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h e l l o @ k a t e o k t a y . c o m

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essentially just me thinking I am funny

I hate my Job #1- Working for Maurice.

Working for Maurice

 

This does not really count as a job, because it started when I was seven. But it makes the list because; I had to do it, I was paid (well, I was sometimes paid) and, I mostly hated it quite a lot.

 

Maurice is a farmer and my father. I was Farm Girl Number One. Some of my earliest memories are helping on the farm. Namely steering the truck in first gear while Maurice threw hay at crowds of milling sheep and yelled at me to turn the corner. “That way! No! That way!” Being yelled at was a fairly consistent theme of working with Maurice. Unless you looked sad and unhappy, in which case he was brimming with cheerful fun.

 

Maurice did all his own shearing alone with myself and my younger brother as rousabouts. This was both unheard of and insane. I have memories of summer holidays dragging on in hot, dirty, smelly, scratchy stickiness inside a corrugated iron shed. The main mob would take three weeks. To a ten year old this is the equivalent of several years. Maurice, who had spent his prime working fulltime as a shearer adored it. For a few weeks before we would be due to start he would perk up and start quoting Banjo Patterson poems at length, driving the whole family mental. Other family members, in stark contrast, despised every minute of it. One year, my brother, at the age of four or five, after circling his tricycle on the shed floor in ever decreasing circles for several hours rode out the door and off the seven foot landing out of sheer boredom.

 

Maurice constantly reminded you of your place in the shearing shed sub-universe. “See that dog there?” Maurice would say pointing at Sue, who would half look up lazily from another mouthful of sheep poo. “You are lower than that. First there is the shearer, thats me. Then there is the dog. Then there is you. If there were other people here you would be lower than them too.”

 

Work started at 7:30 and for every five minutes you were late you were docked at half an hour of pay. “You're fifteen minutes late! That's an hour and a half you're not getting paid!” Maurice would thunder and stomp off to the pens to select the sheep which would be subjected to the tardiness induced wrath. One summer I suggested that I get paid in a calf, something I had heard other farm children doing in exchange for farm work. “You would fatten it, and when you sell it I would get the money” I explained. “Hmmm. What if it just dies?” Maurice responded. While I pondered this possible outcome, Maurice grinned and muttered under his breath “I'll choose a sick one.” I decided against it. In retrospect, he had probably just done the sums and decided that it was financially advantageous to pay me in cash.

 

Not all work on the farm was paid. Work outside the shearing shed was done 'for the family,' as you were fairly consistently reminded of the cost of having you stay. “Of course I will pay you for this! Now we'll just take our your board- that's $50 a week for your bed, another $50 for food. Clothes, spent a bit on that this year. And shoes. And school books. Okay, good. So I owe you $25 for this, so we'll take that off the $2579 you owe me for the year so far. Good?” This work often involved standing and watching Maurice, as while he liked you there to witness him, you were possibly not going to do things exactly as he would (The Right Way, Kate) and therefore could not be trusted. This meant a lot of standing and holding things while kicking at the grass.

 

This was of course unless there was mustering. Maurice would get the sheep and I would be placed in a strategic point to turn them in a particular direction. This never went smoothly and there would be screaming from several fields away accompanied by frantic air-traffic controller like hand signals that were always misunderstood. Words would drift in and out on the wind; “You stupid bloody... What the hell?... Just go... Jesus! Shit!....Don't know why I bother....get out! OUT!” “Is he talking to us or to the dog?” I would ask my Mother, who having had 15 years of experience in very similar situations would shug and answer cheerfully “Could be either”

 

By the time I was a teenager and my nature had proved rather closer to the angry yelly side of the family than my Mother's quiet kindness our fights were epic. At 13 years old I had labelled it 'Star Wars'. “How'd the Dark Force go last night?” my friends would ask me before school in the morning. “Not good. Superior numbers and I'm staying at the Death Star” We had also moved away from a purely rural environment where having screaming stick throwing fits was par for the course to the outskirts of a village. One day Maurice and I were having our usual working-happily-together induced fight.

 

“What is bloody wrong with you?”

“What is bloody wrong with you?”

 

Suddenly five minutes into mouth foaming, screamy-raging at one another we were at once both horribly aware that we had an audience. One of our neighbours (and not one Maurice was fond of, though to be honest there were very few if any people on that particular list) was leaning against the fence five meters away watching with ill-concealed mirth.

 

“And what the hell do you (this said with particular hatefulness) want?” Maurice snarled. The neighbour, now suddenly aware that the tide had turned and now he had two angry psychopaths staring with their lunatic eyes at him, muttered a quick “Maybe later” and scuttled off. Maurice and I looked at each other with the respect that only finding a common enemy brings and demonstrably reduced the intensity of the disagreements for the rest of the afternoon.

Working for Maurice was a valuable experience. Every other minimum wage job and random employment situation I have been in since I appreciated, because no matter what, at least I wasn't in a woolshed.