A/N: Woo. I wrote this chapter in a couple of hours, so it's not going to be great. However, I've had this rattling around in my head for ages now, so I thought I better just get it out.
Updates of R and J Revisited up soon. Next week or the week after. I have exams coming up soon, is all. But then Uni is over for another year. Woot!
"Orright, here we go," Jacko announced as soon as Jesse arrived at the shearing shed. "Everyone ready?"
Martin Cossacks nodded enthusiastically. "I've been waiting all week to see this."
Jesse scuffed his boot in the dirt and scowled. His brief chat with Chloe had cheered him up, but his good mood was rapidly disappearing again.
"The way I figured we'd do this," Jacko continued, glancing at Jesse, "is that I'll talk you through a bit of it first, and the Jesse can show you a few things. Jess is a man of few words, so we'll make him talk as little as possible."
Danny, perched on top of one of the stalls, sniggered loudly. Jess shot him a filthy look and a rude had gesture.
"Shearing is bloody hard work," Jacko announced. "Shearers need to be physically fit, efficient and methodical. You need good balance, reflexes and sheep handling skills. You've got to be able to maintain control over the sheep while shearing. The work can be uncomfortable. Most shearing is done in hot tin sheds on farms and stations. Back strain is a hazard of the job. Having said that but, it can also be one of the best jobs going round." Jacko grinned. "Right boys?"
A few of the gathered Jackaroos laughed. Danny rolled his eyes.
"The sheep we've got here at Mirabooka are merinos. Three out of four sheep in Australia are merinos, or else they're crossed with merinos. Shearing's done in summer here. In Autumn, the rams are put in with the ewes for mating. The ewes spend a few weeks in the best pasture we've got. This helps to make them strong enough to give birth to the lambs and produce milk to feed them. Lambs are born in late Winter. When shearing rolls around, the sheep are rounded up and brought to the shearing sheds. The fleece comes off in one piece."
"Most people start out as woolhandlers. Their job is to keep the shed clean, herd the sheep and take the shorn fleece to the table where other woolhandlers prepare the fleece into bails." Jacko strode across the shed, his heaving RM Williams boots thunking loudly on the wooden floor.
"The first steps for learners are how to hold the sheep and then how to hold the shearing equipment. After learning how to shear a sheep, the key skill to learn is how to shear large numbers of sheep. Because, until a person can shear 80 sheep a day, they are only paid woolhandler rates. Beyond that they are classed as 'improvers' and can be employed as shearers and receive piecework rates. It can take three to five years to become a truly competent shearer. Many shearers are still learning new techniques after years. Jesse's been shearing sheep since he was 11, and every year he picks up something new from the older blokes who come in."
Jesse nodded dutifully, eyes on the floor still.
"A good shearer can shear a sheep in less than five minutes, and can shear 200 sheep a day." Jacko stopped and survyed the gathered crowed, his hands on his hips. "There are a few things you need to be a good shearer. A big heart, for a start. You've got to be very determined, because the day is pretty long. It's eight hours. And you've got to push your body. You just don't go into the pen, grab a sheep. Because you only get paid for what you put down the chute. If you want to get paid well, you have got to work pretty hard and put a few down."
Robin McCulloch spoke up. "I'm interested in technique Jacko."
Jesse winced at his thick New York accent. The way he said 'Jacko' sounded totally unnatural. He definitely didn't belong in the bush.
"How much of shearing is technique and how much is strength?" Robin continued. "Cause I mean, we really want to get some good shots of Chloe here doing some of the work, and it's got to look real. But, she's not a six foot tall football player, that's for sure."
Jacko nodded and scratched his chin. "Yep. You're right. The less technique you've got the more strength you will need. The technique is based on using the least amount of strength. The way we're going to be teaching youse to shear now is you are using your legs a lot more, you're keeping your back a lot straighter. You're more in crouched positions like this as opposed to hanging over with a lot of pressure on your back. Technique is everything, really. But, having said that, Chloe will be able to do enough on her own for it to look real on camera." He laughed. "Don't worry."
Jacko turned and slapped Jesse on the back. "Righto Jess. Give us a demo then, would you son?"
Robin McCulloch suddenly stepped to one side and motioned wildly to someone behind him. "Bob! Make sure you get this!"
A camera suddenly appeared front and centre, lifting his camera to his shoulder and training it on Jesse.
Jess bit back a groan. He jumped down into the pen and used his body to cut a small ewe away from the flock. Wrestling her back through the porthole, Jesse swore as the sheep kicked him and Danny started to laugh. Jacko reached down and helped Jess drag the sorry-looking ewe over to the clippers. "When you're Bringing the sheep in, make sure you hold by the head and tail, not by the wool. Good boy Jess."
