Please, My Wool, There Is Just Enough
An interview with Right Choice Shearing!
As a midweek treat, I’m atoning for my lack of recent newsletters by giving you a very special, extremely timely, and politically urgent update. I’ve been so excited to share this with you, so alas, here you go.
“Can you explain the sheep shearing thing?” Ask many messages to the @awardsforgoodboys inbox.
“The sheep shearing thing” can be read about in full detail here, but here’s the gist: I am blessed with an inbox from Heaven/Hell, in which people tell me their deepest secrets, their darkest desires. And, sometimes, about that time they got stood up on a date because of a “sheep shearing emergency.”
Naturally, this incident became canon. And how could it not? There was something for everyone. The universality of being ghosted, the almost admirable extent to which this person has devised a means to evade the date. The potential, of course, that it’s real, which asks us to consider the sheep of it all, and what such an emergency might look like. I drew it exactly as it must have happened below:
Like many of our seemingly niche interests, we often find they aren’t so niche at all. Sheep shearing is definitively having a moment, because of what I’d expertly surmise is a heady combination of ASMR-like satisfaction of the process and the undeniable sexiness of seeing such handling. The complicated desire to either shear the sheep or be the sheep—look, there are reasons. And whatever yours are, you’re here, aren’t you?
Which is all to say: for years, the mystery of the sheep searing saga has captured much of the @awardsforgoodboys universe. People from all over the world chimed in about the potential il/legitimacy of such an excuse. But there was no definitive answer. Until now.
I was thrilled to connect with Katie of Right Choice Shearing, THE preeminent internet shearers, with compelling viral videos describing the necessity of shearing, teaching us the basics, and indulging our myriad yearnings to watch this satisfying process unfold. If anyone was going to explain sheep shearing to us, these were the folks.
Below, the interview. I highly recommend doing a deep dive of all their content, which I’ll link throughout! Thanks to Right Choice Shearing for generously giving me the time to answer such pressing questions, and thanks to you all for being here. Enjoy!
Shelby: You have 2 million followers on TikTok. Which is huge! When / how did that happen? Do you feel like people were always interested in sheep shearing and this medium just helped connect people to your job, or was there a surge in interest generally?
Right Choice Shearing: The followers happened really fast. My first couple of videos were just funny encounters that I had at different jobs, but where I began to take off was when people watched the fleece being removed and thought it was satisfying. I wouldn’t say that people were interested in the sheep shearing, specifically, but were more mesmerized by the fleece coming off. It wasn’t until after I began animal stories that my content really took off. I believe there’s something therapeutic about watching an animal relax into the shearer while listening to a unique or humorous story. That keeps people coming back. I crossed the million follower threshold after a story about an incredibly chunky sheep that I called a potato. I designed the video with a loop and I believe that helped it get the 65 million views.
S: How did you get into shearing?
RCS: I fell into it at 14. I watched a friend shear my show goat and when my mom spotted a craigslist ad for a lady needing her sheep shorn, I was confident that I was a pro. We went out there with a friend of mine and sheared 7 sheep for 4 hours before completion. To be honest, we did a terrible job, but the lady was just glad to have somebody to do it for her, and didn’t hesitate to spread the word to her friends. The couple of places had llamas and alpacas, and we just kept faking it until we made it. Due to a falling out with my parents, I had to start my business over my senior year of high school, finding new clients and rebuilding my name. I used it to pay my way through college, and at the end of my Animal Science degree from Texas A&M, knew I didn’t want an office job. So I convinced my fiancee at the time (didn’t take much) to take the leap with me to move this full time. And 4 years later, it’s the best decision we’ve made.
S: How often do they need shearing? I'm not sure you can answer this but worth a try - why do unsheared sheep capture our attention so much?
RCS: The proper schedule for shearing most fiber animals is once a year, typically in the spring. This is the ideal time to remove their heavy winter coats before summer, and allow them plenty of time to grow another coat for the next winter. Some long wool breeds require a second shearing in the fall. I believe that massively overgrown animals are captivating for two reasons: shock and awe. People from farming lifestyles or agricultural backgrounds see something unnatural like that and are floored by how much is removed, whereas people not exposed that type of lifestyle are amazed by the before and afters. Looking at a sheep like Shrek, the one found a few years ago who had been dodging shearing, there is an immense difference in how large he was before the shearing compared to the sweet clean face of him post-haircut. I think videos like that easily combat the misinformed idea that sheep don’t need shearing.
