Monday, February 19, 2018


     After I'd been shearing for about 10 years, I once again found myself in Lake Cargelligo. A really good shearing mate of mine, Mark Hargraves, had offered me 8 weeks work. How could I refuse! My first port of call was, of course, Giltraps Hotel.

     Cath Giltrap, Mrs. Gibson and many others were all quite happy to see me. Most of their comments were along the lines of. "I can't believe how much you've grown since I last saw ya!"

     My first shearing pen was out at a cockys place called Rolly Sanson. 
     Mark said,
"It's one day but you'll make good money. There's about 200 cross-bred lambs to shear."

     Rolly had 6 sons. One of them was called Harry. Harry was a good bloke who was a mate of mine. I had been introduced to him by Kay Booth (Burts' old missus) on my first trip to town in 1964. Harry and me never saw a great deal of each other as he lived way out in the Malley on his old mans' property. When I met him in town or at one of the local football matches we would always have a good laugh about my exploits around the Bush.

     Harry was roust-a-bout for the day. I knew we were gonna' have a good time.
"Hey Yorky, how many are ya' gonna' shear today?"
"I don't know Harry. I'll let ya know after the first run. Why? How many ya got under cover?"
"We counted about 240. We're probably looking at a couple of days eh?"
"Let's see.", I said, as I loaded up the hand-piece."

     After the first run, I'd pushed out quite a few lambs which were the best shearing cross-bred lambs I'd ever shorn, up to that point. I'd just sat down for morning smoko when Harry came back in the shed from counting them out.
"How did we go Harry?", I asked with half a cheese sandwich still rolling around mi mouth.
"I counted out 65 mate."
"Not bad for a pommy bastard.", I said, with a satisfied look on my face.
"Not bad? That's fucking great Yorky mate. Ya think ya can keep that pace up all day?"
"I don't see why not Harry, they're 'flyers'. "
"So you might finish 'em today?"
"If they all shear as well as the first run, I may just do that."
"That'll be fucking Bonza mate! I'll be able to get 'em in their paddock before nightfall."

     At 5:20 that evening, I ran out of lambs and my grand total for the day was 230.
"Jesus Yorky mate, Ya did it! I've never seen anyone shear that many in one day. D'ya think ya could ring Johnny Burt?"
"No way Harry. Johnny Burt is a fair dinkum gun-shearer. He shore 250 Merino lambs this year at Merri Merrigal Station. He may not be the cleanest shearer in the shed but for the amount he can shear, he's good enough for me."
"I'm gonna shoot into town before ya Yorky mate. I'll meet ya at Blackers. I don't wanna' pay ya by check. I really appreciate the job ya did and the fact that ya got 'em all out in the time ya did."
"No worries Harry. I'll see ya at Blackers."

     After I met Harry at Blackers that evening, he paid me cash. I bought him a couple of beers and had a good laugh with him.
"Hey Yorky mate, I can still remember the first time I met ya when ya first came out here. You were only 15 years old mate, with skin as white as a ghost and your Yorkshire accent was so fucking funny, I could hardly understand ya."
"Yeah, I know mate. I had a pretty hard time at old Burts' place. I didn't know mi head from mi arse in those days."
"Well ya made it mate. Ya survived everything the Bush could throw at ya. By the way, I told everyone I know how many ya shore today, so look out when ya go to Giltraps. All those Alchis' will be on the bite mate."
"Thanks for the warning Harry but I know the game now mate. Thanks again for the work. I think I'll head off back to Traps and have a shower. That way, if I get full tonight, I haven't got far to go and I can crash on the bed with clean gear on."
"Alright Yorky mate, look after ya self sport. I might see ya around town before ya take off again."
"Yeah, Hurroo Harry."

     Once I got back to Giltraps, I by-passed the barroom and headed straight for mi room. I chucked mi sweaty, greasy dungarees in a cardboard box I kept in the corner and then took off down the passage towards the shower room. My habit was to have a shower as soon as I got home to Giltraps 'cause if not, I'd end up getting full in my old shearing gear. Odd times I saw miself crash out on the top of mi bed covered in sheep shit. Not a pleasant sight to behold at 6 in the morning!

     It was Friday night and Giltraps was packed when I walked in the bar.  A quick scan of the room and I made mi way over to where Donny Freeman and his crew were drinking.
"Hey Yorky mate.", said Freeman. "Come and join in our school. Ya can buy us all a beer mate, seeing as you're a gun shearer now!"
"Come on Don, you and me both know I'll never be a gun shearer as long as mi arse hole points to the ground."
"I don't know about that mate. 238's not a bad tally. Especially for a pommy bastard!"
"Yeah, but they were good shearing, cross-bred lambs mate."
"Doesn't matter sport. Ya still had to drag 'em out and git the wool off 'em."

     Gundy, who was well on his way, couldn't wait for the conversation to finish so he jumped right in and said,
"Chummy, ya pommy fucking bastard. Buy us a beer mate. They tell me, on the Bush Telegraph that ya shore 238 today."
     Gundy could get quite loud once he'd had a few. He yelled out,
"Chummy shore 238 today out at Sansons. Tell these fucking yobos' who taught ya to shear mate! I did, right mate? Gundy Stewart, the gun teacher. Right Chummy?"
"Right Gundy, you taught me shear mate."
"Tell 'em again Chummy. Old Gundy taught ya to shear!"
     As much as I loved Gundy and for sure he was the first bloke to show me the blows, he could be a little bit of an embarrassment when he'd had a skin-full, but what could I say, as everything he said was Fair Dinkum."

     As the night wore on, everyone in Giltraps were well on their way and having a good old drunken time. It was my turn to buy a round for the blokes. As I stood at the bar waiting for Giltrap to fill the order, I noticed Cecil Ivers sitting on a bar stool, talking with a couple of his drinking mates. As I stared at him he said,
"What are you fucking looking at, ya bastard?"
"G'day Cecil, how are ya mate? Long time no see."
"Do I know you sport?
"Yeah, I'm the little pommy bloke that used to work with ya in the 60s'. Mi names Yorky."
"Jesus fucking christ! I'd have never believed it if I hadn't seen it with mi own eyes."
"How ya' been keeping Cecil. Are ya still building?"
"I sure am mate. Ya can't keep a good man down."
"How's ya missus doing? She still in good health?"
"Yeah, she's not doing too bad. I heard you're a bit of a gun shearer."
"I don't know about that Cecil. I make a pretty good living at it."
"Well, don't forget mate, I'm the bloke who taught ya how to really work."
"That's right Cecil. Gundy taught me the blows and you helped me develop a great working ability."
"Well that's gotta' be worth at least a beer mate. I'll have one of those middys ya got sitting there."
"No worries Cecil. I'd be happy to shout ya a couple a' beers."
"Now, what was that name I used to call ya, all those years ago?"
"Cecil, better let sleeping dogs lie mate! I'm not the same young bloke ya used to abuse when we worked together. I'm mi own boss now.", I said.
"Yeah, but that was a good name mate, if I could only just remember."
"Here's ya beer Cecil. I'm off back to the school I'm in."

"What did fat fucking Ivers want with ya Chummy?", said Gundy as I handed him his middy.
"He was just reminding me that he was responsible for my working ability."
"Maybe so Chummy, but I'm the one who taught ya the blows."
"Yeah right Gundy. No one can ever take that away from ya mate."
     After a few more beers, it was my turn again to buy a round. Ivers and a couple of his mates were still knocking 'em back when I finally got to the bar. As soon as he noticed me, he turned on his stool to face me and said,
"I remember what I used to call ya mate."
"Don't do it Cecil. I'm not the same bloke ya beat up on the way home from Hilston Hotel."
"No, that's right mate. I reckon I could still knock ya arse over head, even at my age."

