Monday, May 23, 2005

Extra curricular studies

Thursday mornings, 1967. We did woodwork. I was average at it. I quite enjoyed the measuring part of it and even the cutting part of it but I wasn't much good at the fine detail of finishing a piece of wood so that it fit with geometric precision into it's appointed place. I do much better these days with software :-)

We were at Footscray Tech which, in those days, was located on Ballarat Road just west of the Footscray Botanic Gardens. There's still a college there but 15 or so years later they moved the secondary school into the old quarry nearby and gave the site where I attended over to college. It's a somewhat vertical site; Ballarat Road is the high point and the land falls away to the Maribyrnong River. Standing in the quadrangle we'd be looking up at the 4 stories of academia and down on the roofs of the trade school workshops.

One Thursday morning, for no reason I can think of to this day, our woodwork teacher decided to skip the woodwork part of our curriculum. He led us out of the workshop, down the hill and along the river bank. We felt it was a novel approach to woodwork but were willing to go with the flow. So we enjoyed the river on our left and the aforementioned Botanical Gardens on our right. Under the bridge where Ballarat Road turns into Newmarket Road and then turned left onto a cattle bridge that led over the river and straight into the abbatoir.

We were almost like sheep to the slaughter. Our teacher led us into the slaughteryard. Lines of live sheep on one side, milling about not unlike ourselves. Men armed with knives grabbing a sheep, cutting it's throat and then stringing it up with a hook thrust through a hind leg whilst still alive, whilst still struggling. The head hanging by only the uncut spine, blood pumping out; washed away by a steady stream of warm water over the stones into a pit full of red. The eyes blinking as the knife cut into the belly and the intestines fell out with a 'gloop' sound. And then the process of taking a whole sheep and turning it into the thousand or more commercial products that a sheep represents if seen in monetary terms.

I honestly don't remember if any of us threw up. But we had haunted eyes that afternoon; even the bullies.

No comments: