Tomato & Onion Sandwiches
The shearing shed is a flurry of activity. The three sets of mechanical shears powered by the loud petrol engine buzz and clitter-clatter in competition with each other. As do the shearers who hold the shears, bent over their sheep – deep in the meditation of their craft.
When you sit down over a cuppa with these fellas they seem reserved and gruff. But when they’re in the midst of the action they’ve performed thousands of times over they become graceful dancers gliding through choreographed moves.
The sheep emerge from the holding pen grey and plump like rotund magistrates. The shearers spin them this way and that, expertly undressing; revealing snow white martial artists.
Dad with his long arms and big hands swoops down and collects each fleece, steps his giant strides over to the slatted wool sorting table and casts it out like a fisherman's net. From my 10-year-old vantage point I see the manoeuvre from below and it's as though a blanket is being spread over a bed and I feel warm and comforted just by watching it.
But no time for that. My sisters and I grab the brooms and rush in to sweep aside the tufts, dags and shit to make way for the next sheep. The shearers are in constant movement so our window of opportunity is brief, and kids being kids and distractions being distractions we constantly have to be reminded to get a move on.
Dogs are weaving in and out of legs, yapping at sheep, eating dags, and expectantly smiling up at us all with tongues lolling.
Many bodies moving this way and that, like a giant version of the shears, we are all the cogs and pieces of the shed.
This goes on all morning. Intermittently my younger sisters and I are pulled by the urgency of other things that need to be looked at and played with. Eventually we are released from our duties and allowed to go exploring the various mounds of discarded farm machinery and endlessly fascinating objects.
And then in walks our grandma with a basket full of morning tea. It's our favourite time by a country mile. The shearers finish off their last sheep and turn off the shears, bringing a sunny, dusty silence to the shed. Dad and my uncles finish up their duties. Everyone goes and washes their hands with the cake of velvet soap, and my sisters and I dive into the basket to discover it’s contents.
A big stainless steel thermos of hot water, jars containing tea bags, sugar and milk. Teaspoons and china mugs. Freshly baked orange biscuits and tomato and onion sandwiches. The biscuits are delicious, especially when dunked in tea, but the sandwiches are something else.
I can taste them now as I write this. I can feel the happiness of being there amongst family, shearers, sheep and dogs. And the supreme joy of being near my grandma.
This memory is more vivid than yesterday.
It started playing in my head last night as I was falling asleep, and seemed to be broadcasting from a polaroid picture pegged to a clothesline in the backyard of my mind. There are bunches of them. My future moments are there too. I just can’t quite reach them yet. Maybe as I get taller I’ll be able to.
Leonie Orton is a writer, editor and marcomms consultant. She'll create communication mediums in the shape of words, graphics and webs for your business, connecting you with the people who need you. When she's not head down with this, she's teaching yoga, playing with flowers, growing vegetables and being a mother. Get in touch by email, facebook or subscribe to her weekly blog.