     Ivers two drinking mates had been listening to our conversation. One of them said to Ivers,
"Hey Cec, come on mate. Don't make a dick-head out a' ya self. That bloke will knock you tits up!"
"Him? No fucking way could he do that."
"Don't do it Cecil. Just leave it alone and everything will be alright between us."
"Come on Cec, leave the bloke alone. He's given ya fair warning."
"Ya know what I used to call this bloke, said Cecil to his mate,"A burgoo-spittin' pommy fucking bastard!" He turned to me and said,
"That's right isn't it sport? You're a burgoo-spittin' pommy fucking bastard."
"Jesus Christ Cecil.", said his other drinking mate. "Ya just can't help ya self can ya. Here we are having a quiet evening and you've to to go and start stirring up shit from years ago. Leave the bloke alone Cec. He's been decent and polite with you. He even bought ya a beer!"
"Maybe ya right mate, but he's still a Burgoo spittin pommy bastard!"
"Hey Cecil, why don't ya listen to your mate? He's talking good sense to ya.", I said.
"I don't listen to anybody burgoo. I say and do what I wanna' do."
"Alright Cecil, I warned ya. I'm not an 18 year old kid anymore and you're disrespecting me in front of mi shearing mates. I won't stand for that Ivers."
"What are ya gonna do about it burgoo? Hit me?"
"You're on your own sport.", said his mate. "He's given ya fair warning."
"Bullshit! He won't fucking do anything. He hasn't got the guts. Right Yorky, or whatever the hell name ya shearing mates call ya. If I look ya straight in the fucking eyes and call ya a burgoo spittin pommy fucking bastard, you'll knock me off this barstool. Am I right?"
"That's right Cecil. I've been really polite with ya mate and I expect the same respect form you."
"You're a Burgoo spittin pommy fucking....!"
     Before Ivers got the last word out, I hit him right under the butt of his ear, quite hard. Ivers had no time to do or say anything more, as all 18 stone of him sent flying backwards off the stool and he crash landed on Giltraps floor. The whole barroom was now deathly quiet as Giltrap, who had been observing the situation said,
"Alright, that's enough! He gave ya fair warning Ivers. If ya wanna' have another go, take it out back."
     Ivers mates were now struggling to get all 18 stone of him back up on his barstool as I left the bar and went back over to where mi shearing mates were drinking.
"Jesus!", said Freeman, as I handed him his beer. "What the fuck was that about?"
"Don't ask Don. It's been a long time coming.", I said.
"Fucking hell Chummy.", said Gundy. "What a blow! I can't remember teaching that one in the sheds mate!"

    Not long after that, Ivers two mates helped him out of Giltraps. That was the last time I ever saw him.


Friday, February 16, 2018


    The following morning I was sat on the curb outside Twitcheys at a quarter to six waiting for the contractor. As I was sat there wondering what shed life would be like, a cars' horn beeped and Don Freeman pulled into the curb.
"G'day Don." I said, as I jumped up.
"G'day Chummy. Hop in mate, we've gotta pick up the other blokes."
As I got in the front of the Falcon Sedan, he said, "I hope old Gundy's sober this morning. He was pissed as a chook yesterday. It took him a couple of hours to sober up. He only shore 15 sheep the first run."
"Isn't 15 sheep a lot to shear in one run?, I asked.
"That's nothing for a shearer of Gundys' capabilities Chummy. When Gundy's sober and he feels like working, I've seen him shear a couple of hundred a day and not break out in a sweat. 'Course, he's very rarely sober."

      We drove around Shamens Corner where the blackfellas' hung out. There was a couple of 'em sitting on the bench swigging on a half-gallon flagon of plonk.
"I don't know how those blokes do it.", said Don. "I've seen 'em sat there in the  hot sun all day getting full on plonk."
"Where do they git the money from?", I asked.
"They get a government check every week and most of 'em spend the whole lot on cheap plonk."

     We pulled into the curb again and a young bloke about my age hopped in the front beside me.
"G'day Freeman, how ya going mate?",  he said.
"G'day Boney, how ya going mate? D'ya know Chummy?", said Don.
"I've heard of ya mate. Mi brother Kenny told me about ya."
"Good to meet ya Boney.", I said as we shook hands.
"How's Kenny doing?, said don.
     Boney, who was a small, thin bloke with jet black hair and a cheeky smile said, with a laugh,
"He's fast asleep in the front seat of his car. He got full as a boot again last night. He drove home from Twitcheys  but was too drunk to make it from the car to our front door."
"Jesus", said Donny, "What does his new missus think about that?"
"She ain't too pleased about it.", said Boney between laughs and giggles. "They've been married for two months now and he's only slept with her about half a dozen times. The rest of the time he's been drunk in his car."
"How long till she has the kid?", asked Don.
"About a month, I think. I asked Kenny the same question the other day and he said 'what kid?"
Boney had a real good laugh over this little joke.

"This is gonna be Chummys first day in the shed Boney so teach him the ropes, alright mate?"
"Ya haven't worked in the sheds before Chummy?"
" Only for half a day out at old Burt Booths' place."
"They tell me old Burt's a bit of a hard man to work with.", said Don.
"That's an understatement.", I said.
     Everyone had a real good laugh at that.

     Shearers and roustabouts are always trying to take the piss out of each other, probably cause it makes the day go by easier and relieves the tension from the hard work.

     The car pulled up in front of a cream-colored weather-board house and Donny Freeman honked the horn. After a few minutes a bloke appeared at the door and called out, "Be right with you."
"Jesus", said Don. "Old Gundy doesn't look too good to me this morning. I heard he was as full as a boot up at Giltraps' bar last night."
"He doesn't mind a drop now and then.", said Boney, with a giggle.
"Ya not wrong there.", said Don. "It's a bit hard to say anything about it though cause he's such a good shearer. Even when he's crook from the grog he's cleaner and faster than a lot a' blokes."
     The front door of Gundys' house re-opened and Gundy walked out. He looked a bit sick and was a little unsteady on his feet as he walked over the dead and patchy grass of his front lawn. Just before he got to the car, his old lady came running after him with a packet of fags in her hand. He took the fags from her and never said a word. As Gundy neared the back door of Don Freemans car, he tripped over a crack in the cement and nearly crashed into the glass.
"Open the back door for him Chummy before he hurts himself.", said Don.
     Leaning mi arm over the back seat, I pulled up on the handle and pushed on the door. The door almost knocked Gundy over and he took a couple of steps backwards. Very carefully he maneuvered round the open door and slowly got in the back of the Sedan.
"Ya tryin' to knock me arse over head?", said Gundy as he made himself comfortable.
"No", I said. "It was my fault for shoving the door so hard."
"What's your name?", he said with a drunken grin on his face.
"Yorky.", I said.
"What kinda' fucking name is that?", he said with slurry speech.
"It's a knickname 'cause I come from Yorkshire."
"Fucking hell.", said Gundy "A pommy fucking bastard! What are ya doing in the sheds?"
"It's Chummys first day.", said Don. "We're gonna teach him to Roust-a-bout."
"Chummy eh?", said Gundy. "That's not a bad fucking name. I think I'll call ya Chummy from now on."

