At twenty-five, Hank owns a small parcel of land in Australia’s rural southwest where he supplements his income from the property with seasonal shearing. Hank is a “shearing gun”—an ace shearer able to shear large numbers of sheep in a single day. His own father kicked him out when his sexuality was revealed, and since no one would ever hire a gay shearer, Hank has remained firmly closeted ever since.
Elliot is the newbie doctor in town—city-born and somewhat shell-shocked from his transplant to the country. When a football injury brings Hank to Elliot’s attention, an inappropriate sexual glance and the stuttered apology afterward kickstarts their friendship. Romance and love soon blossom, but it’s hard for either of them to hope for anything permanent. As if the constant threat of being caught isn’t enough, Elliot’s contract runs out after only a year.
“OI. I think the Doc is finally here.”
Neil nudged me with his elbow, sending shooting pain through my possibly-dislocated-and-most-probably-broken shoulder and collarbone. I hissed and swiveled around in my chair to thump him solidly in the stomach. My fist hit with accuracy, finding the soft area under his ribs and causing his breath to whistle out through his teeth and his face to turn beet red. He clutched his belly and fell to the floor with his legs pulled up.
My knuckles smarted from the hit, but it was worth it. It took my mind off my other injury for a bit, and Neil’s dramatic antics as he writhed around on the floor amused me. Maybe he didn’t deserve to be hit so hard, but what’s a thump or two between mates, right?
The nurse-cum-receptionist looked up from her files and gave us a frown across the empty waiting room, but it didn’t last long. I’m sure she had seen plenty of lads do exactly the same thing. In fact when the two of us rocked up at the clinic, both still in our footy uniform and liberally smeared with mud and grass, me clutching my arm, she had simply rolled her eyes and reached for the phone. She pointed to the four plastic chairs in the tiny waiting room while dialing. “Sit over there while I find the doctor on call.”
Our tiny town of Dumbleyung, in the wheat-sheep-belt area in the south of Western Australia, didn’t have a hospital. All it had was a GP clinic with two doctors, which doubled as an Accident and Emergency Department if ever there were an accident or emergency. Old Doc Larsen had been around since before World War One—or so it seemed. The gentleman was as old as the hills, and the community loved him. Nowadays the man was still working full time when he should’ve been semiretired.
Fifty years ago, each little town throughout the rural area had its own doctor, but as farming practices modernized, the number of people in the towns shrunk and doctors couldn’t make a living. So they had to cover more area and share their resources. Old Doc Larsen took on a full-time employee, and together they ran a clinic in town and visited three neighboring towns each week for one-day clinic hours.
A young guy in his late twenties pulled up out front in a white four-wheel-drive vehicle. He entered the building and he wasn’t Doc Larsen, so I assumed he was the newbie Doc in town. He pushed his sunnies on top of his head and glanced over at Neil on the floor before addressing the nurse.
“Hey, Gloria. What do you have for me? Gastro, by the looks of it?”
I restrained the urge to laugh at the guy. A city wanker by the looks and sounds of it. Only someone born in the city would be wearing cream-colored jeans with a smart pleat down the front in the bush, where walking from your house to the side gate would get you dirty, and only a city bloke would think that two guys would bother the Doc on a Sunday for something as mild as gastro.
Out here you only went to the hospital if you were dying. Blokes in the country could pretty much doctor any animal—anything from birth complications to stitches to amputations—and humans were simply an animal, weren’t they?
We sewed up our own wounds, or got a mate to do it if it was in a place that you couldn’t reach by yourself. I’d seen guys splint and wrap up their broken bones and get back to work after swallowing a handful of painkillers. Infections were treated with veterinary products, and you only saw a quack if you were too sick to see to your livestock.
Gastro? Shit, my mate Gavin had gastro on the Broun job we did together a while back. He tossed the contents of his stomach after every sheep he managed to shear, then spent smoko in the bushes with it coming out the other end. He still managed to shear two sixty that day.
“No,” Nurse Gloria answered the Doc. “That one is suffering from a bad case of dumb-itis. It’s incurable and hits at odd times. Your patient is the one clutching his arm. With the smirk on his face.”
