Workin’ on the railroad

We were equipped with only an apple, a bottle of water, a dog, and a warning to watch out for snakes. Then we were dumped at the railway line with a few hundred sheep. It was slave labour, I tell you. We were like the children of the industrial revolution, except our faces were pink from sunburn instead of black from coal. I’d dread the clop clop of my stepfather’s Blundstone’s on the verandah, knowing he was going to peer into my bedroom window and ask if I was busy.

Was I busy? It was the Christmas holidays. I was stranded on a farm, miles from friends and ice cream shops. Of course I wasn’t busy.

“Can you babysit the sheep this afternoon?”

“Meh. Okay.”

The summers were always dry, there was never enough for the sheep to eat. There was an old railway line that spliced our farm in two, choked with grass and other culinary delights of the baavine variety. So with council permission, we were allowed to let our sheep graze there.

But someone had to watch the bastards, to make sure they didn’t fall down a ramp or get their stupid woolly arses stuck in a barbed wire fence. So Rhi and I had to sit there for anywhere up to five hours, one on each side of the tracks, while the stupid sheep wandered and nibbled ever so slowly.

Mum had ferreted through her linen cupboard and presented us with two ancient brown bathmats to sit on. So we sat there sweltering on our mats like little genies. We’d read our books, sip our water, glare at the sheep. We’d sneak up onto the tracks and be Olympic gymnasts on the beam. We’d lay down and scream helplessly after being tied to the railway line by an Evil Villain.

When we got bored of that, we’d sit back down and shout at each other over the line. I must have been about 10, Rhi was 8. We had such deep, shouty conversations.

“Do you think we’ll get anything good for Christmas?”

“Probably not.”

“You know what? This sucks.”


“Jesus was a shepherd, wasn’t he?”

“No he was a carpenter. But if he was a shepherd I bet he wouldn’t be sitting on a bathmat.”

“Yes, one of the disciples would have made him a chair.”

“And brought him an ice cream.”

We’d pause to let resentment and self-pity boil in our blood for awhile. Grrrrrr.

Then we’d decide what we’d do when we won Lotto. We wouldn’t give a cent to our stepfather, as revenge for making us child slaves. We then verbally furnished our new mansion, room by room. I talked about the books I’d write while living by the sea. Rhi talked about the barrels of money she’d have from her five-star restaurants and hotels. We vowed to leave the sheep and the snakes far behind and take on the world.

About Shauna Reid

Ahoy there! I’m Shauna, an author, copywriter and content mentor. I love telling stories about life and helping others to tell theirs.

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25 thoughts on “Workin’ on the railroad

  1. Good thing I wasn’t at that Trivia night, because then you’d never have thought of the very cute baavine. Hehe.

  2. Ah, the roots of a passionate shepherdess . . .

    oops. I just remembered that root has a different connotation over there. Now that would be a totally different blog entry altogether.


  3. Umm, is the plural of ‘moose’ likewise ‘meese’? I was wondering that just yesterday.

    Anyway, these kinds of entries are some of my favourites. Not that it’s a good thing that you had an Evil Step-Father, of course. So, um, not ‘favourite’ in the sense of ‘it’s good such things happened in the first place so that they could become memories to then be recalled and retold,’ but, um, favourite in another sense. (Am I even making any sense?)

    And I did like the bit about Jesus not sitting around on bath mats, too.

  4. Wow…and I used to complain because my parents made me do the yardwork! OK, it was 110 F outside. And yes, some of it did involve cutting and bagging Bougenvilla which drew blood and caused a certain amount of scarring….

    But look at it this way Shauny: it ‘built character.’ In my case, I never want to work again, ever! And I do anything to get out of work. So all that menial labor helped me and I’m glad. What about you?

  5. that is such a 100 pure aussie account of the christmas hols, shaunygirl. even more aussie than my cousin whacky (an appropriate nickname) chasing us barefoot down the steaming hot street while he whirled a cricket bat over the top of his head threatening, “I’M GONNA KIIIIIILLLLLL YOOOOOOOOOUUUUUSSSE!”

    whacky was three years younger than his brother and i and we’d work him up into that frenzy on purpose.

    we also spent an inordinate amount of time on railway tracks. daredevilishly hoping that the goods train would/wouldn’t suddenly loom around the corner while our shoes were stuck.

  6. brilliant stuff, miss shauny shaunissima. really gorgeous.

    *goes and hides in inadequacy as though it were some form of yurt, reeking of sheep dung and that girl in year nine who was a brilliant pianist but always wore strawberry impulse*

  7. I loved the story Shauny. It could have been worse – imagine if you weren’t friends with your sister and had to sit on either side of the tracks sulking and mad at each other.

  8. no, only yours izy…

    Remeinds me of Christmas here. Only here it’s wet and cold and there aren’t any sheep on the rail road tracks.

    But the Loto stories were exactly the same…

  9. I’ve always maintained us city folk have always had it too good.

    However bad babysitting sheep sounds, it’s something city people will never experience.

    I want to have your baby a live in the country 😉

  10. It’s funny to think that the only reference to sheep i have heard aside from this great story is usually used in a derogatory way with the word “bugger” somewhere in the sentence.

    Maybe i won’t say it…no…m.u.s.t…r.e.s.i.s.t…

    Well, generally if you’ve been ‘involved’ with sheep (in any way) you don’t want to go ‘baaaaaaaaah-ck’.

    Damn. Sorry…tried to resist the bad joke…

  11. It would seem to me that we are getting perilously close to contemplating the seating comforts of a sheep’s posterior.

    Granted, I’m wholly unfamiliar with this kind of bucolic imagery, save long December pilgrimages up to the mountains to cut down Xmas trees, with customary snapshot of family, snot-formed icicles drooping down noses, with the saw blade perilously close to Jejune Jenny’s cheek. Weather chillier than Juneau isn’t exactly conducive to smiles.

    Chances are that if you live in the West Coast, the only bleats you have to complain about are those involving whether or not the divan will go with the throw rug. But, dahling, is the rug made of sheepskin? And will it fall apart within five years so that we can buy another?

    Maintain that memory, Shauny. It could be the last self-sufficient moment circumnavigating your parietal lobe.

    Did somebody say lamb chop?

  12. well howdee doo!

    I was just thinkin to meeself, “What might I do with these dangnabbed sheep over they Christmas holledaay while we’re gone?

    Now I know. I wouldn’t pay for the airfare of course, but could you and Rhi come sit with them for us? I wouldn’t normally ask, but since you are handy with an ugly brown bathmat, I’m figgerin you are just the sheep-pokes I’m looking fer.

    I’ve got four or five ewes just waiting for the barometer to flex so they can drop their lambs. I’ll send photos of the new tikes and that will get you all geared up to come.
    heh heh heh –

  13. Nicely written Shauny. Somehow sheep and Christmas do seem to go together, there are sometimes a few sheepies in Nativity scenes. However, I keep forgetting it’s summer in Australia and that seems strange. Growing up in a Hallmark greeting card with snow nearly every Christmas in the U.S. midsection, with sleds and work horses, now I miss all that since moving to California and all we’re getting is rain. Baaaa . . .

  14. whacky’s real name is warrick, otherwise known as big w. have your name start with a ‘w’ and it’s zany from there on, i tells ya.


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