Who's Gonna Shear the Sheep?
Shearing sheep is nasty work. Hot, sweaty, dirty, greasy and sometimes even buggy. The sheep never really cooperate. Shearing isn't fun for them either. Just ask them. So why does anyone shear sheep?
Sheep pretty much have to be shorn to stay healthy and happy. Mine were getting a little hot even though we have had a very cold, wet spring. Ticks also love to get into sheep that aren't shorn. And ticks are nasty! Mine were tick free thank goodness!
There are still quite a few BIG sheep ranches here an there. Crews of shearers show up and shear thousands of sheep over a few days. It takes a good shearer about two minutes to shear a sheep. But I just have seven. Not very many shearers want to come mess with just seven little ol' sheep. I was super lucky to find one such good old boy just a few miles up the road.
Let me tell you about Jim the shearer. (Not to be confused with Hired Man Jim, who is not the shearer. He just does everything else around here.) Jim is 68 years young. He is a Montana native and a college graduate. He has done many things in his life, such as teaching school and working as a county extension agent. He ran some sort of federal sheep grazing project and is a bonafide sheep expert I think. This man has shorn thousands and thousands of sheep and even ran a school to teach sheep shearing to the younger generation. He also happens to be running for County Commissioner. This is a man who gets out and does things. Even though he has two brand new knees and had four surgeries on a broken wrist he got while he was shearing one day.
So today's events have me wondering.... Since the average age of a sheep shearer seems to be about 70 years old.... Who's gonna shear the sheep a few years down the road when the old timers finally hang up their clippers? Who's gonna do all the hot, nasty hard work? Who's gonna carry on with the skills required for the jobs that are becoming "obsolete" but that are still so needed.
I am raising three sons. How do I instill in them the love of learning and pride of doing a really hard job and doing it well? How do we get our young men back to working when society seems to be telling them that working as hard as a sheep shearer isn't "cool". I know one thing.... If my oldest was just a few years older, I'd be sending him out to Jim's shearing school or somewhere like it to learn a little about life. These men who are still out doing the work and teaching the skills aren't going to last forever.... Then what?
Now I'm gonna go wash my greasy, lanolin covered hands. Again....
Now go make something beautiful,