Taking the wool clip in is one of my favourite farm chores. Last week it was time to do it again.
We always sell to Saunders in Launceston. We must be amongst their smallest wool producers, but they treat us as though we were the biggest. Although our small clip is lost in a sea of wool packs and fleeces they remember us from year to year and always give us a personal welcome. Our sheep are Border Leicester, so their wool is coarse carpet quality. No Italian suit maker will be calling on us.
Each time we go I think about my dad’s family who were wheat and sheep farmers in Western Australia. One of my uncles was a wool broker. These vast wool stores must have been very familiar buildings to them, with their smell – part dust, part wool – and their dim, cool expanse, bays tumbled full of wool.
The year Dad was fifteen he spent the whole of his summer holidays collecting wool from dead sheep. It was difficult, smelly work and there were long days battling the heat and the flies. At the end of it all he earned five shillings, which was not bad money for the period.
At that time his four older brothers were in the habit of dropping by the neighbour’s watermelon patch and helping themselves to fruit. Dad loved watermelon and he thought he’d go one better, so he backed the farm ute up to the neighbour’s gate and filled the tray.
When the neighbour followed the wheel tracks to the family farm Dad’s brothers dobbed him in immediately. It cost him his entire summer earnings. They all thought it was a great joke – even Dad.
In a few weeks we'll be shearing our lambs, and the cycle will begin again.