CHEERS TO TRUE SHOW OF CLASS
THE last time Vince Mathers had seen his mate he’d just dropped him with medics after the infantryman had been shot as the pair took heavy machinegun fire in the Korean War.
Five years later, as he walked through the Ekka, he heard a voice.
“Mathers, ya bastard! That’s the bloke who carried me out of bloody Korea.”
When Vince looked around, he saw his old mate George Graham, grinning down at him.
The year was 1955. Four years earlier both men had been part of the Third Battalion, Royal Australia Regiment, fighting in the Battle of Maryang San.
With a heavy mist covering the rugged terrain, both men advanced as forward scouts. Then, under fierce machinegun fire, George took a bullet in the leg and one in the foot.
“We bloody carried him out under more machinegun fire, right down the hill,” Vince says. He gently ribs his mate, smiling and taking a sip of beer. “I dunno how he survived.” Now, both aged 88, they make a point of getting together at the Ekka and pulling up a stump at the Cattleman’s Bar to share a few ales whenever they get the opportunity. “This guy’s a bloody celebrity!” Vince says.
He smiles, putting an arm around his mate. “We just sit here and see who comes in for a chat. But they all want to talk with George.”
It seems somehow fitting to find the pair sitting propped up at the bar on People’s Day at Queensland’s biggest country show.
A day when the stories of normal people who have accomplished incredible feats can be heard whispered through the crowds that cram the narrow alleyways and fill the busy bars.
Yesterday about 55,000 people filled the RNA grounds, with show organisers heralding the turnout a massive success.
Even as dark storm clouds blanketed the arena, dropping a torrent of rain on the crowds, it did little to dampen spirits.
Most people ducked for cover but it was over as quickly as it started, thee darkness giving way to blue skies as people filled ride queues again under the after- noon sun.
Later in the after- noon, the sun is dip- ping below the e horizon.
The grounds are e still full but somee families are startingg to leave.
Out on Bowen Bridge Rd a family are heading home. Carrying showbags, the children look happy but tired. They’re shy. Their mother puts an arm around their shoulders.
The little girl buries her head against her for comfort. Her mind still bustling with images, colours and sounds – the stuff that will settle into beautiful memories. It’s the end of another brilliant Ekka day.