I rang the Locum Agency on my last morning in Swan Hill and was told I hadnt been forgotten but there was nothing on the books right then, so I had another coffee and started to read the paper, wondering where I should go to hang out waiting for work - being homeless can be a drag sometimes! - Melbourne or Sydney?A few minutes later I was still on the front page when the phone rang - it was Amber from the Locum Agency saying they had just been called from Roma in Queensland and they needed someone for two weeks, starting Monday! I hadn't worked in Roma before, or in fact anywhere else in Queensland but found out that its 600 km inland from Brisbane. So I drove back to Melbourne, went out to dinnner that night and lunch the next day with Rankine, the next day flew to Sydney and the day after that to Roma .
|Sonny Bill Williams|
I also found time to see a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed - Jane Eyre - and watched live the Tri Nations match between the All Blacks and Springbox - which I did not enjoy as the All Blacks somewhat unexpectedly lost. I took consolation from the fact that the All Blacks scored a try but the Springbox didnt - all their points were from Penalties and a drop goal.
On the small propellor driven plane that took me to Roma I found myself seated beside a genuine queensland outback sheep farmer. He had a weather beaten face and thick leathery fingers with traces of dirt under his fingernails, and a broad queensland drawl. He was really friendly and talkative and he turned out to be anything but typical, being the owner of a huge merino stud farm with its own website - and a sophisticated system of tracking the lineage of every sheep. He explained that after many years of careful selection and cross breeding, he now had a flock of "mules free" sheep - that is to say merinos with quite fine wool (18 micron for anyone whose interested - and that is pretty fine) and more importantly a wool and wrinkle free border of skin round the bum end of the sheep. Normally this part of the merino sheep is wrinkly and often wet and contaminated, and therefore the usual site for "fly strike", wherein a stinking seething and growing mass of maggots and rotting flesh develops and causes a lingering death of the poor sheep. Mulesing was a controversial but effective way of protecting sheep from fly strike by slicing this area of wrinkled skin off young lambs in cold blood. Animal rights groups have long objected to mulesing, for obvious reasons, but this guy seems to have solved the problem with his "mules free" breed. He was such a nice guy and I wasnt surprised to discover that a few months ago he had been awarded an OAM (Order of Australia Medal) for his services to the wool industry.