As I reflect on my time researching in this vast country, I acknowledge I’ve only had a brief glimpse at the quilt of stories that makes up the culture and controversies of wool farming in Australia and life in the bush. From the hills of South Australia where my hands were rough and cracked from the dry air, to the warm salty water of the Indian Ocean lapping up to red sand desert in Western Australia, every day of this journey has shown me something new and interesting about the industry that I never considered before entering the country. Shearers, working dogs, woolsheds, Rossi boots, and four-wheel drive Utes are only small parts of the mass of field notes I’ve acquired. I’ve mustered, drafted, wrangled, tagged, classed, and skirted, but most importantly, I’ve met the people behind the industry and talked with those whose entire lives have revolved around Australian sheep and Merino wool. I’m incredibly grateful to the people who have welcomed me into their homes and have been willing to share a story or two while waiting for the billy to boil. None of my research would have been possible without the suntanned Aussies who guided me through my first muster up to my last days spent as a jillaroo and were happy to answer my endless questions about sheep, flies, and marketing all the while. While this is my final official research post, I know that my research will continue, both with people I meet along the road travelling and with the snippets and stories I catch in local papers and on the news. I don’t think I’ll ever be totally done with Australia, sheep, and wool. The Australian desert has a way of grabbing hold of people.
As Robyn Davidson said in her memoir about walking across the Australian desert with camels, “Camel trips do not begin or end, they merely change form,” (1980). I think the same is true of sheep adventures.
So long for now!