Boy Scouts Beyond The Seas
Sheep have to be counted very often on a run, and a boy who shows himself good at it comes to the fore at once with the boss or manager.
The counter stands in a gateway and sends his dog to round up the sheep and to keep them moving through the gate while he counts.
The sheep don’t dribble through one at a time – it would take you a month of Sundays to count them if they did; but two or three go timidly through, then there is a rush of a dozen together, then a few single ones scamper by followed by a whole mob pressing and squeezing together and so on. A beginner cannot count fast enough and soon gets confused, but after a little practice you begin to know about how many sheep are in a bunch by the size of it and you will be able to count by eights and tens at a time.
One shepherd told me that he taught himself to count sheep by practising with a bottle full of peas. He used to let these trickle out while he counted them. At every hundred he undid a button of his waistcoat and began a fresh hundred.
At first he let the peas trickle very slowly, but when he got good at it he was able to let them run at a good pace, so that an onlooker would think it impossible to keep count. But if the onlooker stopped him at any moment and then added up the peas himself he would find that he had counted them correctly.
So when he came to count sheep he was able to do it quite well, and did not get chaffed by the old hands for making false counts as most tenderfoots do.
The wool-shed is the great centre of work in October on a sheep run. The sheep are brought in from the distant paddocks, penned, and brought in to be sheared.
The shearing is done by men who go round from farm to farm for the purpose, and of course they are pretty clever at it.
On a big run about twenty or twenty-five shearers will be employed for some weeks, as well as an equal number of “rouseabouts,” who are boys or less skilled men who collect the wool as it is cut off.
The shearing is done with clipping machines run by an engine. The wool has different values according to the part of the sheep from which it is taken, as well as according to its length and texture.
So the shearer has to be careful to take off the wool on the belly separately from that on the back as well as from that on the legs and neck. And the “rouseabouts” have to be careful to take the different sorts of wool to the different collecting bins. The wool is then packed in bales by being squeezed down in hydraulic presses and stitched in canvas covers for transport to Europe.
On one farm we saw a number of kangaroos and wallabies. A wallaby is a small kind of kangaroo about the size of a big dog, and dark grey-brown. Like the kangaroo he gets about by hopping on his hind-legs and tail – and he can go at a tremendous pace, galloping like a greyhound with long rapid bounds and his body leaning forward, but his short little arms never touch the ground.
The kangaroo is a bigger animal, and you know what he looks like from his portrait on the patrol- flag of a Kangaroo patrol, but he does not shout “Cooee” – that is the call of the Australian native.
Kangaroos and wallabies, and their imitators the kangaroo rats, are marsupials – that is, they have