Coun­try Squire

ROB IN­GRAM BRAVES BUSH­FIRES AND RECORD TEM­PER­A­TURES TO AT­TEND THE LO­CAL AGRI­CUL­TURAL SHOW.

Country Style - - CONTENTS -

IT WAS 45 DE­GREES on the Fri­day, but the usual sus­pects were rolling up. With 101 shows be­hind it, Dune­doo wasn’t sit­ting in front of its air con­di­tion­ers — when it’s show day to­mor­row, you don’t whinge about the heat. There are prepa­ra­tions to be done. The show must go on. Barry and Henry had been wa­ter­ing the arena for weeks and, with the sun be­hind you, there was a def­i­nite tinge of green. Just one more week and their ef­forts would have been the talk of the town and per­haps even re­sulted in a Ser­vice to the Com­mu­nity award at next year’s Aus­tralia Day cel­e­bra­tions. But the real he­roes are the stew­ardesses and judges rolling up for a long, hot day of toil in the cor­ru­gated iron Bow­man Pav­il­ion — women who have de­voted the best part of their lives to hon­our­ing vows of reg­is­tra­tion, qual­i­fi­ca­tion, pre­sen­ta­tion and eval­u­a­tion... women who, year af­ter year, have ap­plied the high­est lev­els of scru­tiny and in­tegrity to the pick­led cu­cum­ber, the dec­o­rated sul­tana cake and the minia­ture cac­tus dahlia. They ar­rive with in­ves­tiga­tive spec­ta­cles on a plas­tic chain around the neck, ac­cred­ited clip­board un­der one arm, poly­eth­yl­ene esky firmly in hand. Dur­ing the course of the day, the esky sup­plies ice-cold bot­tles of wa­ter, ice-cold face cloths and ice-cold atom­is­ers for mist­ing the face, be­fore fi­nally be­com­ing an ice-cold foot­bath for swollen feet and an­kles. Af­ter all, NSW is the hottest place on the planet on this day... and the show must go on. Luck­ily the work­load is not as heavy as in re­cent years. A suc­ces­sion of days above 40 de­grees has had a mod­er­at­ing ef­fect on en­tries. Reg­u­lar ex­hibitors have been loath to swel­ter over caul­drons of berry jam (any variety) or lemon but­ter (one jar). In the cut flow­ers cat­e­gory, the en­tries have been cut more than the flow­ers. Gar­den pro­duce is a wa­ter­melon. But needle­work seems healthy enough. I guess one of the few things you can do in this weather is sit be­side an evap­o­ra­tive cooler and whip up an ap­pliqué ar­ti­cle, a matched set of doilies or a cross-stitch wall hang­ing. When I re­turn on show day, the lady on the gate tells me to park wher­ever I like. The men have all gone to fight the fire, she says, in­di­cat­ing the bil­low­ing cloud of smoke to the east. The man on the PA is apol­o­gis­ing for the can­cel­la­tion of the evening’s rodeo and fire­works dis­play. The show com­mit­tee has been sen­si­ble enough to check with the RSPCA about the ef­fect the tem­per­a­tures will have on live­stock. Poul­try, sheep and cat­tle have been given the day off. Dogs, and their tongues, hang out in the shade be­neath ute trays. The head cat­tle ste­ward has cre­ated a mist­ing tent that sprays cool wa­ter from ir­ri­ga­tion pip­ing. It’s grate­fully in­hab­ited by a few strut­ting birds, two horses, three dogs, and several glis­ten­ing chil­dren and adults. Next door, the Café Sassy cof­fee van is do­ing brisk busi­ness with its spe­cial of the day — ice-cold cof­fee frap­pés. I feel for the hot food ven­dors, on the road all year only to ar­rive at the hottest place on the planet on the hottest day on record. Even the rides and the sideshows are do­ing it tough — the op­er­a­tors are snooz­ing in the shade un­der the bungee tram­po­line. The shoot­ing gallery at­ten­dant has ei­ther turned the gun on him­self or re­turned to his car­a­van. The rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the NSW Farm­ers As­so­ci­a­tion are snooz­ing in the shaded end of their tent be­hind a for­est of printed in­for­ma­tion on ev­ery­thing from the spread of Q fever to back­packer tax rules. “Do you have any­thing on cli­mate change?” I ask in­no­cently. De­spite the ad­verse con­di­tions, an abridged ver­sion of the 2017 Dune­doo Show went ahead as ad­ver­tised. What we weren’t able to have this year will only in­crease the an­tic­i­pa­tion for next year’s show... and the usual sus­pects will again be at the door of the Bow­man Pav­il­ion with their ex­per­tise and their es­kys. The show must go on.

“IN THE CUT FLOW­ERS CAT­E­GORY, THE EN­TRIES HAVE BEEN CUT MORE THAN THE FLOW­ERS.”

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