The Shearing of the Cook's Dog
by Henry Lawson (1867-1922)
The dog was a little conservative mongrel poodle, with long dirty white hair all over him – longest and most over his eyes, which glistened through it like black beads. Also he seemed to have a bad liver. He always looked as if he was suffering from a sense of injury, past or to come. It did come. He used to follow the shearers up to the shed after breakfast every morning, but he couldn’t have done this for love – there was none lost between him and the men. He wasn’t an affectionate dog; it wasn’t his style. He would sit close against the shed wall for an hour or two, and hump himself, and sulk, and look sick, and snarl whenever the “Sheep-Ho” dog passed, or a man took notice of him. Then he’d go home. What he wanted at the shed at all was only known to himself; no one asked him to come. Perhaps he came to collect evidence against us. The cook called him “my darg,” and the men called the cook “Curry-and-Rice,” with “old” before it mostly.
Curry-and-Rice was a little, dumpy, fat man, with a round, smooth, good-humoured face, a bald head, feet wide apart, and a big blue cotton apron. He had been a ship’s cook. He didn’t look so much out of place in the hut as the hut did round him. To a man with a vivid imagination, if he regarded the cook dreamily for a while, the floor might seem to roll gently like the deck of a ship, and mast, rigging, and cuddy rise mistily in the background. Curry might have dreamed of the cook’s galley at times, but he never mentioned it. He ought to have been at sea, or comfortably dead and stowed away under ground, instead of cooking for a mob of unredeemed rouseabouts in an uncivilized shed in the scrub, six hundred miles from the ocean.
They chyacked the cook occasionally, and grumbled – or pretended to grumble – about their tucker, and then he’d make a roughly pathetic speech, with many references to his age, and the hardness of his work, and the smallness of his wages, and the inconsiderateness of the men. Then the joker of the shed would sympathize with the cook with his tongue and one side of his face – and joke with the other.
One day in the shed, during smoke-ho the devil whispered to a shearer named Geordie that it would be a lark to shear the cook’s dog – the Evil One having previously arranged that the dog should be there, sitting close to Geordie’s pen, and that the shearer should have a fine lamb comb on his machine. The idea was communicated through Geordie to his mates, and met with entire and general approval; and for five or ten minutes the air was kept alive by shouting and laughter of the men, and the protestations of the dog. When the shearer touched skin, he yelled “Tar!” and when he finished he shouted “Wool away!” at the top of his voice, and his mates echoed him with a will. A picker-up gathered the fleece with a great show of labour and care, and tabled it, to the well-ventilated disgust of old Scotty, the wool-roller. When they let the dog go he struck for home – a clean-shaven poodle, except for a ferocious moustache and a tuft at the end of his tail.
. . . the story continues . . .
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About the Author
See our page on Henry Lawson Includes a linked list of all his writing available on our website.