IT isn’t often you see three generations of shearers still working together in the shed.
But that’s the case for Jim, Alan and Tom Swanson from Enmore.
“Kids tend to do what their fathers are doing and Tom’s done the same thing I guess,” Jim said.
“But, most people aren’t silly enough to still be doing this in their 80’s.”
First in his family to dive into the industry 60 years ago, Jim said the only thing that hasn’t changed is the dull pain in his lower back.
“Back when I started nearly all the sheds were camp out sheds – you’d stay in a shearers hut,” Jim said.
“Now you do what they call suburban shearing and travel from out of town every morning, pretty big distances too.
“The quarters I stayed in back then were a bloody good set up, good cooks too.”
Alan started shearing at 20-years-old in northern Queensland.
“It was something I’d always wanted to do or have a go at and become good at,” he said.
As a kid grandson Tom had spent seasons rousabouting for his dad, Alan.
“I’d been watching Alan do shearing since I was a grasshopper,” Tom said.
“From what I can see what’s changed most is the safety of a lot of things, it’s unbelievable the gear people are putting in sheds now.”
When Alan first went to Queensland there was no power in the sheds.
Tools were mostly shaft gear and diesel motors.
The first time Jim used a shearer’s sling it made him feel sick.
“I had a terrific back actually but you’d know it the next morning that you’d done a day’s work before that,” he said.
In Jim’s day, a lot of the competition started in the shed with the bloke next to you.
Now, shearing is something of a professional sport.
“It’s very competitive,” Alan said.
“Two shearers will keep each other going to try and better the other bloke, even if you don’t say it – you both know it.”
Alan used to shear in competitions, but gave it away to start a family.
But, both men agree that it’s a job where you never stop learning.
“Someone can just show you something now to make it one step easier, you can always learn,” Alan said.
“It’s a real team effort once you get into it, especially the atmosphere in a big shed – it’s just so good.”