"Now a lot of the time," Jacko yelled as the clippers started up. " If your gear is not cutting properly, it's like pulling the hair out of the sheep instead of cutting it off. It's like going to a hairdresser with blunt scissors and he starts ripping and hacking. And the sheep can get quite nasty – they will bite, kick, and scratch if you don't watch out."
"Just like Vett when she gets her bikini done, hey Vett?" Chloe chimed in, making Jesse's eyes widen in disbelief and the rest of the boys howl with laughter. Yvette coloured in embarrassment. "Chloe! Shut it!"
Jesse was glad he was hunched over the sheep between his legs, so he didn't have to look either of the girls in the eye. Jess slung a long leg over the back of the sheep, turning its head around towards the back of its body. Thankfully, she lay down without much resistance.
"If only Jess could get a girl on her back as easy as he can get a sheep," Danny drawled. The boys hooted with laughter. Jesse flushed angrily.
"Oh I don't know Daniel. You're not so gentle yourself. The other night I wasn't sure if you were trying to make love to me, or shear the wool off my belly," Yvette responded tartly. The laughter went up a notch, and it was Danny's turn to be embarrassed.
Chloe grinned. "What's wrong Danny? You look a bit…sheepish?"
More laughter. Jesse hid a grin. He was liking these girls more and more.
"Orright orright," Jacko called. "That's enough. Youse are here to learn. Right. At the moment Jess has got the sheep in a sitting position between his knees. It's easiest for the shearer this way, gives him a bit of a break. Then move 90 degrees to the right with your right foot just under the udder and your left foot under the tailbone. Move your right foot in between the two sets of legs and bring your left foot forward a bit."
As Jacko spoke, Jesse acted out his words.
"Let the body drop horizontal to the ground - keep your left foot braced under the sheep's right shoulder with the legs slightly up in the air. Swing your right foot around the back of the sheep so your feet are parallel, and bring the sheep's head up towards your legs, taking baby steps backwards as you shear down the body."
Jess quickly and methodically moved from the belly, down the right leg, left leg, and then the flank of the sheep. "Start from the brisket and go upwards towards the neck. Shear up to the right cheek. Trim the head hair – make sure you hold down the ear so as not to cut it. Shear around the back of the head…"
Jacko kept calling instructions. Jess kept his mind on the job at hand. He didn't mind shearing, but it wasn't his favourite thing to do. He liked coming down to the sheds when the shearing was on. All the blokes the McGinnis's contracted during the season were good blokes and it was a lot of fun most days. Not to mention the drinking sessions at night had spawn some wild stories. But Jess would only ever shear if they asked him too. He preferred just to work as a rouseabout, lending a hand wherever the boys needed him.
"…Shear around the neck. Make sure you shear from right to left, always moving down a line. The sheep's head is still between Jess's legs and he's almost got the entire skirt off. Good boy. Finish off any remaining bits on the butt area Jess. And he's done."
The gathered crowed clapped enthusiastically. Danny stuck his fingers in his mouth and gave a piercing whistle. Jess straightened up, sending the sheep off with a hard smack. "Garn. Fuck off."
He was breathless and sweaty and glad it was over. Some blokes did 250 sheep in a day. He was fucked after one. It was also bloody hot in the shed. Without thinking, Jess lifted his arms and peeled his damp bonds wife beater over his head. His green eyes met Chloe's violet as he balled the shirt up in his hands. She offered him a smile and his mouth suddenly dried out.
"Good job Jess," Jacko announced, picking up the fleece and holding it out. "All in one piece. It's a shame you're not a full time shearer boy. You do a good job."
"So, what do you blokes reckon? Do you want to have a go, or what?"
Robin and Martin glanced at each other. "I think it's a great idea," Martin replied. Jess rolled his eyes. Martin was like a neurotic one-man pep squad. It was easy to see why he was so successful in Hollywood. He rarely backed down from anything. Jacko raised an eyebrow.
"Righto. Ok, Danny, you can help Keith here have a go. Chris, help Hugh, Tony, show Robin and Luke you can give Mr Cossacks a hand. Jess, you help Chloe. Pick out that small ewe with the nick on her ear and take it easy."
Jess nodded, but he didn't miss the sly look Yvette sent Chloe. He waited until the other boys had their sheep under control before he helped Chloe into the pen. "You want to have a go at getting her out?"
Chloe looked nervous, dancing around the edge of the pen. "I don't know. Will she bite me?"
Jess grinned. "Maybe," he drawled lazily. "Just walk towards her slowly, and try to block her off when she goes to run around you."
"Jesse I don't know…"
"Just have a go!"
