Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas
my open window. It is a sweet sound, but a fearful one to imitate. The next time I see a patrol of “Magpies” among the Scouts I shall get them to give the cry so that I may see how to do it.
As the first rays of the sun streak up over the downs a violent scream of laughter comes from the gable of the roof. It is a laughing jackass, a funny-looking bird with a puffy-looking head and a mischievous sharp beak.
Then out on the lawn there hops a very smart little robin – very like our bird at home, but with some white feathers in his tail and a breast of exceedingly brilliant red.
I have often had a “Wigging,” and when my host asked me to come and see a “Wigging” I thought for the moment I was going to hear him abuse one of the farm hands. Not a bit of it.
We came to some pens – what we should call “folds” in England – where a number of shepherds were at work among the sheep. They were “Wigging” them.
The wool of a sheep at this season of the year, that is in June, the Australian winter, gets so thick that it closes over the animal’s eyes to such an extent that he cannot see where he is going. So the shepherd comes along and “wigs” him, that is, he clips the wool away from one side of the sheep’s face so that he can see with one eye at any rate. The man does this with a pair of shears, and loses no time in doing it.
We were on a farm or “run” of fifty thousand acres – a five-hundred-acre farm is not a small one in Britain, while a fifty-thousand-acre run in Australia is nothing out of the way.
The great open grass downs are divided off into “paddocks” of two hundred acres or so. They are fenced with solid posts and rails, and those along the boundaries are further completed with wire netting to keep the rabbits out. Rabbits, as I have told you before, have in some parts become a perfect plague and eat down everything.
The paddocks have each a row of trees and bushes planted to serve as a shelter to the sheep against the cold south wind.
Now here is a puzzle for a boy who is not a Farm Scout. These trees are planted near to the leeward side of the paddock – why?
You might have thought it would be better to plant the trees to the windward side. The reason is, that though the sheep feed up towards the wind as a rule, they give way to it when it is strong and cold; and they drift, as it were, to leeward – in this way they get behind the shelter of the trees without knowing it. They have not the sense to go and seek such shelter themselves.
On such a huge farm, as you may imagine, the shepherds do not walk, they are all horsemen, and fine, hardy fellows they look as they go cantering across the downs with their sheep-dogs and their rabbiting greyhounds trailing after them.
On this run there is about a sheep to the acre – that is, there are fifty thousand sheep, all of the best merino breed. Each produces a crop of wool every year which may bring in from seven to eight shillings.
Counting Sheep A very useful practice for Boy Scouts to learn is that of counting sheep.
It sounds an easy thing to do, so it may be when you have learnt, but it’s not quite so easy as it looks.