This story from Barry is about his local Australian Rules football team, a fundraising event, and an unusual door prize in a raffle. One thing’s for sure, this memoir is in stark contrast to the one posted yesterday which talked about terrorism and violence.

We are not disposed to betting on the horses or dogs. But like most Australians we do participate in office sweeps for that one big race annually known as the Melbourne Cup. It’s the event that literally stops our nation for upwards of 30 minutes when industry, commerce and the body politic pause what they’re doing to watch the big race on television and theatre screens around the nation. Afterwards, those at the racetrack will carry on celebrating whilst the rest of us go back to our workstations.

Having said that, I would like to share with you two stories involving horses: one named Alpine Wind; the other Calcutta. I’ll tell you about Alpine Wind another time.

It was August 1992, and in hindsight I realise this story is akin to one of those ‘did you hear about the one that got away’ fish stories. The difference being this really did happen.

It all started when the South Fremantle (Australian Rules) Football Club, of which yours truly and his lovely wife were members, conducted a fund raiser for improvements to the main clubhouse. Tickets were A$100 each and went on sale at the annual ‘Christmas in July’ function – which is winter-time in Oz and a great opportunity for those of European birth, of which there were many in our club, to enjoy traditional Christmas fare. We would even have a Santa for the kids.

As usual the tickets sold like hotcakes. Or was that Christmas crackers? Anyway, the fund raiser was to be named ‘Calcutta’, and for our A$100 per person ticket we would be treated to a four course meal in one of the many riverside restaurants on the banks of the Swan River known as Pier 21.

So, with tickets to hand we duly turned up on the night in question. As we entered the restaurant our tickets were taken and separated from the stubs before being placed into a small coopered barrel – with the stubs handed back to us. At the same time we were told that the door prize for the night was a thoroughbred horse. That’s right folks, a thoroughbred horse named ‘Calcutta’ and valued at Aus$18,000. It had been donated to the ‘Club by a well known Fremantle racing and radio identity.

Wow! A horse! A thoroughbred too! Boy, oh boy, it was indeed in stark contrast to the usual door prize of a 4.5 litre bottle of whisky. Or two tickets to go and watch the Australian Rules football ‘Grand Final’ in Melbourne. Or a weekend for two in one of many Western Australian tourist resorts.

Somewhat stunned by the news we made our way to sit with our friends. It goes without saying that the buzz was all about the door prize and what we would do if any of us were to win it. However, and because most of us lived in suburbia, it seemed we were agreed the best option would be to sell it – of course. There was one exception. One of our Italian friends owned a large market garden with pasture to spare. He was definitely going to keep the horse.

The food and wine was plentiful, and the proceedings for the night included top entertainment by both interstate and local artists who were giving their time free gratis as return favours to the ‘Football Club.

As the evening drew longer, and the patrons’ demeanour merrier, the compare would stop the proceedings and remove two tickets from the coopered barrel before announcing that they were no longer valid for the raffle. This took place at regular intervals until only two tickets were left – mine and one belonging to a Fremantle lady. Being the holders of stubs for the last two remaining tickets we were invited onto the stage for the final drawing of one more ticket – with the last one left in the coopered barrel being declared the winner.

So, the lady from Fremantle and yours truly took centre stage to be introduced to the wider audience before being asked to stand by for the final draw. But before anything happened another gentleman stepped onto the stage and in a voice for all and sundry to hear offered to buy both our tickets for Aus$1,000 each. Nor was he interested in buying just one ticket. The deal was for both or none.

I looked over to my lovely wife and saw her shaking her head. At the same time I could hear the lady from Fremantle telling the compare that if she won she had promised the horse to her granddaughter.

What I didn’t know when seeing my lovely wife shaking her head was that she had already struck a verbal deal with another well known Fremantle horse identity to sell the horse to him for Aus$10,000 – if we won – and later I was to learn that the racing identity had also tried unsuccessfully to do a similar deal with the lady from Fremantle.

Suffice it to say my wife’s wheeling and dealing came to nought because the lady from Fremantle took the prize.

Still, it was an exciting experience all the same.

See you later…

Barry Edge
Western Australia
September 15, 2004

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