There are certain days in a country year that deserve celebration. These days are not quite the same as birthdays but the sense of joy can feel the same. Like when the swallows return from their winter migration north, and when the flowers of the sweet pea seeds you planted on St Patrick’s Day start emerging from bright green cocoons exactly six months later. Or when, in these parts at least, the tomato seedlings get planted out – never before Launceston Show Day when frosts no longer threaten. Shearing day is an especially happy time-marker. Jack and Kerouac, my paddock companions, wear winter on their backs until the shearer comes. Their puffa jacket fleece quadruples their size until Ian drops by with his mobile shears, trouser braces, and brevity of wit, proclaiming, “Yes, they’re ready!” We have corralled the two alpaca in a corner of their paddock with just one rope. Jack sees him approaching and slumps to his haunches in knowing submission because by now he judges that all the airs and prancing that Kerouac effects is just dumb bravery. The shearer always comes. They will get laid on their backs, legs tied to a rack so they lay still, and that fleece will furl back in ethereal strands more like a cloud close up than thick creamy dollops of wool. Jack will stay silent and Kerouac will scream, kick and froth at the mouth and be placated by Ian in his weird alpaca language until I approach with old sacks and stuff them with a year’s worth of seasons waiting to be spun.
Published in Country Style, November 2013