I fought the need to reach up and swipe at the smile I didn’t realize I was wearing. Gloria was a good sort who obviously knew Neil a bit more than I thought. No wonder he volunteered to drive me to the clinic.
“Oh,” said the doctor. “I see.”
Neil coughed a couple of times and picked himself off the floor. “Shit, Hank. Can you at least give a guy a chance to apologize for his mistake before you use your fist?” He shook his head.
Gloria handed the doctor a white file and he looked at the name before glancing my way again. “Henry Woods?”
I ignored Neil’s scoffing sound and stood, answering the Doc, “Hank. Call me Hank.” I hated the name Henry.
I followed him into the clinic treatment area and waved as I heard Neil call, “I’ll be at the pub when the quack has finished with you.”
There were two beds, and I hopped up on the side of the nearest one as the doctor washed his hands in the nearby basin. With the room empty of anyone apart from the two of us, I felt safe enough to allow my gaze to drop down the length of his body and check out his arse. It was a bit scrawny as far as arses go, but not bad. His physique was not as well developed as I was used to, working with men of the land, but pleasant enough. Nothing to write home about, even if Dad and Paul were receptive to me talking about that sort of thing.
Which they weren’t.
We didn’t talk about it at all. The queerness, I mean. Dad and Paul knew about it, but pretended they didn’t. If you don’t acknowledge it, it doesn’t exist, right? I’d even had to move from my hometown, just in case the secret came out.
Not that I indulged at home. That would be suicide—professional suicide. No one would hire a queer shearer. They didn’t understand that I compartmentalized my life. On the job I never checked out other guys. But the empty treatment room of the local medical clinic wasn’t on the job. So I looked.
I wasn’t overly impressed.
The Doc dried his hands and turned back to me. “So what have you—”
“What’s your name?” I interrupted.
He looked disconcerted for a moment. Since he was a doctor with all that book-learning stuff in his head, I wondered if he thought he was God. Some guys did. I’d had appendicitis three years earlier, soon after I moved to the area, and I’d to come to this clinic. Back then there was another young doctor, foreign born, from India or something. He never once looked you in the eye while he was talking to you and always had his head in his notes.
I saw a faint blush steal across this guy’s cheeks, and he stopped short, the paper towel still in his hands where he was drying them.
“My apologies,” he said with a smile. “I didn’t realize I hadn’t introduced myself. I’m Doctor Elliot Stockton-Montgomery. How do you do?”
In my mind I winced at his pretentious name and pretentious words and wondered if it hurt having that plank permanently stuck up his arse. “Shit, Doc. I’m here at the clinic on a bloody Sunday; how the hell do you think I’m doing?”
That earned me another twitch of his mouth. “Yes… well.” He cleared his throat. “So tell me what you’ve done to yourself and we’ll see about fixing you up.”
“Meself?” I snorted. “You think I’d do this to me-self? Nah, it was them bloody mongrels from Corrigin. They can’t kick a footy straight, so they hit you hard to try ’n’ knock you out so’s you don’t know which is the arse end of your dog. Them wallies jumped on me in the second quarter. Three of them. It was fucking Big D MacDonald who took me for a flyer, and then his brother and cousin used me like a trampoline. Hard. The wankers. I showed them, though. Got me a fifty-meter and thumped that red turkey through. Then three more times that quarter and once in the third before Coach yanked me because I dropped a sitter when I didn’t use me sore arm.”
The Doc blinked a couple of times through my explanation, but to his credit he didn’t drop his eyes. “Let me get this straight,” he asked. “You were playing football against a team from Corrigin, whose skills were poor, so they tried to make up for it by rough play. One player threw you to the ground and two others sat on you. You received a penalty and a shot at scoring. You scored a goal, then four more before, until about forty minutes after your initial injury, the coach of your team made you stop playing because you didn’t catch the ball cleanly?”
I frowned at him. “Yeah. Isn’t that what I just said?”
He had a funny little smile playing around his mouth as his gaze dropped to my arm and shoulder. “Just checking. So, can you point to where your arm hurts the most?”