"D'ya have a hard night at Giltraps Gundy?", asked Boney.
"I sure fucking did mate. I never got home till 1 O'clock this morning and the missus was as cranky as hell with me. She made me sleep on the couch all night. She was still cranky this morning. Oh shit, mi head's not too good either. Hey Freeman."
"What d'ya want Gundy?", said Don.
"Can ya go a bit easier on those fucking corners mate, mi brain's slopping around in last nights grog."
"How many are ya gonna' shear today if I slow down?", said Don, in a joking way.
"How many did I shear yesterday?
"102.", said Don.
"Alright, "I'll shear 103 today. How's that?"
"Could ya do 150 please.", said Don taking the piss out of Gundy.
"You fucking contractors are never satisfied.", said Gundy as he pulled a fag out of his packet.
"Give us a light Boney.", He said.
"I haven't got one Gundy.", said Boney.
"Here ya go Gundy.", I said as I flicked the lighter.
"Good on ya Chummy, ya pommy bastard! Me and you are gonna git on real well mate."

      Gundy was a very funny character. He was about 5 foot 10 with dry, wavy hair. He had a bald spot in the middle of his head and the hair was starting to thin at the front. His eyes were blue and his broken nose shot off to the side at a very acute angle. He was dressed in the usual shearers garb which was a cardigan, blue singlet with a reinforced patch on the front-left side, double-legged heavy-duty blue denim shearers dungarees which helped slightly to keep the thistles out, wooly socks and shearers boots. The trousers were help up with an elastic belt made out of good-quality surgical elastic.

"Where's that fucking Athel Cook this morning Freeman?", said Gundy.
"We're gonna pick him up now. Suppose he was with ya at Giltraps last night was he?", said Don.
"Yeah.", said Gundy. "The bastard tried to miss out on buying a round before he left. He can be as tight as a fishes asshole."

     The car ground to a halt at the far end of town and another shearer was sat on the curb smoking a home-made.
     He was a thick-set bloke with a whiskery face. Not a very good-looking bloke at all. His thick wavy hair was plastered down on his large head and he had a sweat towel around his neck like a scarf.
"G'day ya fucking bastards.", Athel said as he got in the back besides Gundy.
"G'day.", said Don. "This is Chummy, Athel. He's roust-a-bouting for us today."
"G'day Athel.", I said as I leaned over to shake his hand.
"A fucking pommy bastard eh?" I've never seen a good one yet."
"This one is a fucking beaut, so go easy on him today Athel cause it's his first day.", said Don.

     Don let the clutch out and the sedan sped off out of town onto the dirt road heading for the Cockeys' shearing shed.


     As well as learning to shear, I had a slight handicap to work with. The wool-classer was a mongrel bred bastard who tried to make it as hard for me as possible by saying to Freeman that my learning to shear was interfering with my board-boys' job.
     The only reason I could see why he was acting like this was because he fancied himself as a shearer. He could shear a sheep in about 10 minutes and by now, as long as it was a good combing sheep, I was down to 8 minutes.
     Freeman was really supportive. He offered to do my job while I was learning, plus the fact he was aware of the wool-classer had bet against me. The Victorian Bastard!!

     Each Friday night we would all drive back to Lake Cargelligo for the weekend. The first and only stop was at Giltraps Hotel. I was now, very slowly, starting to be able to hold a fair amount of grog. (It goes with the territory.) The whole team, except for the classer, would party on at Giltraps. After the bar closed down we would all move into the Sow Pen where we'd play the juke box and generally have a good time.

     Johnny Kelly, who was one of the shearers, was also an Aborigine. He lived at the mission about 10 miles out of town. Johnny was a pretty decent bloke when he was sober but like most Aborigines that drink, he would get a bit argumentative when he was full.  Most Abos' around the Lake did not like to work very much which meant they were always short of money for grog. Every Friday night, all of Johnnys' relations would be trying to cadge his hard-earned money from him for a flagon of cheap plonk. I used to sit and watch Johnny quite a bit. It must have been very difficult for him cause he had one foot in the white fellas' world and the other in the black fellas' world.  By the end of the evening Johnny would have give away probably a third of his weeks earnings. This money would only be returned months' later when he was out of work. Saturday mornings I used to see Johnny in town in his fairly new Ute. He and his wife and children were always clean and very well-dressed. Although, in my eyes, he was a really good bloke, most whitefellas' still saw him as a 'Bung'!

     Since I had been working in the sheds I decided to live at Giltraps hotel. Not because I didn't like Twitcheys, but Giltraps' was a bit cheaper and a lot of shearers used to use it as their watering hole.
Giltraps wife was a very small lady. She was probably about 5'2" and weighed 115 pounds. She had blondish-gray hair, a very pleasant face and a good, kind nature. Besides running the domestic side of the hotel she also worked in the bar whenever it was necessary. If that wasn't enough to keep her occupied, she had a swag of kids of various ages.
     Cath Giltrap was always polite and cordial with me. Whenever possible, she would not put anyone else in the room with me. She understood and respected the fact that I was a loner, even though I spent a good deal of my time in the bar. 

     Sometimes, when I was short of money, I would say to her,
"I've had a slack week these past few days Cath. D'ya mind if I pay you for the room next week?" "That's alright Yorky.", she'd say. "I trust ya' but don't let it get too far behind."
     As soon as the money came in, Cath Giltrap was the first on the list. One week, the hotel was unusually full. Cath said to me, "I've gotta put someone in the spare bed in ya' room Yorky. We're all full up this week."
"No worries Cath. I know you always fill up the other rooms first.", I said.

     The new bloke, who lived with me for the week, was a half-Abo from Uabalong, His name was Kennedy. He was a pretty quiet, clean, polite bloke until he got on the grog. At those times, he was hopeless!

     On Saturday afternoon, I came back to Giltraps. I had been doing a bit of shopping that morning down the Main street. The window in my room looked out onto the Main street of the Lake and as I passed it, I got a funny sort of feeling. Instead of going straight to the bar for a game of pool, something pulled me to the left, down the corridor to room number 9. When I pushed open the door, the room was full of smoke and as I looked around the back of the door where the spare bed was, Kennedy was fast asleep and snoring. Six inch  flames where dancing around the edge of the mattress and a burned out fag was stuck to his fingers.

"Wake up ya fucking bastard!", I roared as I shook the shit out of him. He was still as drunk as a monkey. I ran to the shower room which was at the far end of the corridor and filled up a large bucket of water. When I got back to the room, he was trying to get out of bed, still in a drunken state. I heaved the large bucket of water all over him and the bed. Kennedy coughed and spluttered as he became conscious. Once he realized he was not dreaming, he jumped out of the bed. It took a couple more buckets of water to put out the fire. When Cath Giltrap found out her bed had been charred she was not too pleased.
     Once all of Giltraps locals found out what had happened, the jokes were on me.
"G'day Yorky", they'd say, "I heard ya tried to barbecue a bung this afternoon."
"Very funny.", I said as they cracked up in laughter.


      One evening, at dinnertime, I asked Jazzer the cook if there was any more dinner. I had been working really hard and my appetite was growing.
"There's plenty left in the kitchen, Chummy. Help ya self mate."
     I filled my plate as full again as the first round. When I got back into the dining room everyone joked about the amount of food on the plate.
     Roy James said,
"I think I'll have another plateful myself."
     He came back into the dining room with a huge amount of food on his plate.

     Freeman said to me, as a joke,
"Hey Chummy, ya think ya can eat more than big Roy can?"
     Just for the fun of it, I said,
"Course I can. Any day! Why?"
     Gundy said to Freeman,
"Here's 5 bucks that says he can!"
     Freeman said,
"Here's 5 bucks that says he can't!"
     The other shearers and shed hands all placed their bets and the eating contest began. Roy and I took our places at opposite ends of the table. We stared at each other for a couple of seconds then started to eat our platefuls."

