Heroes who stink of smoke. Thank God for our volunteer firemen.

October 22, 2013

Thommo used to wear the funny overalls. He’d disappear, every time there was smoke on the horizon.

We didn’t get it. Why would a young bloke leave a pub full of cool drinks, to play with fire trucks and big hoses?

Our home town was surrounded by bush, so Thommo and his mates were always busy in summer. A few times I saw him after fighting fires. Covered in soot and ash, and stinking of smoke.

Eventually, we worked it out. Our friend was one of a special breed. Heroes, who risk their lives, to save others. From the most frightening of foes.

Time and again, they’d head into the scrub. Saving the day, before flames reached properties.

Their actions were repeated in towns across the nation. Men and women, from all walks of life. Standing as one, against the flames.

Talk to them, and they’ll tell you about the heat. Like a furnace. And even more terrifying, the noise. An unimaginable roar, heading up hills and down gullies.

Years later, another mate rang me, from his roof. He could see a bushfire coming towards his street. His girls had gone. He was armed with a garden hose, and a beer.

In the end, he didn’t need either. More good luck than good management. The fire took a different path. As these awful beasts sometimes do.

Then there are other times, when no amount of hoses or stubbies are enough. When the bravest of firefighters simply shake their heads. That’s what NSW is facing now.

There are fears massive fires will join as one. Almost unthinkable.

There is only one thing guaranteed. That the heroes in overalls will stand their ground. Follow their training. And do everything in their power to protect the communities facing danger.

At the opposite end of the scale, are the firebugs, and the looters. Lowest of the low. Whatever the penalties are, double them.

Thommo no longer fights fires. He’s done his bit. The younger ones are in charge now. But he will be anxious today, and tomorrow. Looking to the horizon. Thinking of his mates. And smelling smoke in the air.

An Ekka fashion adventure. See-through tops and slinky singlets. And that’s just the blokes.

August 14, 2012

It’s fair to say that Eric from Kingaroy had never seen anything like it.

I’m assuming that was his name. He certainly looked like an Eric. And if his home wasn’t in the peanut capital, it was surely just a few large paddocks away.

We were watching the fashion parade at the Brisbane Exhibition. The Ekka, to anyone who has Maroon flowing through their veins.

The city’s annual show. Every decent town has one. From Sydney to Cairns and west to Nashville, showtime puts a city’s heartbeat on display for all to see.

The Ekka is famous for bringing the country to the city. And Eric was as country as cattle stations and the pedal steel guitar.

This fashion parade had striking Australian clothes, shown off by stunning models. They were tall, skinny and confident. At times, there wasn’t much left to the imagination. And Eric was seated just metres away.

This is one of the delightful quirks of the Ekka, and shows like it. No matter how polished the parade might be, anyone can end up in the front row.

In Paris or Milan, such seats would be reserved for the industry’s biggest names. If you’re not an ‘A’ grade celebrity, forget it.

Here, the best seats in the house can go to bogans from Beaudesert and grandmas from Gympie. Possibly next to a mechanic from Maryborough. And Eric.

Somehow, he’d scored poll position. Front row, centre seat. If the cameras had been rolling, he would have been in every shot.

I’m not sure why he was there. Possibly to keep the peace. I’m guessing he’d never seen such an event before. Because his expression was one of constant amazement.

Mouth open, eyes popping. The occasional shake of head. Every now and then, he would glance at the missus, to see if this was all for real. That was a waste of time, because she refused to return his gaze. She was having too much fun in the big smoke.

I’m not sure why he was so startled. As fashion parades go, it was anything but outrageous. But then something happened, that was too much for the old boy from the bush.

There were two male models. Impossibly chiseled, with smiles so bright they could have lit up Eric’s remote airstrip on the farm at midnight.

Every time they strutted their stuff, Eric’s gob opened just a little wider. There were BLOKES doing this modelling caper too!

One came out in a white singlet. And not the style that Eric’s mates would have worn in the shearing shed.

This one had tiny, narrow shoulder straps. It was tight enough to show an eight-pack.

Over the top, sat a flowing tropical, short-sleeved shirt, in all the colours of the rainbow. I’m no expert, but I think the outfit was finished off with those cream drawstring cotton pants, that rich single doctors wear to the pub on a Sunday arvo.

Luckily, it was the final walk of the parade. Because Eric could take no more. Couldn’t get out of that prime position quick enough. He was last seen herding the women-folk to the nearest bar.

That’s the beauty of the Ekka, and annual shows the world over. Once you get through the gates, everyone is equal.

City-folk have that same look, when we head to the animal pavilion, and see the birth of a baby lamb. Or the farmer showing his prize-winning chook. We don’t understand it, but we marvel at the beauty, that we don’t usually get to see.

How wonderful is it that a bloke like Eric could experience all that? In the very front row. The boys at the local will be in for some stories when he gets home.