DUCKS ON THE POND! Back in the day, you would hear this ring through the woolshed, to announce the impending arrival of women. Usually carrying over smoko, the swearing would stop and the men would be on their best behavior.
Meet Ash Flintoft. She’s not just a little duck on some pond, she’s a woman of the downtube.
Ash wasn’t born into a shearing family. In fact, she didn’t have anything to do with the wool industry until she took up work on a sheep station in her late teens. While the station work was all fine and dandy, it was shearing that she fell in love with at first sight.
‘ I never had anything to do with the sheds when I was a kid. I ended up working on a sheep station where my boss (Gary Wilkonson from Essential Shearing) was shearing and I picked up with him from there! Then I just started rousying and worked my way up.’
Early learning for Ash was all done on site in the woolsheds she was working in. She first learnt what is thought to be the easiest part of the sheep to shear – the last side. Just a small taste of a career that was right at her fingertips,+ had her wanting more.
‘ My boss sent me to a shearing school. After that he had me go on the (crutching) trailer to improve and get a proper feel for the handpiece. I eventually got a stand!’
The first stand Ash shore on wasn’t a soft little push into shearing. It was at a woolshed near Coober Pedy in 45 degree heat. Nonetheless she gave it all she had and proudly pumped out 67 ewes on her first day. Her first 100 sheep shorn for the day was close to follow, only a short three months later. Her personal best currently sits at 130 sheep for the day.
While she is blazing ahead in what is surely to be a long and prosperous career in wool, injury has put a temporary halt to her dream of full time shearing.
‘I can’t wait to get back on my stand and get my 200 or more. I couldn’t of got to where I am today without my boss (Gary Wilkonson) and his help and working alongside (industry legend) Bryne Darby.’