Thursday, 8 May 2014

Shearing with Luke Dickens and admiring the huge team effort in the shed this week. #lukedickens #shearing #tobeaustralian

I walk towards the wool shed and an unfamiliar sheep dog greets me at the door. It’s the last day of shearing and I want to call in and say hello, as I haven’t been near the shed all week. This is an incredible atmosphere as the shearing is in full swing when I arrive. There are muffled conversations rising above the music that is spilling out the windows and the humming of the machinery as the sheep are pulled into position.

There are 4 shearers working side by side. Each sheep is held so it can’t kick and the hand piece slides along its body so the wool can slip off in one layer. There is a man sweeping the floor constantly, two men at the table working on the final fleece presentation and another pushing the wool into the press. The wool press ensures the weight of the final wool bale is just right. Each bale is labeled according to its quality/grade. By the end of the week there are over 100 bales ready for the sale.

Howard gets the tractor and starts loading the bales onto the truck. When the shearing is complete the clean up begins. Any fallen wool is gathered, the floor is mopped, the final wool is pressed and the men gather their lunch boxes and gear, ready for a final drink together before heading home.

I am taking photos, having a chat, sweeping a little and generally trying not to get in the way or trip anyone who walks past. This is teamwork at its best, from those who are responsible for bringing the mobs of sheep to and from the shed, to the person who brings the speakers and fills the place with music. It feels very strange to be standing and watching when everyone is working so hard but I cant get over how incredible everyone looks working together.

There is a true sense of pride in each specific job the men are responsible for. It is clear that each person is aiming to do the best they can do. Over 500 sheep were shorn each day and for those who haven’t been in a shearing shed, this equates to a lot whole lot of hard work. 

I would love to sit down with all the men and hear their stories. When did they start shearing and what do they love about the job? There is particular man who is probably used to a few extra questions. Luke Dickens is working with us today and Howard asks if its OK that I take some photos and ask him a few things for the blog.

When the men are on a lunch break and they all sit together in the little kitchen around a long wooden table. Luke makes me feel very comfortable and talks with ease about his continued song writing and upcoming gigs. Luke came runners-up in Australian Idol in 2008 and went on to release a debut album in 2010 called ‘Underdog’. Then in 2011 Luke won the Toyota Star Maker competition held in Tamworth. Clearly this man has great talent and it’s onwards and upwards for this star I find in our wool shed.

 These days Luke is managing the juggle between his shearing responsibilities, his music career and raising his son. He mentions there are people giving him a hand and this makes a big difference but I know, you still have to have the drive, determination and enthusiasm in the first place to do well and Luke clearly has this in spades.  I wish we had more time to talk about what inspires him to write songs. I imagine he draws a lot from his shearing experience and the people he meets in these old dusty sheds.  

Luke returns to his stand with the other men. The music is turned up again as the machinery starts whirling. They each choose their next sheep, pull it into place and start the final run. I wish I could tell them what an incredible job they are doing. Howard and I care for the sheep all year, choose the rams we think will produce good wool. Howard ensures they have the right feed and water, have no disease and that lambing goes well but as Luke mentioned, how we manage all comes down to the support you have around you. This team of very hard working men support Howard and I in providing a product we are proud of to the wool market. They are professionals and deserve acknowledgment for the incredible effort and contribution they make.

As the sun is setting and the cold of winter has us all putting our coats on, I have a beer with the men. In 22 years this is the first time I have joined in the ‘cut out’. It’s a small gesture of thanks as everyone sits together and the yarns begin. One man talks about his time working in Sydney as a horse rider for the racing industry, another has had two new knee replacements that get cold because they are metal. Everyone has a story and all our experiences blend together so Australia can be what it is today, one of the best countries in the world you could ever dream to be a part of.

 ‘True success is more than embracing opportunity; it is also how we face the disappointment, the hard work and ordinary days. This is what takes us to a whole new level.’ I say…and I see.


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