Please My Wool, There’s Too Much

Red alert: we’ve got another sheep shearing emergency

Hello everyone, today I have a hopefully blissful distraction from uh, everything: some urgent sheep shearing news. Also a personal brag, I wrote about falling in love during the time of Covid (and why it was extremely unromantic) for the New York Times. Check it out!

Back to sheep: why do I care? Why do you?

The sheep shearing obsession is Awards for Good Boys canon—much like my dog Clementine being very sexy, the phrase “it’s called branding Alan,” and the doppelgänger, for a start. Where did it come from?

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I drew an adaption of the saga here, which is based on a real text someone submitted to me while doing a roundup of ghost / excuse stories a few years back. (I got the best submissions on the web, sorry to everyone else. I feel so blessed to have been a conduit for such incredible experiences. Thank you for everyone over the years who has shared with me, and for those who continue to. Iconic stuff.)

ID: a screenshot of a text that a stranger submitted to Shelby. It reads “Hey [name redacted]. Sorry for the late reply. The shearing boss rang me last night & I’ve been busy sorting out all sorts as I need to pack up & head out bush as I’m working all the rest of the week in the shearing shed so unfortunately I won’t be able to meet up for dinner this evening.”

Here’s the context from the person who sent it along, where they say it happened to them today, it could be a joke—but then again—they are in Western Australia and “those sheep won’t shear themselves.” Valid!

After posting these stories I was thrilled to learn that 1) I have a lot of Australian followers and 2) many sheep shearing experts in my orbit. What unfolded was a very nuanced and rational discussion, for literally years, about whether the emergency sheep shear qualified as a good excuse for bailing last minute on a date or not.

ID: a screenshot of a DM Shelby got, where a semi-professional sheep shearer (who owns several wool bearing sheep) explains that the sheep shearing excuse sounds like bullshit. Essentially they say, it would be improbable for a job to be so drastic that you had to drop everything.

Every few months the wool thickened: a new sheep expert or sheep fact would emerge, dislodging our collective sense of finality to the sheep shearing shenanigans.

ID: another screenshot from a sheep shearing expert, this person shears as a side hustle and clarifies the job is actually very time sensitive — sheep need to be sheared 1-3 days before auction or if it’s very hot out to prevent heat exhaustion.

Whether or not the original sheep shearer had a legitimate emergency or not, we’ll never know. But what we can be certain of is that there are indeed situations in which having TOO MUCH WOOL is a dire, urgent, necessary task to attend to. Confirming this is the niche and sustained coverage of…sheep with too much wool. There have been SEVERAL news stories the past few years about rogue sheep who, after years, are found with way too much wool and often require an emergency shearing. Shall we list them? Yes, let’s.

“Shrek” - 2004

Okay admittedly I sourced info on Shrek from a deeply weird website but check out this amazing quote: “In fact, after 6 years without any haircuts, Shrek had enough wool to produce 20 suits for men, large men. Each year Shrek continued to grow the normal amount of hair for a Merino sheep, but since it was never shed or cut off, he was found with 6 times the average amount of Merino fleece. His fleece in total weighed around 60 pounds!”

ID: a watercolor painting Shelby did of a very round sheep with too much wool. Above the sheep reads “Please my wool,” and below says “there’s too much.”

Shrek had enough wool to produce 20 suits for men, large men.

Shrek was an actual celebrity, and his death was mourned. "He was just an ordinary sheep, went Awol and hid, and when he was found he became the darling of the nation.”

“Chris” — 2015

‘Welfare crews warned it risked death because it was so woolly from living in the wild for several years. More than 40kg (88lb) of wool was removed in what the RSPCA says is the heaviest wool haul from one shearing,” a BBC News report on Chris reads. This was a true sheep shearing emergency, so much that “[n]ational shearing champion Ian Elkins was urgently called in on Wednesday to tackle the mammoth merino.”

Confirmed emergency sheep shear. Confirmed!!!!!! 

“Prickles” — 2020

"She's quite a sight to behold and she's quite glorious. But luckily, she was very healthy under all of that, and very nimble for such extreme proportions," sheep farmer Alice Gray, who owns Prickles, told As It Happens host Carol Off.

“She is absolutely round,” Gray tells ABC Radio Hobart. “She's a great big fluffy ball of wool.”

Absolutely bewitching. She is absolutely round. Quite glorious, quite nimble for such extreme proportions. Amazing work Prickles.

And lastly, the reason this is relevant, is that 1,000,000 million people tagged me in the most recent example of a sheep shearing emergency this week. It is an honor to be see and known so intimately, thank you.

“Baarack” —2021

“Baarack is the latest in a long line of very large and woolly sheep to make international headlines,” the Guardian reports.

The Guardian also includes a helpful visualization of how much wool there really is. The below graphic has a list of famous overgrown sheep—the ranking is clear. Chris wins: that wool could make 574 socks, or 71.8 sweaters.

Shaun the sheep, mentioned above, is actually quite hard to find information about, no doubt because searching Shaun the sheep brings up Wallace and Gromit only. But I found this video:

Watching sheep shearing is truly incredible. Here is Shrek getting sheared:

My friend Darcie recently showed me the sheep shearing contests, which I am absolutely bewitched by:

Side note, tell me this isn’t hot! It’s hot! I would…like to be handled like the sheep…it’s going fine over here everyone.

Okay, that concludes our current recap of sheep shearing emergencies. I think we can agree: sheep shearing emergencies definitively exist. There is, yes, such a thing as too much wool. Unwieldy, dangerous, claustrophobic wool, making them absolutely round. Was the original ghoster summoned for one of these record breaking sheep? We’ll never know. But the excuse isn’t as improbable as say the person who pulled this one:

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If you’re a sheep shearer, or have some sheep facts, please comment below so we can keep the mystery alive. Also as always, feel free to send me your weird dating and ghosting stories. As is perhaps evident I only want the fun ones: ones with animals, twigs, feathers, dads dressed as gnomes, warlocks. The usual!

What else I’m reading:

This whole thread:

Subs only newsletter is gonna be about this article, everyone should read it anyways, I think it’s quite telling!

Email is too long for a photo of Clem, I’m so sorry. Please know that she’s currently sitting on my feet and is medium-small today, pretty round, looking definitively hot.

Sending love and warm vibes,
Shelby + Clem