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Sheep shearing school shows how to clip the wool

Published: Nov. 15, 2021 at 4:32 PM EST
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ROCKBRIDGE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - “It’s a dance,” Doug Rathke said. “You’ve got to keep rolling.”

He has been shearing sheep for more than four decades in more than twenty countries around the world.

“I’ve been doing since I’m 18,” Rathke said. “I’m 61.”

So he knows what he’s talking about, and that’s why folks signed up to learn from him how to shear sheep.

“There’s little tricks here and there,” said Rathke. “Learning from everybody possible. I learn things here listening to my students.”

It’s actually a skill in demand.

“There is a tremendous opportunity of employment in shearing right now, because people are, the age limit, or the average age of people that are still shearing is going up and up and up,” he explained, “and these young people have an opportunity if they want to go do it.”

But as they practice, the students are learning not just skills, but that it’s a real workout.

“People don’t see how hard a job it is,” Rathke said. “It’s physical, you ask any of these students, and I tell them first day, this is a very hard job.”

But one he hopes keeps being done.

“I mean, like one older guy told me, he says, you know, I ain’t going to worry about who’s going to shear them after I quit. Somebody sheared them before I did, then I sheared them, somebody else can shear them when I’m done.”

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