Watch: Tiny 'Make-Believe' Shearer Who Wants To Be Just Like Dad
Every day four-year-old Charlie dons his blue shearing singlet and jeans so he can “shear” his teddies.
Pretending to shear, just like his dad, is his favourite activity on the family sheep station near Ivanhoe, NSW, according to mum, Rachel Fitzgerald.
“He knows you have to wear the right clothes to shear and have really upbeat music on,” she told 10 daily.
“He uses a towel as the fleece and throws it in the air to spread it out like a wool classer. He pays so much attention to the details, he even hangs up a little sweat towel!”
The game is also popular with Charlie’s brothers, who Fitzgerald lovingly calls “our bush boys”.
“The boys are right into it. They even mark the teddies when it’s marking time on the station, whatever is happening around the farm they do.”
Charlie recently upgraded his teddy clippers from a fork to authentic-looking home-made shears thanks to a family friend.
“My friend asked him: ‘How did you learn to shear, did Dad teach you?’ and he said: ‘No, I taught myself!”
His Dad Joel spent years working as a shearer to save enough money to buy the family property, where they’ve now lived for almost a decade.
“His Dad would absolutely love it if he became a shearer,” Fitzgerald said.
"Joel’s still shearing at 40 and it’s hard, very hard work. We encourage the kids to get a trade as well but Charlie’s only four so if Dad does it, he does it. Charlie probably has the best technique of them all!”
“He’s only four, but he wants to be a shearer whether or not there’s any wool from him,” she said.
However, the boys' dream could be left in the dust, along with the family's dry paddocks.
Despite a short reprieve, little rain at the station means the family will have to start the expensive task of hand-feeding their sheep.
“It’s looking terrible out here, the town’s suffering, everyone is struggling.”
“If we have to sell off stock we’ll do it and we’ll keep shearing if we have too. There’s good money in it if you’re as good at it as Joel is."
The positive point is echoed by Jason Letchford, secretary of the Shearing Contractors Association of Australia.
“The industry has arguably never been better for wool and sheepmeat but we have to get rid of this drought," he told 10 daily.
"There’s a great career opportunity lifestyle and money-wise, it can really set you up in your younger years.
“Shearing means you can travel and see Australia or nowadays, the world. Aussie and Kiwi shearers are in demand in the UK, US - all over."
Despite the drawcards, there's a huge shortage of shearers in Australia, which Letchford attributes to many reasons including that 'less people wanting to tough it out in the bush”.
“About 30 years ago, the numbers were around 11,000 and now we’re down to about 3,000," he said.
"It’s falling at a faster rate than the sheep numbers are dropping. But when the drought breaks, sheep numbers will go back up and we’ll need more shearers.”
Seeing little Charlie’s enthusiasm for shearing is a welcome sight to the pros.
“There are opportunities for this young fella but for women too,” he added.
“For the last 10-15 years, only about three per cent of our shearers are women and we need more. We need less stereotyping - shearers do have to be fit and reasonably strong, but it’s more about technique.”
All Charlie needs is to stay “head down, bum up” and hang in there for rain.
While Santa can’t help with the weather, he can hopefully tick a few items off Charlie’s Christmas wish list.
“All he wants for Christmas is a shearing sling, shearing back and oil can to oil his handpiece,” Fitzgerald said.
“Oh! And a brush to wash his combs and cutters.”