Shearing Shed Days



When I read that Bernie Vince had sheared a sheep on the MCG I regretted not seeing it. How wonderful . The AFL and the Almanac’s tribute to the wool industry made me reflect on my childhood .

I grew up in the 50’s  and 60’s  on a farm  in northern Victoria. We had sheep and cattle. Shearing shed days were the best of all. There was always a huge air of excitement on shearing days.  Cousins and uncles would assemble. The men wore  long pants, black singlets and Dunlop Volleys. The kids wore shorts, singlets and bare feet as usual.

We enjoyed having responsible jobs on shearing days. We had to herd the sheep into the pens, sweep the floors and jump in the wool press to help squash down the wool.

At smoko time ( no –one actually smoked), we got to sit on the bales with the men, drinking black billy tea and eating scones with butter and jam.  The men stretched their backs and had a rest from the sweat that constantly poured off them.  Our sheep were shorn just before Christmas and it was always hot. If a slight breeze blew in through the open double doors of the shed it was heaven.

The combination of kids and animals, of course, sometimes lead to incidents. On one particular day my boy cousins persisted in stamping their feet teasing a ram in the pen. The teasing became too much for the ram who backed up and ran with a flying leap right over the pen onto the main floor of the shed.  It frightened the heck out of us kids.  We ran in all directions, screaming and scrambling up onto wool bales and the sorting table.  Some kids sprinted to safety out the shearing shed door. Meanwhile the men stood laughing their heads off. The ram ran round the shed twice then out through the main doors and into the main yard. It was eventually herded back into a pen.

On another occasion, after one of the the dogs had  had its customary tidy up on shearing day an uncle let it into a crop  we were walking in and we thought it was a lion. Once again kids went running and screaming in all directions.

As children we naturally enjoyed the craziness of the sheep. The chaos of sheep getting out through fences, running in all directions when they weren’t supposed to and having to chase after them was serious fun.

The shed was an ever present part of our lives. There was a welcoming rustic smell about it. On rainy days we would just sit there enjoying the sound of the rain falling on the tin roof. When we couldn’t work on the farm, because of rain dad would send us over to the shed to tidy up the massive tool bench. On Christmas mornings if we woke up too early we were banished to the shearing shed until it was a reasonable time to come back to the house to open our presents. And on other days we walked and balanced along the rails of the sheep yards or played there for fun.

On summer afternoons we would hit tennis balls against the tall outside shed wall and had a netball ring attached to it for goal throwing.

Eventually dad got rid of the sheep and just kept the cattle. It was probably due to economics but dad said the sheep drove him mad.

Us kids did miss those crazy sheep though.

Pamela Sherpa


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