Fondest Childhood Memory

It’s a scorcher and if the mercury rises above 113 in the shed we’ll flicker. I’ll be rousaboutin’, pickin’ up the fleeces, sweepin’ the board, keepin’ the sheep up in the catchin’ pens and probably pressin’ a few bales by the end of the day. The cricket broadcast will kick off at about 9 so we’ve got possibly the oldest HMV wireless you’ll ever see perched just so to catch a signal and woe befall you should you bump it with the broom.

The sheerers, two brothers, Ken and Ian Rook are guns, surgeons, pranksters, smokers, drinkers, friends, and competitors. They’ll have their eye on gettin’ through 120 each today as they’re sheering first cross ewes with not too many skin folds. It’ll be my job or one of my brothers to keep the tally for my oldman when we count 'em out at smoko.

It’s still early in the morning but the yards are dry and a kind of green dust infused with the dried shit of generations of sheep floats above the restlessness of the ewes as Sam, one of our dogs, wanders by making her way up into the shed to camp in the locks under the classing table. It’s soft and cool amongst the wool.

There’s a northerly blowing, and it’s a bad fire day. Nobody told the weatherman though and a total fire ban hasn’t been declared. That raises the tension and we’ll be on lookout all day for smoke on the horizon or worse, much worse, the smell of it.

The shed is made of corregated iron so you’d think it would be pretty hot inside already, but the roof is high and gabled and the air circulation is good and its dark. It’s got windows and a single skylight to help my oldman class the wool, but the only direct sunlight is two squares at the the shoots where the sheep are released after being shorn. The sun glistens here on the grease stained sheering boards and it’d be already too hot to stand there in bare feet.

We don’t have a bell to kick off the sheering which starts at 7:30 on the dot and goes through to 9:30 smoko. Ian and Ken have already fitted their combs and cutters into their hand pieces that are now rumbling in idle on the sheering boards. They’re ready to go and though it’ll be a test of physical endurance in the hardest job known to man both are puffing on their roll-your-owns lookin’ into the catchin’ pen. Then right on 7:30 my oldman gives them the, “Righto boys” and they flick their smokes down though the grates at the floor of the pen and push through the catchin’ pen doors that swing like those on a Western saloon.

The machines roar into life and there is a flurry of kicking feet as the sheerers get the sheep into position, sticking the head and forelegs of the ewe under arm pits that have never known the luxury of a deodorant. It hasn’t even been invented yet. The bellies are the first part to come off and I have to be on my guard ready to move in and take it out of the way of the sheerer, remove any stains and then practice my fleece thowing technique as I launch it from a distance into the belly bale. The wrest of the fleece comes off easy and the sheep is almost sedated by the smooth rhythm of the combs and cutters sweeping along it’s flanks and quite possibly the gas from the sheerer’s underarm. Then the sheerer tips the ewe back between his legs and it scrambles to find grip from its hooves on the glistening boards before hurtling down the shoot and giving a jump for joy. Now I must move fast as the sheerer swings past to catch another ewe, I have to pick up and the fleece and throw it on to the table. It’s a hallowed skill and not easy for a 10 year old to master, but I’ve so honed it by this stage in the season, I can land it perfectly spread out on the table from a yard and a half away then swing round to fetch the broom and sweep the locks under the table just as the sheerer muscles backwards out of the catching pen with another for his tally and a wink of appreciation for getting the job done and not holding him up a second. And so goes the day 'til smoko as I work on perfecting my every move around the boards as sheerer and rousabout dance to the tune of the first session of play in Sydney.

Summer 77. It rained through the night often but we saw nothing but blue sky during the day throughout the whole summer.

I was always up first. I would make a peanut butter sandwich and I would eat it outside on the deck. At half past six am, the sun would be just starting to peek over the house and I often had to sit on the railings to be in the sun.

By the time my family was waking up, I was already at the lake catching frogs. (We ate the legs) I caught so many frogs that summer but there always seemed to be more of them.

My mother had a whistle and she would use it to call us home for lunch and dinner. We would hear her even from the other end of the lake. :slight_smile:


The time that Whitney, the little girl down the street, led me into her house’s basement and showed me what was under her panties. We were both too young to shave, though, unlike Fox’s sheep.

Sleeping up in a tree in the field behind out house. Watching Duke, my pet beagle, sneak up on the three milk cows that the Rev. Sharp pastured in the field.
With great stealth Duke belly crawls up on the three cows, makes his way to the one facing away from him, and with a leap flies thru the air, eyes bugged out and lands on the old milk cows right hind quarter.
He is humping like crazy, ears flopping and snapping as the cow lazily looks back, sees Duke in action and gives a kick sending him flying 20 feet out into the field.
Duke yelps as he flies thru the air, lands, bounces and rolls up to his feet. He shakes it off, looks around in a haughty manner and heads to the other tree to sit in the shade and plot his next attack.
I giggle and go back to sleep.
Hot fun in the summer time.

Nighttime fishin’ for summer seatrout with me dad on the upper reaches of the South Esk nearly 35 years ago when there was still a run to speak of and a bag of 20 sealiced fish averaging over 10 pounds apiece wasn’t unheard of and I heard David Bowie’s Starman on Radio Luxembourg on the way home in the car at 4:00 am and it changed the trajectory of my life forever. But I’m not going to even try to top Fox’s beautiful paeon to long hot lazy (or not) days.

Writing books and recording them (complete with music) with my little sister. Sneaking into my little sister’s room on the weekends and tickling her awake. Late nights just gabbing away with my little sister in her room or her visiting me in mine. We fought like cats and dogs a lot, but we also had some really great times and since we are only 14 months apart in age, we went through the same things at the same time more or less…her being ahead of me usually, though.