A Day in the Life of a Sheep Shearer

The alarm sounded. I hated the alarm — it meant that there was work to be done. All that blissful sleep … dashed on the rocks! It was like this every morning; I would sleep the night away, sometimes even forgetting the pain of my work. And then, just as my sleep was reaching that perfect state where the body starts to recover from the previous day’s work — the alarm. The sheets stuck to my back as I hinged myself in direction of the alarm clock, every morsel of my joints and tendons aching with regret at choosing the hard life of a shearer. ‘But it’s money,’ I tried to convince myself as I stumbled to the bathroom. A splash of cold water helped my eyes to open and I saw myself in the mirror. ‘Do I really need money?’ Another splash of water. ‘Surely there’s another way to make a living.’

But as I drove through the countryside, watching the earth awaken under a red dawn, I reminded myself of what I loved about this job. It’s a chance to see the countryside, and work side-by-side with honest, hard-working men. I smiled to myself, smugly, remembering that today was going to be an easy day. Only four hundred crossbred ewes, and four of us on the job! Heck, we’d be out of there in five hours! And it was a Friday too. I daydreamed about the weekend, and mentally wrote a list of all the useful things I would get done later in the afternoon. I was just coming to the part where I do that thing I’ve been planning on doing for quite some time, when I had the rather odd sensation that my mobile phone might be ringing. I dismissed it as a noise coming from the workings of my ute. But then I heard it again, and this time I was certain it was my phone. It was the contractor.

‘One of the blokes is crook, so I need you to turn around and go to a different job, and there’s a few there so it’ll be a big day for ya.’

‘Okay mate, no worries.’ Damn! A few! That means a lot.

The drive up to the other shed was kind of gloomy and depressing, knowing I would have to work late on a Friday. I had to pick up a rousabout too, and for some reason I’m always nervous when I have to have someone in the car with me. When I picked Clarence up it was a bit better though, as I tried to put on a brave face, and reassure him that I would work hard and that it would be fine. This reassuring someone else helped me to calm myself down a little bit, and I almost enjoyed the rest of the drive to the shed. The very straight roads kept coming towards us and the sunrise was quite beautiful. But then I got to the shed.

Talk about mud! In between the gate and the shed was about 200 meters of nothing but mud! I tried to see the funny side, and pointed the nose of my ute in the general direction of the shed. Then I pushed the skinny pedal to the boards, and off we skipped. It was almost graceful as we bumped and skidded, eventually getting well and truly bogged right where (amazingly) we needed to be. I turned to Clarence and gave him a grin. ‘We aren’t getting out of that without help!’

This little gag was still cheering me up when I stepped into the shed to inspect how many sheep were actually there. All I saw was a giant sea of wool and ears as I looked across the holding pens. My heart sank. I wanted to cry.

‘There’s 60 ewes to shear, and you’ll have to crutch their lambs as you go, and after that there’s another 80 Lambs to shear and about 200 to crutch.’ A Prophet of Doom had appeared from behind a wool bale — it was the farmer. I tried to put on a brave, not caring, I’ve-done-this-before kind of face. ‘I’ll see if I can get them done.’ The farmer must have sensed doubt in my voice, because his expression sank into a one of helplessness — not unlike the expression on my face that I was trying so hard to hide.

An hour late. An hour from home. A late Friday. Still, things could be worse … yes, I’m sure they could.

I dove into them, working as quickly as I could. The ewes were actually not that bad to shear, and I managed to get into the zone quite easily. I knew that there was no way I would be able to finish the whole job in one day, but maybe I could finish the shearing …

I want to take a moment now to talk about the zone. When I’m in the zone, I shear my best numbers. All I can see is wool. My vision goes slightly blurred, and although I can’t see as well I can just feel where to put my hands. My heart gets pumping, and time slows down. I lose certain senses, other than the slight loss of vision. No feeling of pain exists when I’m in the zone. I forget everything about my past, and all my worries disappear. But a very strange thing happens; after I have been in the zone I don’t really remember working. All I remember are sensations and the burn of my body afterwards. If I’m In the zone all day, I go home and remember nothing about any particular sheep. In fact, the only proof I have that I shore more than one sheep that day is that the tally book says so …

I finished the ewes and crutched all their lambs, then I started on the other lambs. Talk about wild! They were like snakes. squirming and wriggling, biting and kicking. I tried to get into the zone again but I couldn’t seem to do it. Even though a freezing cold gale was blowing through the shed I was sweating like a waterfall. Then the cold air chilled my wet back and it ached and hurt. Surely Hell would feel like a promotion compared to this!

Nonetheless I kept going, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to finish even If I tried my hardest. I kept glancing out the window, too, watching the puddles outside get deeper, and the mud that bogged my ute get runnier. No, I definitely wasn’t getting out of there without help. I found myself daydreaming as I shore along, thinking about the times I’d been bogged in the past. Most of these times were when I had a four-wheel-drive, and I would go out on expeditions purely for the purpose of getting myself in boggy situations. Wham! One of the lambs decided to kick me in the precise area of my groin. That reminded me that I was still here, and there were still hundreds of sheep out there. But stuff it! I’ll work until five o’clock and then I’ll knock off. Who cares if there are a few left? That could be another problem for another day.