He examined my arm and had me lift and twist it. I tried to keep the fucks to a minimum, which meant I only said it about fifty times, instead of one hundred and fifty.
“I’m going to have to cut this shirt off you, Hank. I understand it’s your football uniform, but we need it off.”
I sighed. “Sure, Doc. I know. Just cut it along the seam at the shoulder, could you? Then I can stitch it back up later.”
“You can sew?” he asked me in astonishment.
“’Course,” I told him. “My dad taught us so we can stitch up cuts on the sheep when we need to.”
I think I shocked the poor guy. These city guys have no idea what it is to live in the bush. The pain in my arm was throbbing now that he’d had me move it all around, so I clenched my teeth and waited while he cut my footy singlet. He was very gentle as he moved it down under my elbow and then up over my head until I was naked to the waist.
I was in pain, but I thought I caught him glancing at me. You know? In that way? He could’ve been checking me out, or he could’ve been discreetly looking at my scars. I have one on my stomach from my appendix operation that’s not exactly small. I waited too long before going to the hospital, and the bloody bugger burst. Caused an awful mess inside me, apparently. I also have a nice big one on my upper left, a bit above my nipple. A feral ram caught me with his horn when I was a teenager. Tore right through my shirt and skin, that one did. Dad did the stitching for me.
Doc poked and prodded my bones a bit more, and any thoughts of sexual looks flew out of my mind.
“I’ll give you a quick X-ray to double check, but I’m pretty sure it’s a simple collarbone fracture. There doesn’t seem to be any dislocation, and the bone is still relatively stable. As long as the bone is good, then it will simply be rest for at least eight weeks. No work at all. If the bone is not stable, then you will need to go to Perth and have the fracture pinned.”
“You have to be joking, Doc. Who do you think is going to look after my place for eight weeks if I can’t work? Not to mention the income I lose from shearing. I can’t be out for eight weeks!”
But Doctor Elliot Stock-whatever-the-hell had turned deaf. He stuck a needle in my thigh to dull the pain, then walked me down to the tiny X-ray machine at the back. With the required X-rays taken, he helped me back onto the bed and left me to contemplate my future.
Shearing was definitely out in the short term. Luckily it was only the beginning of winter and the peak shearing season wasn’t on us, but I still had a couple of jobs that I had signed on for in the following two months. I had me a spread of land north of town and a couple hundred head of sheep that I raised. I also grew several paddocks of crop per season. Not shearing meant a loss of income that I needed to expand and do repairs around the place. But if I were unable to care for the land and animals, I was in deep shit.
Doped up on whatever painkiller Doc Elliot had given me, I made plans and cursed my rotten luck.
The Shearing Gun by Renae Kaye is one of those heartwarming, enduring stories I will go back to read over and over again.
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Always good to see the character(s) decide that living life that makes them happy versus how others think how it should be lived. Recommended read.
Loved this book.
Both main characters are very lovable. There are good friends, great uncles, little angst, lots of humor, Australia, Hot farmer, cute doctor what more could you want? I enjoyed reading this book very much and i´m also a little sad it´s finished, i wouldn´t mind a sequel :)
I highly recommend!
A gorgeous young doctor from the big city and a hot and bothered gun shearer, what more do you need? Hank is a local boy working his sheep farm and keeping out of trouble: playing footy, drinking with his mates and trying to make it alone on his farm. Elliot is new to town, new to rural life and new to the demands of being the local doctor. These boys are funny, sweet and oh so hot!
I think I smiled for all 224pages! I laughed, I shed a few tears but overall I smiled. The language was beautiful and Hank's voice was delightful. His Aussie vernacular was endearing and flowed so well from the page.
Renae Kaye has, again, written a wonderful story about two boys finding each other. A love story for all readers. Can't wait for more!
Hank and Elliot are adorable. The banter and the way they are with each other makes the story all more interesting.
What surprised me the most about the story is that even though there is talk about sheep and country living it is extremely helpful to view that part to understand Hank more.
Another great book !
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