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.
"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.