Five o’clock finally came. I even shore for an extra fifteen minutes just so I could feel like I’d worked overtime. Clarence didn’t know where the farmer was, and neither did I, so I found his number and rang him on the electric telephone.


‘Yeah g’day it’s Oves.’

‘Aah yeah.’

‘I’m bogged mate.’

‘Oh, where abouts are ya?’

‘Just where I was parked.’

‘I think you’ve got the wrong number mate.’

‘Sorry, is this the farmer?’

‘… Yeah …’ It seemed he couldn’t figure out who I was,

‘It’s Oves. The shearer mate, I’m bogged where I was parked outside the shearing shed!’

‘Ooh! Yeah yeah I’m with you now! Ha! ha! I was thinking, “Who the —- is this?” Yeah I’m down the road with the tractor, I’ll be there in a minute.’

‘Thanks mate! Good on ya!’ I hung up my phone and watched in the distance for the tractor. There it was.

Soon we were on the road again, all the mud from the bog flicking merrily off my wheels and splattering on the underside of the tray. What an exhilarating feeling! To be driving away from that place! I wanted to hug Clarence, I wanted to scream joyous noises at the police station as I drove by, imaginary tunes where thumping through my head. But I didn’t hug poor Clarence or scream at the cops though, I was trying to be dignified.

The week had ended at last!

Untamable Sleep (a Poem)

O sleep, why dost thou leave me so?
Wherefore dost thou go
When I need thee so dearly?
Thou art like a silken scarf,
That slips from the hold of my fingers.
Thou art like the stars
That seem so beautiful and near
Yet cannot be reached.
Why must I search for thee so?
Why must I coax thee unto me so persistently?
I call thy name, and thou turnest thine head away.
Thou hast the desires
Of another man’s heart in thy bondage.
O sleep, return thou once more unto me again,
That I may rest in thine arms once more.
O wherefore art thou,
Untamable sleep?

This is something I wrote quite some time ago, and today I thought it fit to publish here.

Questions of the Mind

Tattooed on the interior of my skull is a question. It’s a very long question, and it doesn’t ask with words — in fact, it’s more of a curiosity, a desire. I beleive that all matter is a code. When a human talks to another human he uses a code. When she gets annoyed that I generalized all humans with that two-letter word more properly used to describe only men, she is following a code. But what is the key?

Perhaps there are multiple keys, or perhaps there is a key of keys to unlock all codes. Some people seem adept at picking locks. To me, it’s a mystery. Everything is a mystery, an enigma.

I too act according to a code; but I don’t know the key to even my own. Animals follow a simpler code and are more easy to understand. Most of the time they are logical, although mostly in a narrow-minded way. But people … What a bunch of confusion! He wants something from her, goodness knows what … But she says she doesn’t want something that she truthfully does. And here, a rock that the emotions of others splash upon, am I.

Why do people feel? Why love? What logical explanation is there? It seems the only thing worth doing to me, is to question. And as long as I question, I cannot love. The more I seek the less I feel. What if everything we think matters doesn’t, and all that we think are heresies are not? Fools we would seem.

I know not what I write, for the question in my head does not ask with words. Words merely hint at it. Words lower it to the level of paper and pen. Type and print. Dots and dashes. On and off.

The switch — the switch has clicked. Maybe there is a key to the code. Maybe it’s us.

The Cage of Fear

Centuries passed. They no longer understood what it was to be hunted, and torn apart by wild animals. What their ancestors had given up their lives for, they despised. And as they sought the new, the unusual, and the exiting, they lost the gift of knowledge. Then some, though small in number, saw the Cage. It was gilded; created by those who would be imprisoned therein. The Cage was fear. Fear of losing the comforts that they had made for themselves. Fear of being free from the web that entangled them. For they took comfort in what bound them; and the outside became something considered wild and dangerous. But the few saw the truth. The outside was freedom. the outside was suffering, to be sure, but it was freedom from the Cage. Of the few that saw it, even fewer were bold enough to escape the Cage.

We the people, have enslaved ourselves to our creations. They form a cage around us. A cage that has surrounded us since birth. We find comfort in the cage, because it seemingly cares for us. When we need to speak to someone in the antipodes, we merely use a device and, like a genie of the lamp, our wish is its command. We created currency, with which we can buy and sell whatever our hearts desire. But the currency has become merely an idea of riches — a promise of happiness, pleasure and contentment. But in reality, our riches are being stolen, and gradually fed to a sickeningly rich few in a reverse-Robin-Hood heist. Scientists pride themselves in supposed proof of things that we have always known, and the world looks on in awe, saying, ‘Look how high we have climbed!’ And as they marvel and wonder at what they have created, they don’t see the Cage of Fear that they have built around them; which, like the poisonous venom of the New Guinea dragons, is slowly taxing their lives into a shell of hopelessness. And as this happens the few look on in awe, saying, ‘Look how far we have fallen!’