     Gundy gave a running commentary as we ate. Speed was not a factor; volume was what bets were based on. Roy and I finished off our second plate of food; mashed potatoes, cabbage, carrots, mutton and gravy. After the third plateful we ran out of the main course. Then we started on the sweets! We ate a large bowl full of Apple Strudel each and then the bowls were filled up, ready to go again.    Halfway through the second bowl, big Roy said,
"Fuck this for a joke! The pommy bastard's too good for me! He must have hollow, fuckin' legs."
"Come on Chummy, you've gotta' finish that bowl to win!", said Gundy.
     Very slowly, I finished off the bowl of Apple Strudel and then sat back in mi chair and relaxed. The winners of the contest collected their bets and then cheered.
"Are you full yet, Chummy?, asked Gundy.
     As I sat there, I began to think, 'I don't want to have to do this again so I'd better seal up my win a bit safer.'
"Not really Gundy. I could eat a big, tasty bowl of cornflakes with milk and sugar."
     No one believed I could eat another morsel so the bets were all on again. Freeman filled up a large bowl of cornflakes. I sat there and loosened mi belt. After stretching mi arms over the back of mi head, I slowly started on the cornflakes! The going was much slower now since big Roy had dropped out of the contest. 15 minutes later the bowl was clean!
     The winnings were all collected and Gundy was all smiles as he helped me to my room. Strangely enough, I slept quite well that night and the following day it was like it never happened.

Thursday, February 15, 2018


      Wool packs were put in place and the catching pens were filled up. Six pieces of paper with the numbers 1 to 6 were folded up and put in a hat. After they'd been shook up, each shearer drew out a number which denoted which stand he would work on. Whoever drew number 1 was expected to do the reps job which meant, in the event of a problem arising, the representative had to speak for the men. He would complain to Freeman, who was the contractor and in turn Freeman would go and see the cocky. There are strict working rules governing a shearing team.

     The shearers all picked up there hand-pieces after the draw and then proceeded to screw a comb and cutter in place. At the back of the hand-piece was a screw hole which had to be filled with oil at the end of every run, which lasted 2 hours. Everything was now in place so everyone stood around waiting for the bell to go at 7:30. When 7:30 arrived Freeman rang the bell.

     All six shearers entered their pens and grabbed hold of a big rough wether. After tipping it over on its arse they dragged it backwards by its front legs to the down-tube where their stand was. Gundy sat up his sheep', right front leg under the side of his ribs, tucked the other front leg behind his left elbow and pulled the string which set the shearing machine in motion. He adjusted the tension knob, then made 5 or 6  blows from the sheeps' brisket down to its flank. He grabbed the now loose belly wool and threw it on the floor. It was my job to pick 'em all up. Next, he ran the machine out the top of the back leg which trimmed all the wool off. Turning the machine around, he made one long blow around the sheeps' crutch from toe to toe. Then he shore the back leg. As soon as this was done he knocked the wool off the sheeps' head, which is called a top knot. Taking a step forwards, the sheep was now at a slight angle between his legs as he bent over and opened up the neck wool. The machine disappeared under the wool until Gundy flicked his wrist and the machine re-appeared. He then proceeded to run his blows up the side of the wrinkly neck until it was clean. Picking up the front leg with his left hand, he ran the blows down it as he turned around. Once the leg was clean, he dropped the big wether on its back and started the long blow. In no time at all the sheep was half shorn. As Gundy dragged his right foot forwards he cleaned up round the horns and head.  After this was done, he pushed his blows over the wrinkles and down to the briskit. then he cleaned around the shoulder and picked up the last front leg. In a matter of seconds, the leg was clean and he pushed he hand piece down to the last flank letting the sheeps head come forwards.  Woosh, woosh, woosh went the blows as Gundys' arm pushed the bogeye flat on the skin, out to the toe and then cleaned up over the tail.
"Clunk!" Gundy pulled the string again. The machine came out of gear. The sheep which was now shorn clean as a whistle fell through his legs and he pushed it down the shute with the sole of his right boot. Straightening up, he wiped the sweat from his brow and walked into the pen for another big, wooly wether.

     A roust-a-bout listens for the clunking sound which the overhead gear makes when the shearer pulls the string. This means someone has just started or just finished a sheep. It can be a very demanding job, picking up the wool for  6 fast shearers.

     At 9:27 the bell goes and the shearer's is not allowed to go in the pen for another sheep until 10 O'clock. From 9:30 till 10 is Smoko. Half an hour to have a cup of tea and a sandwich. After that the shearer rolls a smoke and then cleans up the combs and cutters he's used, ready for grinding again. With about 10 minutes left before 10 O'clock, he lays on his back on the shearing board and puts his legs up on the wall. this little trick helps relieve the pain in his back from 2 hours of bending over, working his guts out. At 10 O'clock the bell rings and the process is started all over again.

     By the time 5:30 rolls around it's no wonder the shearer likes a few beers. He has just finished slaving his guts out for 8 solid hours in heat that can reach 120 degree mark.

     Cyclone did the first few days shearing really hard. Each time he straightened up from shearing a sheep, the pain on his face and in his eyes could be felt by all. He must have been sat in Giltraps bar for at least 3 weeks boozing all his money away. Many people did not believe he could even shear a sheep, let alone be a gun shearer. Each day, as he persevered with the task of getting fitter, his shearing and tally improved slowly but surely.  By the end of the shed, old Cyclone was the top tally man. He was, as I said, a good-hearted man and never abused the rousie if a fleece was missed and left laying on his stand.
     Many years later, I heard through the grape-vine that Cyclone had drowned in 4 inches of water. Apparently, him and a few mates were driving home from the hotel, drunk as usual, when the car spun off the dirt road into a table-drain containing water. The car flipped over on its top and Cyclone was trapped inside, face down in the water. His reckless life-style brought him to an appropriate end.

     One evening, when Gundy and Cyclone were grogging on they ran out of beer and plonk. Gundy said to me, "Hey Chummy, ya got any plonk left mate?"
"Sure do Gundy. Why?"
"Can we have some of it?", he said with a boyish grin.
"Tell ya what I'll do Gundy. You teach me to shear and I'll provide ya with a gallon of plonk and a carton of fags a week. How's that sound mate?"
"You're on Chummy. Now, go and fetch ya half-gallon flagon. We'll start ya payments off tonight!"

      That evening Gundy and Cyclone almost finished the whole flagon off. I said to Gundy, "Fucking hell Gundy, you're like a big kid with a bag of lollies. Ya can't stop till you've drunk the lot!" This little joke of mine sent old Gundy into fits of laughter along with a spasm of coughing.

     The following morning, true to his word, Gundy started my shearing lessons.
"Chummy, git over here mate, if ya wanna learn to shear."
     I was down that board before the words had left his mouth. He pulled the machine out of gear and said, "Alright Chummy, ya can finish the last side. Pull his head forwards and put ya knees there. Now push down on his shoulder and hang onto the hand-piece. The hand-piece was really hot from all the sand in the wool. It wanted to spin out of my hand as I tried to control it.
"Ya gotta keep it on the skin Chummy. It's the shortest way around the sheep mate. Run those blows straight down and out to the toe. Don't do any of that jabbing mate or it will become a habit."  The wool was actually coming off the skin as I pushed the hand-piece along the contours of thesheep. "That's it Chummy. Keep the comb full and go slow until you've got all the blows down."

