A crutching trailer in a western Queensland summer isn't where you would expect to find an 18-year-old woman who had just finished at boarding school in Toowoomba, but Quilpie's Jen Sheehan was so keen to get started, she forewent a week at Schoolies.
Now, 12 months down the track, she has no regrets and has promised her boss, Guy Tindall another year of work.
She states her story in a matter-of-fact way - how she pestered the shearing teams that came to work at Trinidad, her home property, watching and "chewing at the bit to get a handpiece and get into it", and being shown how to place her hands and feet by one of them.
Jen was 16 when she picked up her first handpiece, learning to crutch across the board, the old-fashioned way.
These days she's crutching between 400 and 500 sheep a day on the trailer and says her aim is to beat her boss's tallies of between 600 and 900, and take the first stand.
It's a far cry from a young girl who admits she had body image issues at school and carried a minimal eating habit into her work.
"Tindy noticed straight away - he said, you need to eat more, otherwise you'll get crook and you won't be able to do it anymore," she said. "Working with Tindy fixed a lot of things in my head."
Her employer's first job with his trailer, his 'maiden voyage' as Jen called it, was at Trinidad in 2020, where it was so hot - 38 degrees at 3 o'clock in the morning - that floodlights were set up so everyone could work from 3am to 10am, and knock off in the hottest part of the day, before putting in another few hours at night.
"It was dreadful but I penned up and thought, this is alright," Jen recalled.
When they returned the following year, Guy offered her a handpiece and the chance to do the first run in the morning.
"I ended up doing the whole day, and loved it," she said.
"I remember Tindy looking over at me - I was in such a good mood, so happy, and he said, you are broken.
" I said, probably, a little bit, but I love it."
That went on to a job offer just as Jen was finishing up at The Glennie School in Toowoomba and wondering what her future held.
"It's been a real experience," she said.
She confessed that she would have left school at the end of year 10, except that her mother, Wendy Sheehan said she had to get a job first.
"I didn't like that idea very much, so I said, actually I might just stick it out to year 12," Jen said.
That proved to be a good decision because as well as studying ag science, she did a certificate III in retail assistance, which she said taught her lots of people management skills that she finds is coming in handy now.
"Tindy's telling me how to move my handpiece, or to pay attention to how wide you're coming over - I could step back and see why he was telling me that," she said.
Jen acknowledged that crutching wasn't the most pleasant job, especially this year with the wet conditions being ideal for blowfly strike, but said she could separate not loving a particular situation from loving the overall experience - the noise of the trailer, the music playing as they work is her happy place right now.
In the future, she has work with cattle and horses in mind, to broaden her horizons.
She thinks her mum and dad are a "little bit proud" of their eldest child.
"When we were at home last time, my new best was 161 for the run, and Dad came up afterwards and looked at my counter and looked at me," she said.
"He's like, you are broken. I was so proud of that, I was so keen.
"Mum puts posts up about me crutching and she says she's done a really good job, this is what she does for a living and is doing well out of it."
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