S: What’s the most wool you've ever sheared?
RCS: From both a llama and a sheep, Ive removed fleeces that were heavier than a sack of feed, which is the equivalence of 50lbs. I don’t carry a scale with me, and most owners aren’t interested in the weight of the mats, so who knows how much they actually weighed.
S: It seems like you get called in for a lot of emergency shearing. Have you ever had to cancel plans to make it to a shearing at the last minute? Have you ever cancelled a date because of this?
RCS: Realistically, shearing is never an emergency. To be honest, most of the overgrown animals I arrive to, I had no previous indication that they were overgrown. I have about 500 clients return every year, and all of those animals are shorn on a proper schedule. It’s the new clients where I find overgrowth. Finding a shearer for small farms has proven to be very difficult for many owners. That’s where I come in. Most shearers work on crews that service large herds and literally don’t have enough time in the day to make it to small hobby farms. Many owners were on a desperate search to find someone when they stumble upon me. Shearing is a difficult task, and if you lack experience there is a lot of room for error. Some owners attempt to remove the wool, but are intimidated by the sharp teeth of the blades. No one wants to nick a sheep, especially the owner. This can lead to animals that aren’t shorn as close to the skin as they should be, and over time this can cause a buildup that presents as overgrowth. I don’t believe anyone looks at their animal and says, “nope! No haircut for you!” But things happen and life gets in the way. I’m not here to judge, just to help.
S: Ok reason I ask this is because I will perhaps share my interest in sheep shearing and get your expert opinion: years ago, I would collect peoples worst “someone ghosted me right before a date” story. Often times these were really outlandish, but sometimes they were so specific as to seem very legitimate. So, there’s this one memorable text that someone sent to cancel a plan saying that they had a last minute sheep shearing emergency. At the time I knew considerably less about shearing than I do now (in large part thanks to your account). So for years I've been wondering, and gotten some expert input from people who shear as a side hustle or have grown up around the business - about - is this valid. Is it possible there was a shearing emergency. What would it look like, did it look exactly like this.
RCS: Shearing is honestly never an emergency, but rather maintenance. Even if an animal was in the middle of a heat stroke, this would not constitute an emergency shear. If we think about it in a biological sense, the heat from the environment is causing the body to use more energy to maintain a level, normal temperature. Handling an animal in that severe condition would only stress it out more, resulting in the body working even harder to find more energy, and could be the animal’s demise. In fact, if I have summer shearing, I am constantly looking for signs of heat stress. If they’re present, I stop what Im doing immediately and allow the animal to recover before starting again, or if enough fiber has been removed, I will call it quits without concern of how “pretty” they look. Shearers aren’t veterinarians, and if there is an animal emergency, we shouldn’t be the first call. The summer isn’t the time to be looking for a shearer. By then, we are all booked up and busy shearing those who have been on our list for six months.
S: Do people hit on you in the comments of the sheep shearing videos? How do you navigate that dynamic / how has that been?
RCS: Haha, yes. I was pretty surprised at first by how many were more focused on my smile than the animal the video was about. I’m as flattered as anybody would be. My wife, Darian, is incredibly beautiful and typically the one to catch people’s eyes, so this newfound “attention” has come out of left field for me. I honestly think it’s incredibly beautiful that people are so kind. I don’t hide that I’m married and it’s obviously no more than a compliment from a stranger, it would make anyone feel good. Darian and I live by a “rule” that if someone looks nice, we think their outfit is cute, or they do something that brings a smile to our face, we let them know. There’s too much hate in the world, too much negativity, that when we find ourselves thinking kind, positive thoughts, we ought to share them. So I navigate these compliments with a simple thank you, and allow it to bring light in my life.
Well Katie—we think you and Darian are amazing! Thank you for bringing light into so many of our lives!
If for some reason you haven’t seen their videos before, dive in below!
I’ll be thinking about what this means in terms of the sheep shearing excuse for a long while. I hope you will be too. If you’re new to reading my newsletters, let me suggest a few that will help to get to know me better!
If you know my work from Instagram, here’s a long explanation about why I stopped using that platform and generally hate the internet, from around this time last year.
Here’s a photo of me and my dog:
With love and see you in your inboxes again soon,
Shelby + Clem