Torbanlea punt to honour grandpa who loved horseracing
FITTINGLY, my grandfather had a horse called Eccentric. In pride of place in his various homes were his silks - though he never rode Eccentric himself at the picnic races he roamed the plains of central western New South Wales.
Once in a while he would slip into the silks and cavort in front of the mirror and me, or worse, in front of startled guests he had assembled on some premise.
He loved his racing and a day at the races better still. Once, we met by accident on a Saturday afternoon at the hometown's yearly show. I was in the company of his estranged wife, so she sailed off leaving me with him.
Grandfather smelt of the cloves he used to drop in the bottom of the whiskey he drank. Cronies of his were gathered around poring over his black book into which he had pasted the form. The crackle of the races on the radio at the bush bar sounded like a bushfire.
For fun they asked me to pick out a horse. I pointed to one and it got up. For a joke, they let me have another omen bet and I picked the winner again. I did it five or six times. The best day at the races I ever had and never won a cent.
What I did win was a visit from grandfather at school the following Monday. There he was tapping on the classroom window. The teacher excused me and I went outside. He had bought me a present. A green tool box with some pliers and a hammer, forgetting six-year-olds don't fix much.
Then he got out his little black book and asked me to pick a few more winners for mid-week. Funny old bloke. He drove an open-top sunflower yellow Mini Moke into his old age and nurtured or shot rosellas according to whim.
He once informed me that he had run for Governor General of Australia. An excitable character, to say the least, he was never more feverish than before setting off to chance his luck at the picnic races. He used to ride Eccentric to the meet, leaving two or three days before if the races were in another town. More oats, less roadwork needed surely.
That he died mucking out horse stables could be interpreted in a number of different ways. What would have brought him great joy was that his final resting place of straw and wood was perfumed with the smell of the animals that he loved more than any other.
I'll have a punt in his honour at Torbanlea on Saturday.