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Go to article index for other editions of Bob Orrick's IN RE (In the Matter of).

A Woolly Story

By Margaret Manning

Although I live in the warmest part of New Zealand, I was sorely tempted recently to purchase one (or more) of the magnificent woollen garments on sale throughout the South Island. A good percentage of the wonderfully attractive jumpers and cardigans were hand-knitted; the designs and quality first class. The materials used ranged from 100% Merino wool, to mixtures of Merino and Alpaca, Merino and Possum, Alpaca and Silk, and other variations.

Merino products are highly prized because of the density of the wool. The sheep certainly need the extra thickness to survive the very cold winters of the South Island’s high country. Mustering sheep for shearing is a difficult task in this steep country and would not be possible without the aid of dogs. A monument recognising the role of sheep dogs is a tourist attraction (along with The Church of the Good Shepherd) at the southern end of Lake Tekapo. The day we were there, the weather was perfect with some warmth left in the sun. The following week the monument and Church had a good coating of snow.

A few days after we returned from our South Island trip, a Merino ram that had evaded the musterers for six years became an instant television celebrity. The ram, quickly named "Shrek", was photographed from all angles by photographers more used to city life. He lives on Bendigo Station, on very high country between Cromwell and the dot on the map called Tarras. That sheep would have had wonderful views of lakes and mountains. When I looked on my software program that shows every part of New Zealand in minute detail, I saw that Bendigo Station has many areas marked as "Cliff Face" so the terrain in reality is a lot more difficult than the bits we saw in the "Shrek Story". You have to wonder how the Station holders do the mustering at all, even with the help of dogs, and how on earth Shrek survived that terrain carrying six years’ growth of wool.

The day came when Shrek had to be shorn. This was a television spectacle in itself. New Zealand’s top shearer was asked to do the job but as he uses electric shears it was decided to do the job the old fashioned way and call in a man who was a champion hand shearer. It was hard to reconcile a sheep that had lived wild for six years with the docile animal that did not struggle when placed in position for shearing.

The fleece was 375 mm. long and weighed 20.5 kilos (about 50 pounds). It was removed without any cuts to the sheep.

After that, Shrek made a trip to Parliament in Wellington to meet our Prime Minister and was to go on a "speaking tour" of New Zealand to raise money for a childrens’ charity. I personally feel he should now be allowed to live his life in peace on his high country station.opeHHo

Margaret Manning was born in England but emigrated to N.Z. with husband Eric in 1966. She trained as a Shorthand Typist/Secretary and has had several interesting jobs, including a spell at an overseas mission in Fiji, and as a self-employed storekeeper. Margaret became interested in freelance writing when in Fiji and has had articles accepted by newspapers and magazines in N.Z. and overseas. Her other main interests are genealogy, cooking, Mah Jong and Croquet.

Margaret lives in the Far North of New Zealand near 90 Mile Beach.

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