Almanac Life: Horses and Mini-bikes



Just past the Mobil Refinery in Altona North, when Kororoit Creek Road was little more than a goat track, there was once a horse-riding school. On weekends, you could head into the paddock, pay the old bloke managing the stable a few bob, and plod about for half an hour on a nag that barely had the energy to put one hoof in front of the other.


One sunny Sunday, at the behest of my younger sisters, my father took the family along for what he hoped would be a pleasant an uneventful family outing. My sisters were excited, but I was a little less enthusiastic. Even at the age of eight, I considered myself too cool for horses. My father negotiated a price with old mate, my sisters were placed atop a couple of placid ponies, and I was guided reluctantly toward a horse that towered above me.


After muttered assurances from the manager that the imposing beast was far meeker than he appeared, upward I climbed onto the saddle. Before I could get both feet into the stirrups, let alone receive my riding instructions from the old goat, the horse took flight and bounded toward the Geelong railway line. I clung on for dear life – until I could cling on no more. I was unceremoniously thrown onto the rocky ground, and lay winded, gasping, believing that each breath might be my last. My dad reached me first, his concern giving away to mirth when he saw that I was all in one piece. To rub further salt into the wounds, my sisters sauntered past atop their ponies, blithely wondering what all the fuss was about. “He mustn’t like ya…he’s never done that before,” said the old coot. “I am never riding a horse again,” I spluttered.


My mother must have pitied me. All I wanted for my ninth birthday was an ‘Evel Knievel Stunt Toy’. It was an action figure likeness of the American motorcycle dare-devil and came complete with a toy motorbike and wind-up launch-pad. Just prior to my birthday, my mum and I visited the huge, long gone toy shop in Douglas Parade, the entrance to which is now a nail salon of some sort. Her sympathies weakened by my fall from the horse, she relented to my demands, and I spent my birthday happily winding up the miniature Evel in his little white jump-suit, and sending him and his bike hurtling across the lounge-room floor.


It was around this time that my dad had a brief fixation with motorcycles. His bike was an orange Kawasaki, which woke up the entire street when he fired it up of a morning. Mistaking my interest in a swashbuckling all-American hero for an interest in motorbikes, he purchased off a friend a second-hand Honda 50cc mini-bike. To hell with my Evel action figure, this was the real deal. And after some weeks of slowly circumnavigating our small backyard, my dad decided that I was ready to venture out into the wide world.


The ‘Warmies’, a popular fishing spot adjacent to the Newport Power Station, is so named because it is where hot discharge water from the power station empties out into the Yarra River. But four and a half decades ago, this area was home to a number of tar-pits and an oval-shaped bike track about 500 metres in length. Part of the track consisted of a series of small hills on the back straight. Local hoons raced around the perimeter on motor-bikes of all sizes, at speeds that were mostly breakneck. It was into this maelstrom that my dad hurled me, urging me to “Take it easy” on my first lap.


After one tepid circuit, with the faster bikes weaving around me, I decided that this riding caper was too easy. When dad gave me a thumbs-up as I passed by, I opened the throttle a little more. If Evel could jump 14 busses, I could surely go a little faster around this dung-heap! Along the hilly section around the back, I opened the throttle a little too much; I raced up a hill, then down, but much too quickly. I hit a small bump, lost all control of the bike, and was sent flying over the front forks. The moment the Honda landed on top of me was the moment I lost all interest in motorbikes. The seagulls circling above could well have been vultures for all I cared. And for years after, I cursed Evel Knievel every time I looked at the burn-mark on my calf.


Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. That explains a few things Smoke!!

    And yet you like to own a horse? Wonder what the shrinks would make of that?

  2. I’m with you Smokie in that I’ve not been on a horse since I was a kid. And I always thought that if I was going to be in an accident I’d rather be in a $100 car than on a million dollar motorcycle. But I’m also a sook!

    Must admit I did giggle at the image of the bike landing on top of you. Reckon that’s compulsory when riding.

  3. Luke Reynolds says

    I share your dread of riding horses and motorbikes Smokie, though not earned the hard way like you!

    My old man has always had motorbikes, always dreaded as a kid when he would take me for a ride. Give me four wheels any day.

  4. Superb Smokie geez thank goodness you’re still with us and I admit personally interest in either horses or motor bikes

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