After two months of chasing the sun in the likes of Sydney, Byron Bay and the Gold Coast, I decided it was time to get down to some serious graft, while also obtaining a second working holiday visa. I was very glad when an Aussie mate informed me he knew a farmer in the small town of Scone, in the upper Hunter Valley, who needed a farm hand. My bags were packed in no time, and I was off to pastures new.
I arrived late on the Monday afternoon and the farmer – a nice Kiwi fella – gave me the guided tour around his lovely 100 acre property, before showing me my digs – a nice little flat – where I even had my own bedroom. It was like a penthouse suite compared to the 10-bed-dorms I’d become accustomed to since arriving in Australia.
Night was setting in and having acquainted myself with the tool shed, the banged out old Ute that I would be driving around for the next few weeks and the resident Jack Russell called Rowdy, I was starting to feel pretty comfortable in my new surroundings. That was when the farmer popped his head in the door to brief me on my first full
day as a farm hand.
“You’re starting at 8am tomorrow Rob, you’ll need to herd four of the cattle up as the butcher’s coming in. You’re going to help him slaughter them.” The lovely tan I had acquired from the east coast suddenly started to fade quite rapidly. To say that I had a mild anxiety attack would be somewhat of an understatement.I can’t even watch a horror movie without covering my eyes. How the hell was I supposed to ruthlessly slay one of God’s most lovely (albeit tasty) creatures?
That night was a long one, but by the time morning arrived I had psyched myself up. I knew that this was what I had come away for, to take myself out of my comfort zone and experience something completely different to the mundane nine to five work I had been doing back home.
The butcher arrived just as I had the cattle in the corner of the paddock, unknown to them, preparing to meet their maker.
Now, having lived most of my life in England, it’s fair to say that I’d become very fond of a roast dinner and by now I was becoming quite curious as to how exactly that beautiful joint of roast beef had been making its way onto my dinner plate most Sundays for the past 20-odd years. I was about to find out.
The initial process involved a shotgun. After that, Sweeney Todd (otherwise known as the nice butcher man) went to work in a manner that I can only describe as Kill Bill-esque. When he passed me one of the cow’s heads, I knew it was time to man up. Over the next four hours I experienced a number of new emotions! It is actually a very humane process and I can honestly say the cattle had lived a very good, almost enviable, life and went out very quickly and painlessly.
The butcher was a really nice guy, passionate about what he did. I later found out he was one of Australia’s award-winning butchers, and a few days later he came back to the farm and I assisted him in making the sausages and bagging up all the various cuts of meat. That weekend I finished the final part of the process, delivering the meat to Sydney.
I was even allowed a couple of days off while I was there, and I made the most of it, heading to the pub for a nice rump steak.