Australian Folk Songs
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The Flash Shearer (1906)
(A Publican's Tale) "I've got a hundred and fifty sheep on the hill ever there," said the publican, storekeeper,
postmaster - general, and boss cockie of a country township. "Last week I engaged a shearer.
He said he had just come from Queensland and New South Wales, and he used to get a quid a
hundred, and he shore hundred a day, and he was ringer at three sheds. But he offered to work
by the day : 15s he said he'd take. They was grand sheep, all wool to the toes, and I wanted
to watch him closely and pick up points. Some of them shearer blokes has great times, and I
was taken by my man's style. He had more style nor a squatter. Some shearers has real flash
turnouts, and a lot of 'em own the stations they uster to shear on. My man looked a station
owner. He was full ov lovely talk. First he had a good look at the sheep. 'Them jumbucks is
not so bad,' sez he; 'it'll take me all me time to do more than 140 of 'em.' Then he 'ands me
back the shears. They was his shears. He only use! his own, he said on the big stations for
special work. E was only 'avin a holiday at present, and doin' my job out of the kindness of
'is heart. 'Put a edge on 'em,' he orders; 'I never sharpen me own. They're always done for
me on ther big stations.' I had a go at 'em, and then he started to shear. "No mistake, he had
a bonza style. 'E 'andled them lovely jumbucks as though they was only dirt. I watched him close
to pick up points. Great Scot ! talk about croolty ter dumb animals ; he gripped end teared them,
and dragged off ther wool, and cursed and bled them, till the shed was like a slaughter 'ouse
workin' overtime. 'Old on.' I cried. I couldn't stand it no longer. 'Take it steady; you ain't
workin' in the abattoirs.' 'E just looked at me. ' W'y don't yer learn to sharpen shears?' sez 'e,
in a loud tone of voice. 'You've gone an' put a blasted bevel on 'em, and they couldn't cut mouldy
cheese. 'Ow do you expect me to shear with a pair o' blunt scissors?' He bawled into the 'ot air
and glared at me. ' Wen I was on Black Soil Station, doin' me 100 a day--we wasn't allowed to do
more--I fought the boss o' the board for a week's cheque about a blunt pair o' shears. 'E was gettin'
about agen before the shed cut out. I can't stand blunt shears ; ain't used to 'em, I suppose.'
Then he glared some more, and I reckoned I would leave 'im to 'isself and call round later. ' W'en
I come back at night the bleed was runnin' down the 'ill in streams. Two sheep was dead, and some
others looked like mutton in a butcher's shop. 'E 'ad used up a tub o' kerosene ; we used kerosene
instead of tar, and there was me lovely greasy merinoes goin' strong for the mutton chops stakes.
That were the sheep he shore. He 'ad only done eleven. The others were still waitin' their turn;
though a couple of ancient jumbucks 'ad got out ther pen and lost themselves in the bush. They was
old 'ands, and noo wot was comin', and reckoned they would be 'appier if they wasn't there. And there
was me flash shearer, who 'ad done his 100 a day without raisin' 'a' 'sweat, cursin' and hackin' and
tearing off the wool. I I couldn't stand it no longer. It were too crool. 'Knock off', I.sez, 'and
I'll finish myself.' The great bloke wot cud do 'is 100 in ther mornin' 'ad been goin' from 9 till 5.
and 'e 'ad shore twelve; anyway, 'e 'ad bled ' and ripped and teared twelve. If I'd 'ave took 'im on
at station prices 'e would 'ave only got a couple of bob. I 'ad to pay 'im 15s. I noo afterwards he
was only a touser, and no mistake he cud pick up and throw in ; only 'he couldn't 'ave shore a bar ov
soap. I pay me shearers' £1 a hundred now. I don't want to take advantage of their kindness, and pay
'em by the day. And' I steer dear of flash blokes with fancy talk about record tallies, and ringers,
and doin' their 180 before dinner; they might be only rousers tryin' to take simple country blokes like
me down." Notes From the NSW newspaper the Deniliquin Independent 9 Mar 1906 p. 4.
australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory