The Brunette Races have been a major social event for station people in the top end for the last one hundred years with attendance figures around the seven hundred to one thousand mark. This year being the one hundredth anniversary some three thousand people turned up most of whom had some connection with Brunette Downs in the past. The regular attenders from Lake Nash, Alroy Downs, Alexandria Downs, Avon and Eva Downs, Mallapunya Station, Anthony Lagoon, Wallhallow Station along with many more returned to Brunette for this special occasion. Each of these stations have permanent camps set up for use not only on race week but for camp drafts and other functions held there during the year. Some camps are modest affairs where as others such as Lake Nash cover several acres with all sorts of buildings, wind breaks, bores, toilet and shower blocks and generator plants. This mob arrive with several road trains of gear and their horses. Each day of the five day event started at 5.30 am with the camp draft. They had 1500 nominations for this event and by the time the sun peeped over the horizon at least 43 runs had been completed. There was a main race day but other races were held to keep the public entertained along with all sorts of challenges doing crazy stuff such as eating cold pies and drinking warm beer, rolling swags and riding a forty four gallon drum with a saddle attached whilst is slid along a greasy pole. The first few days were very windy, typical of The Barkly at this time of year and when discussing this with a local ringer he assured me these pleasant winter days wouldn't last and the serious stuff was sure to arrive before the event was over. He was wright, the next morning the breeze started just after sunrise as it normally does then steadily increased in velocity throughout the day. Dust was flying everywhere and unfortunately my display was facing directly into the wind.It was a 5.30 am kick off for the camp draft
With the duster in hand I put in a considerable effort to keep the products dust free but soon realized it was a pointless effort so in the end, gave up. To my amazement the punters didn't seem to mind and continued to purchase products regardless. In the mean time the bar did a roaring trade and each night all hell broke loose and continued on into the early hours of the morning. Unfortunately there were fires that accounted for several camps being destroyed, lots of yahooing and fighting, some generators and fridges missing and one night a shot fired. I slept through all this and so did the cops and security who these days stick to regular daylight hours to carry out their duties.
The main race day was particularly windy but this didn't stop the short skirts with plunging neck lines being worn. The people inside these flimsily costumes spent the early part of the day grasping at loose material flying higher than they liked but after a relaxing grog or two gave up and let the wind have its way much to the delight of the young male ringers and no doubt some older chaps who did their damnedest to avert the eye on such occasions. I must admit some of the young ladies put on a spectacular display holding hats and skirts in place whilst stepping about in high heels shoes bent this way and that looking somewhat like a half opened pocket knife.
The poo-bahs camped in tent city of which all eighty nine tents were booked at $500 regardless of how many nights they were used. Most of this crowd flew in for the main race day and the black tie dinner that evening then tried to sleep through the racket being kicked up by the mixed race in attendance who were full of grog and displaying some darker sides of their personalities. Next morning the poor old poo-bahs looked very much the worse for wear departing by car to the airstrip to catch their early flights. I remember one of these fellows slipped away from the main group and approached me at the back of my camp by the fire where he asked could I give him a smoke. I offered him my tobacco but he was unable to roll one so I did that for him. He was most grateful. Prior to his leaving I introduced my self but he chose not to identify himself other than to say he was a product of the Myer family. Jolly good for you I thought. Until next time . Steve and Sass