     As I was finishing off the big wether, Athel Cook came walking up the board.
"What are you doing with that sheep Chummy, trying to root it mate?"
"I'm learning to shear Athel.", I said without raising my head.
"You shear, ya pommy bastard, you'll never make a shearer as long as ya arsehole points to the ground mate!"
"He'll make a better shearer than you Athel.", said Gundy.
"Bullshit mate. No fucking pommy will out-shear me  Gundy."
"Tell ya what Athel.", said Gundy. "I'll bet you, before this shed's over, that Chummy can shear one of these wethers in under 5 minutes!"
"Fucking bullshit Gundy." said Athel.
"I'll bet you 10 bucks and a gallon flagon of plonk mate."
"Alright Gundy, ya fucking on mate!"
As I pulled the machine out of gear, the sweat was pouring out of mi forehead and the small of mi back had a cramped pain in it from bending right over.
"Alright Chummy, ya heard that mate. I'm gonna make a good shearer out of you, just listen to what I tell ya and every spare moment ya have, stand in front of me and watch.", said Gundy.
"Alright Gundy, I'll give it mi best shot mate. I won't let ya down."

     Each day I started and finished off sheep for Gundy. Towards the end of the first week I shore a wether from start to finish. It took me about 14 minutes and by the time I finished, I was drenched in sweat.
"Good on ya Chummy.", said Gundy. "That wasn't too bad for a learner. We've got to work on the blows and keeping the machine flat on the skin."

  The shearing shed on the One Tree Plain was now on its last day. I had shorn my sheep in 4 minutes and 50 seconds. Gundy and the others had won their bet. Athel Cook was not to pleased about this. That evening, in the bar room, he tried to make things hard for me by calling me a pommy bastard all evening.

     15 years later, I was shearing around the Lake again. Athel, who was now about 60, had the misfortune of meeting me in Giltraps. A bloke, Mark Hargraves, had been kind enough to find me some work. Athel would be working along side of me for two weeks. On Sunday night, he was trying his best to upset me by calling me derogatory names and telling everyone in the bar that he was going to work me to death in the following two weeks.

     The first day Athel shore 110 and I shore 125. The next day he shore 120 and I shore 150. Try as he could, for the next 2 weeks, he could not keep up with me. By the end of the first week he was not looking too good. At first, everyone at Giltraps took the piss out of him cause he'd bragged and skited that he'd shear more sheep than that. Halfway during the second week he looked terrible. His ego was crushed and he could hardly walk. He was overworking his body so much that people stopped teasing him and told him to slow down before 'old Yorky works ya into the ground.'

     He refused to listen and kept up his pace, hoping to catch up with me. At the end of 2 weeks he had to visit the local doctor for some pills. A week later he had a heart attack and dropped dead. From that day on, some shearers claimed that Yorky was the only shearer in the Lake to work another shearer to death.
"Bullshit", I said. "He had no hope of catching me!


     After the meat pies, with the Circus incident, Jimmy Xmas was not in too good a mood as he lost a bit of profit. It had started raining overnight and was still raining, as I stood behind the counter looking out of the window when a townie mate of mine, Bruce walked in.

"Yorky, how are ya mate?"
"G'day Bruce, what ya up to mate?"
"Not much sport. Gary Breaney told me ya were working over here so I thought I'd come in for a packet of smokes."
"What kind d'ya want Bruce?"
"Give us a pack of Styvesants'."
     I put the smokes on the counter and said,
"20 cents mate."
"Hey Yorky mate, Gary said ya were givin' 'em away."
"Jesus, steady on mate. I can't give 'em away for free. I'm leaving in a couple of days. Jimmy Xmas caught me givin' a pack to Gary and he got the shits and fired me. He's letting me stay till Sunday night, 'cause ya know what the weekends are like in this place, plus the Picture House has a movie on so the place will be packed."
"No worries mate. I'll pay for 'em. I don't want ya to get into any more shit."
"Are you and ya sheila off to the movies?"
"Yeah mate, Saturday night. What ya doin' tonight mate?"
"I'm workin' till about 9. Why, ya got something on?"
"Yeah mate, it's mi birthday."
"Fair Dinkum? How old are ya."
"20 mate. It'll be me 21st next year and that's gonna' be a party and a half! I'll be inviting most of Lake Cargelligo."
"So, are ya partying tonight Bruce?"
"Yeah, that's what I was just about to tell ya. Ya wanna' come?"
"Bloody oath mate, where ya havin' it?
"Across the street at the Telephone Exchange.
"Are ya bullshitin' me mate?"
"Nah, I wouldn't do that Yorky. It's where I work."
"Yah gonna' have a party in the Exchange where they plug all the calls in?"
"Yeah mate."
"What are ya gonna' do when some wants to plug in to a party line?"
"Same as always, plug 'em in, ask 'em what number and then connect them."
"Won't they be able to hear a party going on?"
"Nah mate, it's not gonna' be that loud. There's only gonna' be 5 or 6 blokes there. Ya know, mi Aussie Rules mates."
"Sounds good to me Bruce. I'll get off as soon as I can. I better tell ya up front, I can't bring much grog mate. I'm almost down to the bones of mi arse."
"Don't worry about that sport. I bought most of it this arvo and mi mates will bring the rest. Just show up whenever ya can. She'll be goin' till after 12 and hardly anyone ever calls in at that time. Hurru mate!" he said as he walked out and headed off down the street.

     After Bruce left, I decided to make miself busy, wiping off all the tables and makin' sure all the ash trays were clean. After that little job, I headed to the kitchen to see Jimmy Xmas. Jimmy was busy making himself a mixed grill. He had just finished grillin' a couple of eggs and was squeezin' a big piece of garlic on 'em.
"Hey Jimmy mate, if it's not real busy tonight, ya think I can take off at 9?"
"Not-a-the problem Yorky.  It's a fuckin' raining so no bastard come into Jimmy Xmas' cafe! What a-you want to go for Yorky? Ya gotta' yourself one of those young girls, who come in here?"
"I wish Jimmy. Nah, mi mates' havin' a birthday party and he invited me."
"You have a-the good time but make sure you start on time in the morning. Lots-a work-a to do tomorrow. Get-a the ready for the weekend. That-a fat bastard, Circus, he eat-a all my profit up. I don't-a need to lose any more money!"

"Freddy, ya Aussie bastard, how are ya mate.", I said as he came in to the cafe.
"Not bad, ya pommy bastard. I just walked down from Gilltraps and I got soakin' fuckin' wet!"
"Yeah, but who fuckin' cares mate. Rain means work and I need some in the next few days."
"Me too Yorky. What about the Dago shop? Are ya quittin?"
"I can't pull the pin here mate, he's already fired me."
"So what are ya doin' still servin' behind the counter for?'
"Jimmy Xmas said I can stay till Sunday night. Ya know, finish the week off, besides, if he gave me the boot on the spot he'd be fucked for the weekend."
"How come he's short-staffed? Are we runnin' out of Dagos?"
"Nah mate, his cousin hasn't come back from Sydney yet. He went down there to visit his family."
"Jesus, I hope he didn't breed while he was down there."
"What d'ya mean?"
"Dagos' mate! They breed like fuckin' rabbits. We'll be over-fuckin' run with 'em before long. Not to mention the fact that they don't fit in and most of 'em can only speak pigeon fuckin' english. I suppose I shouldn't criticize 'em too much, seeing as I'm aways comin' in here for a feed."
"So, what can I do ya for?"
"Oh right, I almost forgot why I came in mate, a feed! I need a good feed. What d'ya suggest?"
"Whatever ya like mate. Why don't ya grab a table and I'll get ya a menu."
"Good on ya Yorky. I'm fuckin' starvin'. What d'ya recommend Yorky?", said Freddy as he read through the menu.
"T-bone steak and eggs is pretty good."
"Is it a good size T-bone?"
"Yeah, get extra chips and it'll fill ya up good. Mixed grills good, Flounder and chips are all right but it's a bit expensive compared to the rest. Spaghetti Bolognese, it's got ground beef in it."
"Nah, fuck that Dago tucker Yorky. I don't wanna' start talkin' like a fuckin' wop! Ah fuck it, I can't decide. Just bring us a T-bone mate and a double chino and make it real hot will ya? Mi clothes are so wet, I don't wanna' git a fuckin' cold!"
     I decided to have a good joke with Freddy, so I said.
"Not-a the problem mate. It's-a comin' right up!
"Jesus Christ Yorky mate. It's a good job you're leaving here sport. Ya not gonna' talk like that in Gilltraps bar are ya?"
Don't be silly mate, I'm extractin' the urine!"
"Oh good, I thought I might be losing mi Pommy bastard drinkin' mate for a minute!"