Jess leaned back against the fence and watched in amusement as Chloe chased the ewe unsuccessfully around the pen for the best part of five minutes. By the time Chloe was exhausted and nearly falling over, he was helpless with laughter.
"Well maybe you could give me a hand, for fucks sake!" she suddenly snapped. "Jesus Christ, do I fucking look like a fucking cowgirl to you?"
Jesse laughed even harder. Chloe's jaw tightened and she suddenly stamped her foot, getting read to throw a right tantrum. Jess suddenly saw what happened when Chloe Swan didn't get her own way.
He sighed and pushed off from the fence, grabbing Chloe by the arm and dragging her into the middle of the pen with him. "Right. This is how you do it. Walk towards her. Don't move too suddenly or she'll run before you get close enough to cut her off. Ok. Good. Alright…now! Go left! Left!"
Jess darted forward and lunged at the small ewe as she tried to escape to the right. Chloe ended up hovering uselessly at his shoulder as he struggled to get a good grip. "Alright," he panted. "I'll get her into the stalls and you can have a go at shearing her. Ok?"
Chloe just nodded. Jess wrestled the ewe back into the shed and over to a set of clippers in the far corner. "Ok. Come here." He held out an arm to Chloe, dragging her closer as he held the sheep in place with his knees. "Here." Jess pulled Chloe in front of him, wrapping his arms around her and helping her get a grip on the sheep. "Like this. Sorry about the sweat, I just don't want her to kick you. You got to keep a firm grip."
Chloe swallowed, suddenly feeling a bit strange. "It's alright."
Jesse continued to talk, moving his arms with hers as he did, but Chloe didn't hear much of it. Being pressed against Jess' bare chest, with arms around her and his stubbly cheek brushing hers was too distracting. The rest of the world suddenly faded away, and all Chloe could think about was how safe she felt in Jesse's arms. Being pressed against him wasn't the same as being pressed against that male model back in London. She didn't cringe and she definitely didn't want to run away, which was generally the reaction she had to most men who touched her.
"Did you get that?" Jess suddenly asked, breaking into her thoughts.
"Oh, er, what?"
"Chloe! Have you listened to a word I just said?"
"Yes!" she replied indignantly.
"What did I say then?" Jesse challenged.
"bla bla shear the sheep. Bla."
"I'm going to smack you one in a minute," Jess muttered.
Chloe just laughed. "Here," Jesse grunted, grabbing her hands roughly and forcing her to hold the clippers. Placing his hands over her own, he guided her as she ran the clippers over the belly of the sheep. Wool fell away in chunks, landing on the dusty floor. It was a truly horrible job, so messy Jess was grateful Jacko couldn't see, but Chloe was delighted.
"Holy shit! Look what I just did!"
Jesse laughed. "I know, it's awful."
"More," Chloe demanded, forcing Jess to guide her hands again as she finished the rest of the sheep's belly. She'd never been so proud of anything. "Jess, look! Isn't that good?"
"Fantastic," he drawled. Chloe laughed and placed a smacking kiss on his cheek. Jess nearly fell over, but Chloe didn't even notice.
"Can I do the rest?"
"We'll probably be here all day," Jess replied, resisting the urge to hold his cheek like some pre-pubescent schoolboy. Christ, he was 22 for fucks sake. And it wasn't like he'd never been kissed before either. Although, it was the first time a movie star had been kissing him.
"Ok then, you do it."
Chloe stood and watched as Jesse quickly finished off the ewe. By god, but he was beautiful. The muscles in his bare back shifted enticingly under his skin as he moved, and the material of his King Gee work pants clung to every curve of his legs and arse. By the time he was finished, he was dripping with sweat. His brown hair had darkened and was stuck to his forehead, dripping into his bright green eyes. Jess ran a hand across his face and grinned at her, teeth flashing white against his dark skin. "Done."
Chloe just smiled back, realising quickly that she had feelings for Jesse.
"Well done Jess. She looks fabulous. So now, so fashion-forward. I'm really feeling it."
Jesse just grinned, looking slightly confused. "What?"
Chloe smiled and shook her head. "Nothing."
Her light eyes ran over him as he turned back around and sent the ewe back to the pen. He was gorgeous – inside and out. This wasn't what she wanted at all. In her experience, feelings like the ones she was developing for Jesse only got in the way…of well, everything. Chloe Swan just wanted to make her movie and go home to her family. She was a jet-setting, award winning actress on the up and up, and a beautiful country boy with a heart as big as the station he lived on didn't fit into her plans at all.
But, she mused, as Jess flashed her another one of his heart-stopping grins. Her plans were starting to matter less and less. She liked him. Too much.