Sally’s husband, Herb, was ready at dawn for the round-up. He headed outside while she got started in the kitchen. The whiny sound of his dirt bike followed by the thunder of small hooves always brought her to the verandah. The breeze was blowing inland and she could smell the sea. Their farm bordered a national park that boasted a convergence of cliffs known as the Devil’s Corner.
Jagged rocks and a current that swirled and writhed beneath a deceptively calm surface. Over the years, the area had snared many a fishing boat, dragging strong men to early graves, but for Sally and Herb the rugged beauty of the sweeping Deception Bay coastline was often ignored for more pressing duties, like sheep. The paddocks were golden at this time of the morning in early spring. Like scurrying children in fleecy pyjamas, the sheep moved in waves, reined in by Herb on the bike and the dogs circling the herd in a frenzy of barking. Sally straightened her apron and went back inside. She had the shearers’ breakfast to finish.
Half an hour later, Sally was covering a baking dish of scrambled eggs when the bang of the wire door announced Herb.
‘Bloody Millard hasn’t turned up again. Will you get on the phone and see where he is?’ Sally sighed. She had little time for Brett Millard. Unreliableshearers were the worst. When he turned up, Brett could match the other blokes sheep for sheep, but it fell to Sally to chase him when he was a no-show. Sometimes it was Brett’s wife, Shayna, who answered the phone. She’d apologise, exasperated, and say, Sorry, Sal! I’ll make sure he’s there tomorrow.
Good shearer or not, Brett Millard was easily distracted; Shayna was the opposite. Worked up at the hospital. Backbone of the young family. Problem was, thought Sally as she dialled the number, men like Brett rarely improved with age—Shayna had a tough road ahead of her…