     Jimmy Xmas was now sat at the staff table, tuckin' into his mixed grill.
"Hey Jimmy, T-Bone steak and extra chips for 1."
"What-a ya mean T-Bone steak and a-extra chips? Jimmy Xmas is a-eating. I no eat a-all day and soon I sit a-down, some Aussie bastard disturb-a me. He's a-your mate, you cook it for the bastard!
"No worries Jimmy."
"And don't-a give the bastard too many extra the chips. I work-a my arse off early this morning to make enough-a the potatoes for the day. You always give-a the too many chips for the money, when you do-a the cooking! You send-a me broke, you pommy the bastard. Who you think-a I am Aristotle Onasis? No, I'm-a Jimmy the Xmas!"
"Don't worry about it mate. I know what I'm doin'."
"Thats-a what you say!"

"Hey Freddy, I yelled, How d'ya want the steak?"
"I don't care Sport as long as it's not drippin' with blood. I don't want it trying to jump off the plate. Got Ya, I'll git you that cupachino in a sec."
     It didn't take long for me to knock up a good feed for Freddy. Finding the biggest T-bone took almost as long as cookin' it on the grill. As I walked out of the kitchen with Freddys' plate, piled up with food, Jimmy Xmas looked over and said,
"Where-a you find the big T-bone. I keep-a that for-a special customers."
"Yeah, I know Jimmy, that's why I'm givin' it to Freddy. He comes in here every day for a feed."
"Special mean-a the organ grinder, not-a the monkey!"

"Here ya go mate.", I said as I plonked the big meal down in front of Freddy.
"Jesus Yorky, that's a feed and a half mate!"
"Yeah, I know. Make sure ya eat it all 'cause Jimmy Xmas just bombed me for givin' ya so much."
"No worries mate. I'll even lick the fuckin' plate clean if ya want. Good on ya Yorky!"
"Ya wanna another cuppachino?"
"Maybe. I'll wait till I've got through this first. Ya got any hot sauce?"
"No mate, the abbos drank it all."
"Ya shitten' me mate?"
"Course I am. I'll go get ya some. Here ya go mate."
"Do the abbos really drink it?
"Fuckin' oath mate, there was an old black fella in here the other night who was as pissed as a fuckin' parrot. He downed the whole fuckin' bottle in one go."
"So what does Jimmy Xmas say?"
"He gets the shits and kicks 'em out."
"Why does he let them in?"
"He doesn't. If he sees 'em. He only lets the sober ones' in."

"Hey Freddy.", I said, sitting miself on the opposite side of his table. "Ya wanna' go to a bit of a party tonight?"
"Shit yeah. Where's it at?"
"The Telephone exchange. Ya know Bruce who works there, it's his birthday so he's havin' a bit of a party."
"Yeah, I know Bruce.", said Freddy as he shoved a large piece of steak in his face."
     I couldn't understand his next words due to the fact he had a mouthful of steak.
"Don't talk with ya mouth half-full mate. Fill it up!" This little joke caused him to almost throw it up back onto the plate."
"Jesus Yorky mate, don't do  that to me. I almost fuckin' choked miself. The last time ya cracked a joke about War Dog, in Gilltraps, ya made me laugh as I was swallowing mi beer and it all came out a mi nose!"
"Sorry mate, I couldn't resist it!"
'Are there gonna' be any sheilas' there?"
"I doubt it mate. Just blokes. I don't even know how he's gonna' fit people in there, it's such a small room."
"How d'ya know?"
"He gave me the grand tour once when he was working the night shift."
"Ya think he'll mind me crashin'?"
"Na mate, he's a bonzo bloke. Just bring a few beers with ya and she'll be right mate. No worries!"

     Once Freddy had finished his meal, he paid for it and said,
"That was a fuckin' good feed mate. That ought to keep me goin' for a while. So where shall I meet ya tonight?"
"I'll be finished here at 9. Just come down here."
"No worries mate, 9 it is!"

     By 8:45, I had wiped the ash trays out and cleaned up the tables. I said to Jimmy Xmas,
"All done mate. I'm ready to go."
"You clean-a up behind the milk-a bar?"
"Done mate."
"Cuppachino machine clean?"
"No problem-a. You go and have-a good time."
"Ya wanna' come to the party mate?"
"What-a Jimmy Xmas do at-a the party? Jimmy Xmas, the old-a man, only good for make-a the money now."

"Ya ready?", yelled Freddy from the front door of the cafe.
"Be right there mate."
"Hurru Jimmy, see ya tomorrow."
"Yaso Vrey, Don't be-a the late."
"No worries mate."

"How are ya Freddy?", I said as we left the Dago shop.
"Pretty good Yorky mate. I've already had a few at Traps before I came down. I didn't forget the grog. How d'ya get into the back of the exchange Yorky?"
"Straight across the street mate, down that passage way."

     The rain had slowed down by now. At least we could party on in dry clothes.
"Can I help ya mate?", said a young bloke as he opened the door to the Exchange.
"Yeah mate, tell him it's Yorky and Freddy."
"No worries fellas'. Come in, I see ya brought a few more beers. Good on ya. Bruce's hittin' the top shelf so he's half-cut already."
"Yorky, ya pommy bastard and Freddy, glad ya could make it."
"D'ya mind I brought Freddy along? He likes a few beers/"
"No worries mate, more the fuckin' merrier!", said Bruce.
"Jesus Bruce, ya well on ya way already! How're ya handlin' the switchboard?", I said.
"No worries Yorky. I've worked here since I left school. I could do it in mi fuckin' sleep."
"Yeah, but can ya do it when ya full a' grog mate?"
"Does a dog have fuckin' fleas mate? I'm firin' on all 8 and feelin' Bonza!"

     Once we were introduced to the blokes we'd never met, the party continued on. As the beer and the bullshit flowed, Bruce got drunker and drunker. At one stage, he got up from the board with his head phone still on and just about ripped his ears off.
"Yorky mate, have I still got ears stickin' out the side of mi head?
"Yeah Bruce, they're still there."
"Hey Yorky, I wanna' show ya how to work the switchboard just in case I get too full."
"When will that be, in about 10 minutes? And what d'ya mean, 'me work the switchboard'. I wouldn't have a fuckin' clue what to do, once a call comes in."
"Fuck me dead Yorky mate, it's a piece a' piss. Ya just stick a plug in a fuckin' hole. The only problem is there's no hair around it. Now mi girlfriend, she's a different story!"

