If only they had downloadable audiobooks in the 1940s…

by Kit Munro

Whether or not a mob of sheep can be mustered largely depends on the size of the mob. It is not often that a mob of sheep is too large. As a boy, when wool was king, I remember my parents moving a mob of nearly one thousand wethers. Even a fairly average musterer with a team of dogs can move a lot larger mob than that. However, a mob of sheep can be too small to move. One thousand sheep will behave much the same as one hundred. But 3 sheep will not behave the same as thirty.

As Murray Ball once wrote “the only thing harder than trying to control a mob of steers is trying to control one steer”.

So, it is easier if the numbers of sheep are particularly small to transport them rather than make them walk under their own steam. Take these two wayward rams today for example:

Carting them back in the granny lifter (the thing that a granny uses to lift sheep, not a thing used to lift grannies) is much easier than getting the sheepdog to try and control them.

Carting two sheep in the granny lifter is not as fun as mustering them

I don’t usually listen to a book that I had already read but today I have been listening to A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute. I had read it years ago, but my co-worker wanted an audiobook version of it so I thought I might as well make use of it. It has a bit of everything; war, romance, adventure, crocodile shoes, and poddy-dodging. The story jumps back and forth between London, Malaysia, and Australia.

A Town Like Alice describes two types of work that I think would have been perfect for audiobook listening:

Working in a rice paddy:

As soon as they became accustomed to the novelty of working ankle-deep in mud and water they did not find the work exacting, and presently they were seized with an ambition to show the village that white mems could do as much work as Malay women, or more….

Working in these fields is not unpleasant when you get accustomed to it. There are worse things to do in a very hot country than to put on a large conical sun-hat of plaited palm leaves and take off most of your clothes, and play about with mud and water, damming and diverting little trickling streams.

And working in a shoe factory:

The monotony was irksome to the older girls who had left school for some years, or who had never been to school at all. She tried to help them by ordering an automatic changing gramophone from Cairns, with a supply of records; the music certainly intrigued and amused the whole of Willstown and may have helped the older girls a little, but not much.

If only those poor folk had talking books. Still I suppose gossip and camaraderie would have hopefully kept boredom at bay…

I found my copy of a Town Like Alice by Nevile Shute here. If anyone knows of another place this audiobook is available please let me know in the comments below.