Roma Writer's Group

The Works of David Bowden

Race Calling the Great Matilda Camel Races in Charleville 2001

Will you call the Camel races in Charleville?

Will I what???

Call the camel Races for me in Charleville next week end. The bloke from Brisbane can't make it and the local race caller is calling the Cunnamulla Horse races so will you do it?

I hadn't even seen a camel race and hadn't even called a cockroach race. So I said No!

Well I got off the phone and had a big think. Not long ago I told myself I would try anything that came along ……….as long as it didn't make bleed from the lungs, bowels or kidneys.

So I ring back and say I will do it…………….the little lady was really excited about that.

No material on names of camels, jockeys or colours came through to me. So we drive to Charleville…………brmm brmmmm.

Get the fields from the pretty little secretary and shown to the race callers box way up in the grandstand overlooking the racecourse.

I go down and speak to the bookie. First up he says I hope we have a good race caller to-day the guy at Blackall last week was hopeless. A big build me up as you can see.

Bingo!!………..Out come the camels for the first race. They walk along at a sedate with their jockey up top and a handler.

All important I bring my binoculars up to my glasses and peer out. Can see through the left one. However the right one is all fuzzy. Look into it and there is a damn spider web in it. Then have to get someone to me wrestle the lens off and clean it out.

They line up at the barrier way around the other side. I'm peering through the binoculars. Not really seeing the colours and not knowing who they belong to.

They're off………………two gallop away in front some bunch in the middle and another stays at the barrier.

Now the moment of truth. I had no idea who the camels were so fumble badly with words. Worse I can not see out of the binoculars. They're made for going over eyes so you can scan. On top of spectacles, you can't see. Worse still the judge from next door sticks his head around and asks for the placings. I'm supposed to be a check for the Judges.!!!

Well the second race was just as disastrous I can tell you. The Hopeless racecallers words of the bookie come to haunt me.

Then I have a mind flash. If I get a cameleer to stand behind me and recognise which camel is coming first, second and third then I can include that in the call. Brilliant idea!! This young handler stands behind me and calls the camel's name, then I announce it over the microphone out to the stands. Brilliant it works just beautiful.

Then the problem the young bloke has to work all the next races and they send three different cameleers to the caller's box. Even with the help of the video screen they can't tell one camel from another.

So that got me through the first day. That night I thought to myself. Now if three cameleers don't know the names of the camels or recognise the colours then not many others at the races will know.

So I go down to the Bookies stand and see which camel is favourite and which is second favourite. Then when I call the race these two always jumped well and then I had a list of the field and I read them from bottom to top as they started racing. Then from top to bottom so every camel was mentioned. Then as they got to about 50 metres from the winning post I called the numbers on the shoulders. So I called first, second, third and fourth.

Later I spoke to a policeman. He said not bad calling David…………why do you only call numbers as they cross the line? Oh…that's so I get the numbers right for the Chief judge I told him…………….not that I didn't have a clue what the name of the camel might have been.

They had a novelty event called the Honeymoon race. In this, a male races from the 200 metre mark and picks up a female at the 100 metre mark. I was pleased there were only three camels in this race so I could remember colours etc and names. As the handlers were going out, two men would stop every now and then and grab the ankles and wrists of a young lady and swing her back and forth. Spectators did not have a clue what she was doing. However it became obvious during the race. As her camel came for the pick up, the young blokes just swung her straight up onto the camel behind the male jockey and they galloped away to win the race easily.

The second place getters used a similar style. However the team that came last had a true honeymoon style. The woman was draped over the saddle front on to the male. She clutched for dear life onto the male as they crossed the finish line.

Another novelty event held on the track involved donkeys and not camels. In the first heat two teams of a man and a woman lined up. First one man and one woman from opposing teams had to eat a cold pie, drink a can of beer, race to a donkey, get on it and ride about 50 metres. Then Jump off and run back the 50 metres and saw through a block of wood with an old fashioned cross cut saw and the opposite partner then had to eat a cold pie, drink a can of beer, hop on the donkey, ride 50 metres and run back the 50 metres to be timed crossing the line.

Well I'm not sure if it was a set up or not. However this young man of about 18 stone and built like a roly-poly was teamed with a slip of a girl. Go and they're off. The young bloke downs the pie, then downs the beer and stumbles towards this little black donkey. He goes up to the side and drapes himself over the donkey and tries to jump up. Now you can imagine the jump of an 18 stone man………about 6 inches off the ground if that!! All the donkey does is swing to the right and he lands on his back on the ground with arms and legs flying in the air. To his credit he gets up about seven times trying various positions on the donkey. Then the donkey handlers take pity on him and throw him up on the donkey. He lies down along the donkey and drapes his arms around its neck. The donkey trots towards the 50 metre mark and he bounces around like a sack of potatoes bobbing up and down. Near the end he bounces off the donkey and ends up on his back again with arms and legs flying everywhere!! By this time the opposing team have finished their race and he stumbles back to the line with the crowd roaring approval at the entertainment.

The last two races are for big prize money $2,500 for one and $4,500 for the last. By now we are getting to know the owners and jockeys………..Even the names of some of the jockeys. Well unbeknowns to me someone asked a cameleer to come to assist me in the calling of the main races. Who should appear ……….you may have guessed it the owner of the favourite in the two races. Dead set he is this swarthy Afghan type with a black beard and eyes that darted everywhere. Well didn't the judges go ballistic and ordered him out of the box and gave me a sharp talking to about letting an owner near the judging. Me???….I knew not a thing about it.

The last two races were held and called using my forwards and backwards method. It's all over for the 2001 Charleville Great Matilda camel races………….If I'm asked to call again next year - will I do it? Dunno I'll have to think about it. Probably will though………as long as that Afghan owner keeps away and there is no chance I will end up bleeding from the lungs, bowels or kidneys.(Ends)