Mateship a sharing tales bond forever, of old times
MATESHIP defined: Calling in to share news of your baby son's arrival, before you visit your wife in hospital.
Of course this was before social media, back when bush blokes like Alwyn 'Hambo' Hamblin stopped midway on the 60km trip to town to share a celebratory Pilsener with good mate Mac Costello.
Of course in return, 37 years on, Mac can still recall the exact date that child was born.
Remember that time we stuck a dead goanna under the canopy of Malcolm Marshall's ute?
And of course - as the two bushies confer - this was a time when blokes weren't overly welcome in the hospital labour ward.
These two have been hanging out in shearing sheds, cut out parties and at social gatherings in the Thanes Creek and Leyburn area for most of their working lives.
In May, Mac turns 83 and Hambo has just celebrated his 71st birthday, but the age gap has never made a difference.
"We've been mates, for I don't know, some 57 years," Hambo said.
"Mac taught me how to drink rum, but I won't say he was a bad influence, I was just a good pupil."
A yarn in the Bush Tele (15.01.2013) in January started Mac thinking about all the cut out sessions at the end of shearing and life experiences he'd shared with Hambo over the years.
It sent him flicking back through his wages book - the same one his mother started in 1954 - to see how often Hambo had worked up a sweat in the Seagoe shearing shed.
"I started working in the sheds as a rouseabout when I was 14 and then I was shearing from 18," Hambo explained.
Despite being in his 70s, Hambo is still shearing with no real plans to slow down, although he might call it quits at 3pm rather than the customary 5pm from time to time.
"When you get to my age I reckon, and I tell the younger blokes this, you can knock off work when you're ready."
Home is still the house Hambo shares with his wife Mary at Leyburn and work is still a juggle between shearing and working his own grazing country.
But his time shearing on the Costello family's property, Seagoe, at Thanes Creek dates back to September, 1962 when he shore 390 head.
A month later he's mentioned again in the wages book with a healthy 539-head tally written in ink beside his name.
"I remember the rate then was eight pounds, six shillings and threepence per 100 sheep," Mac said.
"And you could buy a packet of cigarettes for one and eight pence and a bottle of Old Soldier rum for seven and six."
Right up until May 1972, Hambo was a regular in that vital office chronicle, the Seagoe wages book.
He crutched and shore more sheep for the Costello's than anyone else during the decade before 1972, when the family partnership dissolved and Mac ventured into cattle.
"Our biggest shearing ever was 5400 head, back when we had 6000 to 7000ac of country," Mac said.
"But about 4000 was our average and we usually did that over two shearings.
"I never shore a sheep in my life, but Hambo, well he's one of the best."
A lot has changed out on the board: like wide combs replacing narrow, and increasing the number of sheep a handy shearer could finish in a run.
But some things, like the rigid routine shearer' keep, remain.
They clock on at 7.30am, break at 9.30am for smoko, from midday to one is lunch, and then afternoon smoko is a thirty minute break at 3pm, with knock off at 5pm.
"When I first started shearing here we use to go up to the main house for a hot roast and plum pudding at lunchtime," Hambo recalled.
"These days when we head out to sheds, we bring our own tucker bag."
He grinned at his mate, the larrikin boss, and explained how in the early days shearers' were paid a handpiece allowance for bringing their own gear.
"The bloody old handpieces the cockies used to give us were no good," Hambo laughed.
"So it was much better to bring our own."
Mac takes the criticism on the chin.
"We used to borrow the neighbours' handpieces, which was why we all staggered our shearing, so we could share around the gear."
He good humouredly shrugs off suggestions back then "cockies" could have afforded fancy plant and equipment.
"One year we shore and we got a pound for every pound of pound of wool we sold.
"We were rich for a day, but what set us back was probate tax when our parents died."
Yet for these two blokes, life has never been about their bank accounts.
It's been about the wealth of life experiences and the practical jokes, which come with lasting mateship.
"Remember that time we stuck a dead goanna under the canopy of Malcolm Marshall's ute before he left on a Friday?" Mac laughed.
"He didn't find it til he got back in the vehicle to come shearing on the Monday and by golly those things smell like nothing else after a few days in the sun."
They sit their laughing, drinking tea, reminiscing until Mac checks the clock and declares it might be time - in tribute to the cut out parties of shearing past - for something a little stronger.
Out on the board
From September 1962 until May 1972 Hambo took the board in the Seagoe shearing shed 29 times.
Over that time he shore a grand total of 13,808 head.
His biggest tally was in August 1970 when he shore 929 sheep for the Costello family.
He also turned up regularly to help with crutching.
From April 1967 until May 1972 he crutched 5064 head.
For more on the irrepressible Mac Costello's life and times see next week's Bush Tele.