Sharon rang me today and I heard sheep. The first words out of my mouth were "Where are you?" She laughed and said she was about 15 minutes walk from our home in Canberra. I came very close to crying. I listened for a while and asked her how many sheep there were, she said she didn't know, I replied with an estimate of between 150-200. She thought I'd guessed pretty accurately.
I miss droving. I haven't done it for around seventeen years. Prior to that I worked officially as a meat-worker/drover for about seven years. The preceding fifteen years were me growing up in that environment. Dogs, cattle, sheep, pigs, real Aussie characters, outside in all weather...
I still miss it to this day, and if there was only one job I could do, it'd be that. Having to leave because of lepto was like having a large part of who I am cut away with a rusty hacksaw.
I loved the characters. The weird, the self-reliant, the mad buggers, comedians, morose blokes, drunks, low bastards... it was a real cross-section of people, attitudes and an Australia that is fading, that is considered an embarrassment by many. There were days where you were in a Monty Python sketch, Aussie guys with thick nasal accents talking about alternative bands like The Residents, or getting onto the subject of Doctor Who! There were the sad days, the funny days, the angry days.
Every day was bloody hard work, but I loved it. Getting up at sparrow's fart, driving an hour to get to work on empty, dark roads. Watching the light and colour slowly fill the sky. The cold mornings where the frost cracked under your boots and you were wearing three to four layers of clothing. The hots days where it was 30 degrees at 9am and you've been working for 3 hours already. There is nothing like living most of your working day outside, even when it's sleeting freezing rain sideways at you. You never know you're more alive.
Mud, shit, piss and blood, and you don't even notice it. And I was so good at it. And I loved it. Loved being out in the paddocks or on the sheep restrainer or hosing cattle or in the sticking box.
I didn't eat meat because of my weird eating habits, but I enjoyed the killing. I'm a dark-tempered, violent, angry little man. And there's an art to it killing. You don't want the animals to suffer. You stun them, slit their throats, do the job properly and take pride in it. Pride in a job well done, pride in the fact that you don't shy away from where your meat comes from, that you can do the job yourself. I remember freezing cold winter's days where the hot blood warmed your hands. I've earned my right to eat meat. Many's the time I could have been injured or killed. And that was part of the fun, too.
Loved the humour. Australian's have a good, dark, foul sense of humour that's been diluted. I remember the jokes in the locker room when someone was injured. I remember Reggie's birthday. I was on the restrainer and I put a party hat on a sheep before it went into the sticking box. Reggie and the boys cheered. Twenty minutes later when the sheep's carcass had made it up onto the killing floor, I heard the cheers from the meat-workers as they spotted the hat and began to sing Happy Birthday, For He's a Jolly Good Fellow and Auld Lang Sine. I couldn't have made up that little scene if I tried.
I even loved that I never, ever learned to ride a horse. I was so incredibly crap on them. As an animal I just don't get them, they're big, powerful, skitish. I can read a cow's mood, can't read a horse.
Loved growing up in huts and sheds, surrounded by half a dozen dogs. And adored working with my father. There aren't that many jobs in this day and age where someone actually gets to work with their parent, and I think the world's poorer for it. We were a great father and son team, and were great workmates.
I love droving to this day. And I'm already thinking that if there's a farm with sheep on it within walking distance of our new place, I may offer them a hand now and again.
I hate the attitude behind spam. The thoughtless, greedy, conscienceless act of sending stuff out to all and sundry unbidden. Taking up their time, using up their downloads or space, and in some cases offending them with your product.
It's a vile abuse of people's rights, especially the sex stuff sent out so that anyone can get it. That's just wrong.