never heard so much swearing. Never.”
So in came my old mate John Simpson. I haven’t changed names. He’s got broad shoulders. He is a Baptist after all.
And at a very appropriate time a big old Merino wether lashed out and kicked old Dad Shepherd in the hand and knocked the hand piece out of his hand.
Here it comes! Now we shall hear how good Dad Shepherd can get. Matthew was ecstatic. Johnny Simpson was intrigued. Mick Kennedy just waited and I wondered..
“You, you,” Dad stuttered. And we waited. “You, you naughty old baa lamb. Did bad old Dad hurt your teensy weensy tummy?
I think Mick laughed the loudest and was rolling on the floor for longest. The only person disappointed was Matthew.
So we got to the end of the day. Mick bought a few cans to “cut out the shed” * and we all sat around for a while.
“I brought down fifty four baa lambs,” Mick said to me, “and Oim takin fifty tree back wid me.”
“What happened to the other one?”
“It’s dat little one over dere,” said Mick. “It’ll make quite a few nice little chops for your dinner.”
That was it. No one had said there was any payment to be made. I hadn’t expected it. You just do that sort of thing. Some things are just taken for granted. Mick is a good bloke.
*cockie. A slang term for a small farmer. Nowadays this term is generally used to refer to any farmer but it was originally used to refer to a farmer with a very small holding. The idea was that if a flock of cockatoos landed on his farm they would be able to eat everything and therefore ruin him. Hence a cockie farmer was one who was only growing enough feed to feed a flock of cockatoos.
*”cut out the shed.” Whether there were 50 sheep or a thousand, when the last sheep is shorn the owner will buy enough beer for all the shearers, woolclassers, rouse-abouts etc and everyone will sit around and have a bit of a chin-wag.
The painting at the top is by ROBERT HANNAFORD and is on display at http://www.rivertonlightgallery.com/