     Bruce cracked up laughing at his own joke. I must admit, he was a very funny drunk! Everyone sat around the small room, drinking, tellin' jokes and generally having a grand old time. A couple of blokes sat on Bruces' camper cot which was over in one corner.
"What's the camper cot for Bruce?"
"For me to get a bit of shut-eye once the calls stop comin' in after midnight."
"Here we go Yorky mate. Take real good fuckin' notice.", he said as his speech was not gettin' a bit slurry. "Stick these head phones on mate."
     After I had the head phones sittin' comfortably in place, I saw his mouth move.
"What?", I yelled.
     Bruce ripped the head phones off mi head and said, "Sorry about that mate. I forgot ya can't hear me with those bastards on ya ears. I'm a bit of a fuckwit when I'm on the Top Shelf Yorky, but don't worry, I know what I'm doin'. Hang on till I fill mi glass up mate, I'm as dry as an old gum boot in the desert."

     While Bruce was filling up his glass with whiskey, I took a good look at the Exchange board. There were 5 rows of holes with numbers under them and 3 leads were already stuck in 3 of the holes.
"Ya got it sussed out yet Yorky mate?", said Bruce, who was, by now, even more drunk. "Ya see those cables here? Ya just shove a cable in the holes that light up. It's a piece of piss mate. If I can do it any fuckwit can do it!"
"It looks pretty complicated to me Bruce."
"Bullshit Yorky, you'll be right."
"What about one of ya mates? Do they know to operate it?"
"Ya gotta' be kiddin' me mate. They're all Aussie Rules players!"
"What's that gotta' do with it?"
"They're fuckin' brain-dead mate. That's all they know.", Bruce had another good laugh to himself.

     Thankfully, it was a quiet night at the exchange as far as phone calls went, but as far as Bruce was concerned, he was now almost paralytic as he sat in his chair in front of the phone board.
"How's Bruce doin'?", said Freddy as he came over for a chat. "He looks a bit worse for wear mate."
"Yeah, he's not lookin' too good mate.", I said.
"Maybe we should wake him up Yorky and take him outside for a bit a' fresh air?"
"Good idea Freddy. I'll wake him up and once his eyes are open, we'll git one arm each side of him and help him up."

"Hey Bruce.", I said. "Bruce, wake up mate!", I said.
"I think it's gonna' be harder that it looks Yorky.", said Freddy. "It looks to me like he's flaked."
"I'm not surprised mate. Have ya seen how much Top Shelf he's put away. That was his own personal bottle and it's almost empty!"
"I don't know how he can drink that Gins Piss! I can't, it's too fuckin' strong for for me. Shake him a bit harder Yorky."
"Come on Brucee baby! Wakey wakey sport!", I said as I shook him.
"Fuck off. Leave me alone. I'm not feelin' too good."
"Come on mate. Let's go out for some fresh air before a call comes in."
"Fuck the calls, you answer 'em mate."
"I don't know how to operate the bloody thing! Come on, git up mate!"
"He's lookin' a bit pale, Yorky.", said Freddy.
"Yeah.", I said. "Better look around for a bucket or a waste paper bin."

     Before I got all the words out of mi mouth, Bruce lifted his head slightly and let go of a big Chunder!
"Herbbbb!", he said as the reconstituted whiskey left his gut and flew out of his mouth at full speed!
"Herbbbb!" came the sound again, as more chunder splashed all over the phone panel in front of him.
"Look out Yorky mate, he's chuckin' his guts!", exclaimed Freddy.
     By this time, young fellas' being what they are, were rolling around the floor, laughing their fuckin' heads off.
"Jesus, fuckin' Christ!", said Freddy. "The fuckin' bastard just splashed mi good Daks! I've only had 'em about a month~"
"Fuck ya good Daks Freddy, look what he's done to the board where the wires are! He's filled up a lot of the holes and look at that spare set of headphones, the ear pads are covered in it!"
"Come on Freddy, let's get him up out'a this chair."
"Alright mate, but if he chunders again, I'm lettin' him fall! I don't want to have to hose mi good shoes down."
"What about me mate? I've only got mi thongs on!"

     Positioning ourselves on each side of him, we put his arms around our neck and shoulders and slowly lifted him. When we finally had him on his feet, he lifted his head and opened his blurry eyes,
"Fuck me rome!", said Bruce. "Somebody's puked all over mi operating board. That wasn't very good of 'em was it! Will ya help me clean it up Yorky?"
"Fuck you Bruce! You chucked it mate, you clean it. Come on, start walking."
"Where we goin', to see mi girlfriend?", said Bruce.
"I don't think ya wanna see her in this state Bruce.", said Freddy. "Not if she's a keeper."

     Eventually, we got him to the door and out into the fresh air.
"Prop him up against the wall Freddy and I'll go back in for a chair."
     I was only gone a minute and when I got outside again, Bruce was sat on the ground, surrounded with chunder.
"Did you do that Freddy?", I said for a joke.
"Fuck you Yorky, he said he felt like a chunder again so I sat him down against the wall. You take care of him, I've done my bit. I'm off to the dunny to clean up mi Daks."
"Help me git him on the chair before ya go mate. We can't leave him on the wet ground."

     Once Bruce had come around a bit, I took him back inside. He was welcomed by a hearty cheer from his Aussie Rules mates. The fact that he had chundered all over the switchboard didn't seem to bother them. It was almost like he awarded a badge of honor!
"Ya wanna' beer?", said one of his mates. shovin' a can in his face.
"Don't be such a fuckin' yobo.", said Freddy. "If he chunders again and it splatters on mi good Daks, I'm sendin' you the dry cleaning bill!"
"Yeah.", said another one of Bruces' mates. "Don't be such a fuckwit! He's had enough. Let's put him on the camper bed before he falls over."
     Once Bruce was laid out on the bed, it took no time at all before he was flaked out again. Bruce had only been out for about 10 minutes and wouldn't ya fuckin' know it! A call came through on the switchboard!
"Jesus!", said Freddy. "What we gonna' do now?"
"Answer it Freddy.", I said "And make sure ya don't swear."
"Fuck you Yorky, there's only one place I know to stick a plug and it's not in that fuckin' switchboard! You answer it mate."
"Why me? I'm just a stupid pommy bastard, remember? Hey, do any of you yobos know how to operate this switchboard?"
"Get fucked!"
"Root ya boot!"
"Go flog ya maggot!"
"I guess that means NO!, said Freddy. It looks like you're up Yorky."
"I don't know how to operate this bloody thing!"
"Just give it a go Yorky. It can't be that fuckin' hard."

     Weaving my way around the puke that surrounded the chair switchboard, I put the clean headphones on and shoved what looked like a main cable into one of the sockets. Nothing happened, so I tried another one. By this time I got to the middle of the second row. I heard a female voice say.
"Hello! Hello! Can you hear me?"
     In mi best Aussie accent I said,
"G'day love, can I help ya?"
"What's going on there? I've been trying to get through for the last 10 minutes, and who are you? Why is Bruce not working tonight?"
"He's a bit sick, love. I think he's coming down with something, maybe it's the flu?"
"If I know him, it will probably be the bottle flu. What's all that noise in the background?"
"It's the radio love."
"Radio, my foot! It sounds to me like he's got another party going on in there."
"What number can I get ya?"
"Put me through to Blackers' Hotel."
"I'm not sure I know how to do that Love, I'm pretty new at this. Anyway, Blackers' is closed."
"How can it be? My old man's not home yet. He's probably drinking, after hours again, as a guest! I'm not sure what's going on there but this is ridiculous! Put me through to Sergeant Montgomery!"
"Hold the line please.", I said as I pulled out the plug.

