The shearing shed is quiet, dark and lifeless.

There is a faint whiff of sheep dung and human sweat. A few hours ago this wasn’t the case. Four men arrive at the office prepared for banter, repetition and savouries. Each begins a routine befit of a first-five about to kick a penalty.

Clive, a bear of a man with a whale of a belly, smiles a toothless grin and sharpens his blades. Thommo, born looking seventy, glances at the penned-up Merinos and pushes back his mop of grey hair. Stirling, surely the only shearer on the planet with such a regal handle, rummages through his bag and swaps new brown sneakers for well-worn moccasins. Randell, the gang’s raconteur and King Pin, asks how the fuck everyone is and isn’t it about time we got on with business.

The buzzing starts and stops only when the jug is boiled. Randell grabs his first victim as if it were he were a policeman breaking up a fight. The sheep struggles briefly, though realises his captive is a pro. Within minutes Randell is on the board. He flicks his counter and shoves the Merino outside, who scurries down the ramp with the conviction of a gorilla in a swimming pool.

Clive is not far behind, his first sheep now through his legs and free from blades and blood. No one is more grateful than Clive who, despite having arms like fence posts, looks no fitter for it. Once upright his routine begins: wipe face with towel, pull up trousers, whack counter with thumb, spit and wrangle new prey.

At smoko Clive tells us his sister puts tomato sauce on tomato sandwiches. Stirling used to shear in Scotland, don’t you know. The savouries are the first to go, followed by banana cake.

The wool classer tells everyone they’re behind schedule. No one seems bothered. No one likes the wool classer. People call him the Colonel behind his back.

Ricky the rousie sweeps around the men and flays their efforts, clean side down on the table. Randell tells Thommo he’s supposed to be shearing that thing, not rooting it. The clattering of hooves echo on the barn floor. Stirling finds the only Jaffa in the room. Surprised you’re not dead, he says. Doesn’t everyone get murdered up there? Been to Auckland, adds Clive. Went on the rollercoaster and McDonald’s in Manakau.

Randell uses his towel as a pillow against the shed wall. Sweat drips from noses.

Day done. The lack of buzzing is a blessing.

The shearing shed is quiet, dark and lifeless.