After 50 years of shearing, John 'Bucko' Buxton is one of the cleanest, calmest shearers in the game.
Story By Amanda Burdon
They say that the counting-out pen is the best place to assess a shearer’s skill; that his signature is written in the distinctive ridges and scarlet nicks that inscribe a freshly shorn sheep’s skin. “When I shear, I leave tracks all over the sheep, to have a route to follow the next shearing,” wool producer Spike Wall laughs.
But not these sheep. By any measure, the stark white lambs sailing down the chute and scrambling to their feet this morning at “St Hilary”, in north-western New south Wales, have been skilfully stripped of their fleeces. “There are shearers and then there are shearers,” Spike adds. “Our sheep are so clean that a neighbour once thought we had converted to chemical shearing.”
Inside the corrugated-iron shed is the man that Spike and his wife Kirsty, and Kirsty’s parents Carolyn and Nick Pollitt, and Nick’s parents before them, have to thank for this reputation – one of the region’s finest and longest-serving shearers, the neatly bearded John ‘Bucko’ Buxton. He has visited St Hilary every year since 1976 and today he’s toiling alongside nuggetty young gun aaron hatcher, a shearer 35 years his junior. The lankier Bucko, clad in dungarees and moccasins, with insulation tape secured beneath his knees, is rhythm personified. Every fluent sweep of his handpiece is elegant; every move of his lean frame economical. The lamb cradled between his bent legs submits meekly to his expert handling.
Just weeks earlier, Bucko had notched up his 50th year of shearing – a back-breaking achievement in anyone’s books – but you would never guess it watching him glide through the fleeces. He matches his 28-year-old offsider blow for blow, pausing every now and then to oil his handpiece and calmly answer questions posed by Spike’s chatty four-year-old son George.
This story excerpt is from Issue #89
Outback Magazine: June/July 2013