     As soon as I took off the headphones, Freddy said,
"Jesus mate, she's pissed off good and proper."
"She sure is mate. How do you know, I had the head phones on?"
"There's a small speaker on the other end of the switchboard. I could hear every word. I think we should call this little party quits Yorky because if she lives in town, she might drive down here or worse still she may drive to the cop shop and if that happens Monty will be down here in the bull wagon and we'll all end up in the lock-up for the night with a bunch of drunken' fuckin'  mission bungs!"
"I reckon you might be right there mate. Let's get the fuck out-a' here while we still can. Hey you blokes, Monty's on his way down here in the bull wagon. Ya might wanna' git out a here!"
"Fuck Monty!", said one of the blokes. I'm not finished partying yet."
"Yeah, fuck that fat pig!", said another one. "Pass us another beer mate!"
"Fuck you bastards!", said Freddy. "Me and Yorky's off!
"Ah ya gutless bastards!", said another one of Bruces' mates. "Stay and have another beer, the party's only just gettin' going."

     Back outside, Freddy and me headed across the street to the Dago shop.
"I'll see ya tomorrow mate."
"Yeah! I'm walking' home the back way in case Monty drives down the Main Street. The Lock-up's the last place I wanna' end up tonight."
"Hey Freddy.", I said as he turned to go. "Not a bad party eh?"
"She was a fuckin' ripper Yorky except for the part where he chundered on mi new Daks!"

     Sunday night arrived. As expected, the Excelsior Cafe was well and truly packed out. It was half-time at the Cinema house and the locals were panicking to get served before the main feature started. The grill in the kitchen was almost as full as the room was. Jimmy Xmas was madly flipping burgers and eggs.
"Two burgers, the one steak-a sandwich and toast-a the cheese sandwich!", he said in a mad panic as he handed me 4 white bags.
"Toast-a the cheese in the small-a bag.", said Jimmy Xmas.
"Where's the snags they ordered mate?"
"Snags? What-a the fuck snags? This is a Dago cafe not a wop shop. I don't know-a the snags."
"Chips Jimmy, 'snags' is slang for chips."
"Why you not-a say 'chips'? Is hard enough for me to understand-a the 'Afstralian', now you speak-a the bloody English mate!"
"Snags is not english Jimmy. It's an Aussie word."
"English, Afstralian? Why you no speak-a the Greek? And, why you stand-a there? The Burgers will gett-a' cold while you teach-a me the bastard english!"

     I'd just served the order to a table when Bruce walked up to me and said,
"Yorky mate, how are ya sport?"
"Bruce, how the fuck are ya mate? Can I get ya something?"
"No mate. I've already ordered."
"How d'ya go, after the party mate, when the morning shift took over?"
"Oh Jesus mate, don't fuckin' ask! I woke up about five and there were beer cans all over the place and a pile of stinkin' chunder all over the floor and switchboard! I had a hell of a job cleanin' it up."
"Yeah mate, you were as full as a boot and it was you who chundered everywhere."
"I reckoned it might have been. Anyway, what I wanted to ask you is, if mi girlfriend speaks to you tonight, I'd appreciate it if ya don't say anything about the party. She doesn't drink and if she finds out I was so pissed, she'll be real fuckin' cranky with me. She's already threatened to break up with me as it is!"
"No worries Bruce, but I gotta' tell ya mate, ya missed out on a real bonza party!"

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


     It was now 3 months or so into 1967. I'd been in Lake Cargelligo for just over 3 years. By this time, I was shearing quite well. I also got to know most of the local people for miles around.

     It was about that time of year again when the Lake Show was due to return. Every year, about the same time, the annual 'Yorky' jokes would start up in the barroom as to whether or not I would be taking another trip on the Showgrounds. These types of jokes and leg-pulling sessions helped to pass the time and entertain the locals. Who was I to deny them their little bit of fun.

     There was no chance in hell that I would ever travel the grounds again. When the show finally arrived, I decided to go and spend a few hours walking around. I ran into Kevin Skippy and Stan Booth.

"Hey Yorky, maybe that little blonde sheila of yours is around here somewhere.", said Skippy.
"I don't think so Skippy.", I said , as we walked around.
"Maybe she's got a young-un at floor!", said Stan with a loud cackle.
"Very fucking funny Stanley.", I said, playing along with him.
"Keep ya eye out for some little show kids that resemble Yorky, Stan. We should have fixed a rams' harness on him. That way, we could have seen where he'd been!"  
     More laughs came out of Skippy and Stan.

     For a change, the show weekend was quite sunny which made walking around the tents a bit more pleasant. As we walked around, Kevin spied old Fred Duffys' striptease tent. 
"Here we go Yorky. Which one do you like this year sport?"
"None of 'em Skippy, I'm not even gonna go inside for a look this year."
"Come on Yorky.", said Stan. "Ya may change ya mind when ya see a big pair of bare tits!"
"No way Stan. I'll wait for ya outside. I'm not wasting a cent on that con job."

     As we continued walking around, we came to the Boxing Troop tent. This year is was 
                          ROY BELLS WORLD FAMOUS CHAMPIONS
"Here's a go Yorky!, said Skippy. "You've gotta give us a little bit of entertainment mate. Soon as he calls for a local bloke, go up on the board mate."
"Yeah, come on Yorky!", said Stan. "You could take on any one of those blokes one-handed."
"Not on your life Stan. You go up there if ya want some fun. I'll come in and watch ya."
"Nah mate. I'm too fucking old for that caper. I used to have a go every year when I was younger."
"Did he Skippy or is he just bullshittin' again?", I asked.
"No mate, he's fair dinkum! Every year Stan would go up and get matched up to one of the Abbos."

     After about 10 minutes had gone and no local Lake blokes would go up on the board, I finally allowed Skippy and Stan to con me into taking on one of the Boxing Troupe blokes.
     As Roy Bell was starting to panic a bit because no locals would come up on the high platform so he could make a show, I stuck mi hand in the air and held it there.
"There's a game young bloke!", He roared over the mic. "Give him a big round of applause folks. He's the only one of you lot that's got any guts at all!"
     When I climbed up the long wooden ladder to reach the platform where all of Roy Bells fighters were standing, an old feeling of days gone by started to creep in again. The crowd was now clapping and shouting the name of 'Yorky', as I reached the top rung of the ladder.
"Good on ya sport.", roared Roy Bell over the mic as he offered me his hand.
     Before he could say another word, I leaned over to him and whispered in his ear.
"I worked for Jimmy Sharmen for a couple of months so I know the ropes Roy."
     He whispered in my ear,
"Good on ya mate. You've saved my weekend! Let's give 'em a fucking good show!"

     Old Roy sprooked up one of the biggest crowds the Lake show had seen since my Hawaiian dance in Arthur Auberrys' muddy gum boots.
     I played my part to the hilt too, by ripping off mi shirt and flexing mi hard-working muscles for the crowd.
"Have a good look along that board Yorky mate.", sprooked Roy on the mic. "Which one of my champion prize-fighters are ya gonna' take on first?"
     Roy Stuck the mic in front of me and I yelled out loud to the locals,
"I'll take 'em all on, one at a time, starting from any end of the board ya like. Before the day's out, I'll knock 'em all arse over head."

     The crowd let out a tremendous shout as they looked up at the platform of fighters with old Yorky right in the middle of em', shirt off and both fists held high in the air in the victory pose! I must have had 10 fights that weekend. I made miself 100 bucks and saved the weekend for old Roy. Once some of the local Lake blokes saw Yorky up on the board and doing alright for himself in the ring, they mustered up a bit of courage to have a go themselves.

     Late Sunday afternoon, after my last bout, Roy thanked me for my support and said,
"Same time, same place next year Yorky? I'll keep an eye out for ya. Thanks for ya help mate."

    Before next year arrived, a couple of locals got themselves hurt in the ring. The New South Wales government passed a law that said, all Showground Boxing troupes had to have a Doctor at the ringside for every bout. This law put all Boxing Troupes out of business overnight.