Is this it? Will we continue to be enslaved by our genies of currency and wondrous technology? Or will we finally see the Cage? I hope we will have the courage to reject the Sheriff of Nottingham, and his master Prince John, in his lustful wallow of self-love. Real joy, real satisfaction, and real riches come to those who don’t follow the hopeless chase of fictional geese, that turn to ash when captured. Oh, humanity! Look how far you have fallen! Look at yourselves, strutting around like kings, but dressed in the blood of innocent men! Is this what you do with power? The time will come when you will fall, down, down, down. Your walls of security will be seen as what they are — lies. The Cage will fall, and you will not be prepared for true freedom, so you will perish in its harsh justice. But in all this there is hope. The few will know the ways of the outside, and with their help you will rise from the ashes like the phoenix that the human race is. And when you have recovered from your fall, you will once again enjoy true freedom. And thus will your plot to enslave yourselves again will be reborn …

I hope this rant makes sense. It’s a bit abstract, because I’m a bit sketchy about what I believe on this subject, but if nothing else, I hope it got you thinking about what you stand for.

Unity, if there is Such a Thing

I was going to write another entry, and I found this draft, so I thought I might as well publish it:

A couple of weeks ago the question was posed to me: what are the younger generation of Christians doing today to create unity amongst the body of Christ? I thought that this was quite an interesting question to ask, because today there are so many Christians who disagree with the rest of the body of Christ. We are really doing nothing to create unity. ‘But,’ I thought, ‘I can’t agree with everyone; some people’s ideas are just plain daft.’ So, really … what can we do to be one with the rest of God’s people? This is a question that I haven’t got a full answer for yet, but I will try to answer some of it to best of my knowledge.

Obviously agreeing on everything is impossible, so the only way we can work together with our difference of beliefs is to accept that we have different beliefs. This sounds like an obvious statement, but for some reason a lot of us have ignored it over the years. Yes it is important to stand up for what you believe in. Yes, it is important not to just go by what the person next to you is doing. And yes, it is very important to discuss and even argue our different opinions. But I’m going to say something now that may get a few eyebrows raised; it’s more important what we do than what we believe.

What we believe obviously matters to us. It matters to our personal lives and shapes who we are. But what we do matters to the people around us; it affects the lives of those around us and shapes the world. Even — dare I say it? — even whether we believe in God at all doesn’t matter if we do nothing about it. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t believe in God or the divinity of Christ. But I am saying that what we do about it is more important than what we believe. If i believe that God is the creator and ruler of the universe, that belief means nothing unless I do what He says. I can believe that God judges every one of my sins but unless I repent from them that belief really means nothing.

But what does what I’ve written so far have to do with the original question, What can we do to create unity amongst God’s people? We can act instead of cut each other off. We can love each other instead of trying to force them to believe what we do. We can work together to build God’s kingdom, instead of tearing His kingdom down by excommunicating each other. How can we be the body of Christ without unity?

Sometimes I think to myself, ‘If everyone in the world were like me, then there would be world peace.’ Now, this is most definitely not true, because if the entire population thought like me, we would all be too radical to even admit that we agree with each other. (I often say that what I fear most in the world is myself.) So what would create world peace? Is it beliefs? It’s a very hard question to answer, and I’m not sure I can answer it, because I have never experienced it. But just because I don’t think I can answer a question shouldn’t mean I will stop trying. So I will try.

First, I will try to define what world peace is not. It isn’t every man agreeing with each other; that’s just not healthy. Neither is it a world with only one branch of religion; as far as I can see, all of the religions of the wold have some flaws. I suppose world peace might be achieved if no human killed another human — If nobody deliberately tried to hurt another person.

So what can we do to achieve such a goal? I don’t know. But what can I do to help? Get along with people. Try not to hurt them. You don’t have to agree with them, but I do think you have to love them.

This is a much more complicated subject than I thought it would be. So I suppose I’ll try to answer a more specific question. What can young Christians do to create unity amongst the church? That is also a very hard question. Perhaps even harder than the first one. So many Christians seem to think that it all depends on all Christians agreeing with one another. The trouble with that, is that the type of Christians who think that also want the whole world to believe their specific theologies. And the problem with that is another group of Christians that believe a slightly different thing cannot tolerate the first group. It’s a really mucked up jumbled mess.

But what can I do? I can’t agree with every other Christian, because some Christian’s ideas are just plain daft. I can’t say that all beliefs are equally right because some beliefs seem to me to be quite clearly wrong. This is what led me to the conclusion that whether someone’s beliefs are wrong or not, it shouldn’t matter as long as what they do isn’t wrong. So what is the right and wrong thing to do? As far as I can see, all of the peaceful religions are good for the world, and all of the non-peaceful religions are bad for the world. (I may be wrong on this though — I haven’t thought it through very well yet.) And as far as I can see, the Bible si the best guidebook to follow. All of the laws and commandments in the Bible that were written to be eternal statutes make up a good system to run the earth by.

The more I think about this subject, the more complicated it becomes. Perhaps a whole library of books could not explain this fully …