We have some very good friends that live out near Surat in rural Queensland. So for the past six years we’ve been making the five hour car trip west to attend Surat’s annual race meet. Suffice to say it was our first year that we attended with a toddler (teething mind you!) in tow. It’s quite the event on the social calendar out here and with the region shrouded in drought I believe these social events are vital for the sanity of farmers in the district. An opportunity to escape dust-ridden properties with hungry cattle and less than promising wheat crops to enjoy a cool ale, a punt and spin a couple of yarns with mates.
For anyone that lives and breathes the rural surrounds of this region its easy to forget the raw and rustic beauty that envelopes them. I fall in love with the vast plains every time I come out here – sepia toned landscapes under a giant sky that is forever blue and cloudless.
On Friday night we arrived with a harvest moon on our tail, slowing creeping up into the night sky, pink and rotund. Finn is fascinated with the moon at home, she points to it and we say Luna.
We woke to perfect weather on race day with a flirty breeze to help keep the heat at bay. There was only five races for the day and we had a flutter on each of them – minimal bets of $5 to $10 on horses chosen for their names, race meet specs and presentation.
On the last race we had a significant win on a horse called Big Bad Joel. Finn, Buster and I watched the horses get ready and I loved the look of this chestnut gelding. A well-muscled hindquarter and a good report card with reasonable odds he was bound to place. The horses bolted past the finish line with Surat racegoers leaning across the fence willing their mounts on from the sideline. A plume of dust followed them as they loped past the finishing post.
Once the final race was finished a semitrailer was driven onto the dirt track and a one-man band serenaded us with cover versions of Creedence Clearwater tracks and Alan Jackson. We danced with Finn on the grass dance floor littered in cans, cigarette butts and losing race tickets. Under a canopy of twinkling stars Finn was swung around in her papa’s arms until she squealed in delight.
I feel incredibly blessed that our connection to the bush and rural race meets lis still entwined in our lives. Memories of country race meets were part of my upbringing and I love sharing this with our closest friends now that we are parents.