Here Come the Shearers

28 9 18

[prompt: 'arrive' 1/02/2019]

"The shearers'll be starting end of next week," Sam said. "You'll do the cooking for them, right Chris?"

I nodded and smiled bravely - this should be great! Rumour is they walk off the job if they don't like the cook. Hmm—I might walk off the job before they do! It's a demanding schedule. Meals and teas on the dot; every day a cooked breakfast. I began to feel faint. Cooked? On my woodstove? The one I have to fire up half an hour plus, before I cook on top?

"It's not much really—just two shearers—Pat and Ned!" Was he joking? With names like that, they'd be a couple of likely lads, surely? There'd also be himself, his Dad, and a mate or two of Dad's some of the time; and of course, Kanute. "It's only for two weeks," he added.

Sounds reasonable? Yes, but... breakfast at 7am sharp; morning tea at the shearing shed 9.30am sharp; cold meat and salad lunch (no dessert) 12.15pm; afternoon tea (also at the shed) 3pm[both also sharp]. Incredibly dinner-time was totally my choice! Just a simple hearty hot dinner and generous dessert—AND more cups of tea each - after about 8 cups of tea each a day...

How many country wives have done it all for much longer and many more mouths in the shearing team than these? They've slaved over hot ovens and open fireplaces forever - a perfectly ordinary country tradition. Only the belief this job could likely assure the promised 'bonus' at the end of our working year, made it seem best if I dumbly accepted being a donkey with a tasty carrot being dangled in front of my nose. I surely did all I could to ensure the tucker would be 'up to scratch'. I planned; I travelled 10 miles to the nearest shops for a food-buying frenzy; travelled another 10 miles back home - and cooked.

"You cooked absolutely everything," Kanute says. "And your home-made jams—and pickles ... even your own tomato sauce." He pats his stomach and licks his lips. Surprising, his love of tomato sauce for a European not brought up with this much-loved Aussie fare. I nodded my head in sad remembrance. There'd been little bought stuff for these fellows.

In between, I helped bring hundreds of sheep in closer to the shed, until at last 'Shearing Eve' arrived—but not so these contractors. Where were they? Shearers? In their time off? Supporting the bar of the nearest pub, of course—or maybe the bar 'supporting' them? It's debatable!

Outside our bedroom, a corner of the verandah had been closed off to create their room. At 11.30pm, after a peaceful sleep for an hour, they arrived - accompanied by a crashing of gears of their rust-bucket utility adding to its raucous radio, with 'you beaut' speakers blaring at a stomach-shuddering volume. The groaning engine gradually throbbed to a halt after several deafening revs. A few magical moments of peace were shattered by loud voices and doors roughly opening and slamming shut—many times.

Pat and Ned were unaware we occupied the adjacent bedroom to theirs, or that our window was wide open as they passed by - again and again. They were not aware of much at all. They were blind, rolling, raucous drunk.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Author's Note:  Anyone familiar with my many wee tales of Joe and Baz will have guessed by now where my original inspiration was born - last century, on a sheep farm in Western Australia. The story is a vastly trimmed and rewritten excerpt from my 'Old McLarsen Had Some Farms - Book One' memoir.

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