Sheep Shearing, what else?

12 Jun

Jamie told Emma and I yesterday that he would take us out with him sheep shearing today. Not sure if he was entirely serious, I told them to go ahead and wake me up in the morning and I would make a game-time decision as to whether or not I felt like accompanying them. Sure enough, Jamie burst through my doors at 7am saying, “let’s go, let’s go!” We drove about 50km to Lanifer Station, where we met up with Brownie and the shearing commenced. They oiled and then turned on the razor, which resembled the one used by Jim Carey in The Grinch, only the razor was attached to a big metal pipe rigging. It was fairly loud and shook quite a bit, but Jamie seemed to have a good handle on it.

all in a days work

Jamie shearing sheep #1

As Jamie sheared the sheep, Brownie skirted the fleece. Basically what he does is toss the whole fleece onto a large spinning table. Then as he spins the table, he rips off all the stained edges of the fleece that were originally on the sheep’s belly and legs. The fleece goes into a pile in one bin, and the scraps into another.

the shearing set-up

the skirting set-up

After watching Jamie shear 4 or 5 sheep, he decided it was our turn to try it out. So Emma and I took turns dragging the sheep out of the pin first. All you have to do is turn their heads sideways towards their body while pushing their bums downward. Once they’re in a sitting position, it should be easy to grab their front legs and drag them on their back. From there, you’re supposed to pin them in that position between your legs so that they are unable to wiggle around while shearing them. Sounds simple enough.

Even though I know this doesn’t hurt them, I felt bad roughing them around because it seemed so unnatural. By the time I was able to actually get the sheep in a position to start dragging it (primarily thanks to Jamie who did most of the work for me), I found the sheep was rather heavy. I dragged it a few steps and then darted away when it started resisting, causing the boys to have to wrangle it back into submission before it took off running. Whoopsies!

Emma dragging out her victim

The shearing itself was far from graceful as well. Once Jamie sheared the sheep to the point where only the big, open part of its back was left, he let Emma and I have a go on our own sheep. Emma seemed to handle hers alright, but I don’t think I would have much of a future in shearing. I found it slightly difficult determining where the sheep was underneath all of that fleece. Because I didn’t want to nick the poor bugger, I ended up shaving into the fleece rather than keeping the razor flush against its back. Shaving over their boney little legs made me a bit queasy as well. Jamie ended up pointing to the next place my razor was supposed to be so that I had some sort of direction though.

I'm shearing!!!

I also found my choice of shoes somewhat ironic for today…

my Uggs found their way home

Once I finished shearing and Brownie grabbed the fleece out from under me, the sheep jumped up and ran into the pin with the one Emma helped shear. It’s reaction? Well it shat himself, of course. Poor thing!

my patchy sheared sheep

For an experienced shearer like Jamie, it takes him 2-3 minutes to shear a sheep on a good day, but as long as 5-7 minutes on a bad day. You hear of shearsman competitions though where some of these guys can shear a sheep in as little as 20 or 30 seconds. Of course they get counted off for anytime they nick the sheep. But nicking a couple sheep when you’re shearing dozens if not a couple hundred a day is inevitably going to happen.

sheared sheep

sheared sheep

Having had our fill with our try at shearing, Emma and I sat back and watched Jamie power through dozens more sheep. By the time he had sheared about 45 of them, Emma and I were laying in the sun on the back of his truck bed. Since he was only halfway through and it was already about 1pm, he opted to give us a lift to the drag races. I think this probably worked out better for them anyway because they were able to shear much quicker when they were able to fall into their usual routine without having to entertain.

farewell Lanifer Station!

The drag races were pretty comical. I’ve never been to one before so I wasn’t totally sure what to expect, but I imagined those funny little 1-seaters that let off the parachute once they pass the finish line. Winton’s 1/8 mile drag race was slightly different. The event took place on the landing strip of the Winton airport. The airport only flies to Townsville and Longreach on certain days, so I doubt it was that big a deal to shut it down for the day. Crowds gathered in bleachers and chairs set up on one side of the strip, while more official-looking people with medical assistance waited on the other side. The first 2 cars that pulled up were exactly what I imagined.

jazzy drag racing car

After that, I soon realized that anyone in Winton Shire could actually enter their car into the race. There were throwback cars with revved up engines to trucks and even a bus! And yes, the bus actually won its first heat.

the drag race competitors

I don’t know much about cars at all, so I never really figured out what was going on, but 2 cars at a time would pull up to some splashed water behind the starting line, spin their back wheels and kick up a bunch of smoke, then take their places at the starting line.

wetting their wheels?

When the streetlight turned green, they were off! Then at the end of the runway, there was a turnoff behind all the official-looking people where the cars could line back up for their next race. It was a great event with everyone cheering for their friends and making bets on who would win. I only stayed for an hour or so though because I had to be at work. But sure enough, as soon as the races were over at 4pm, everyone started trickling back into the Aussie Hotel. So I didn’t miss much of the entertainment!


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