Declining interest and waning attendance rates are the curse of Country shows around the nation. But I'll bet gun shearer Jack Harvey's winning performance in the 1934 Blackall Show 'Quick Chop' Championship drew the crowds!!
After all, who would pass up the opportunity to see someone shear, kill and partially eat a sheep in under 8 minutes?? The above extract from the 'Barcoo Independent', reproduced here in the Blackall Ram Park rail museum makes this claim, anyway!
But the previous story on the plaque, 45 years earlier, indicates the Barcoo Independent to have been a paper under siege. So is the Jack Harvey piece just a sensationalist attempt to lure readers away from the dastardly 'Western Champion'? Could his record REALLY be replicated today??
As a regular country show-goer* I have to wonder if reintroducing this event could reverse the decline in country show popularity. General shearing, wood-chopping and sheaf tossing are all very well, but when followed by a piéce-de-résistance like the accurately named 'Quick Chop Championship' – well, can't you just SEE the potential to turn around the fortunes of an ailing show?!
Why not take it a step further? Could this be a better Aussie national competition than, say, which state can spend the most on a tourism campaign without a clear result? Or which political party can form government (at any level) with the lowest primary vote?? Or even the new 'My School' education website???
Maybe not, but it's at least as valid! And not only FAR more entertaining - possibly even less barbaric too!!
But the article leaves some unanswered questions. For example, what part, and how much of the sheep was eaten? And how was it prepared?? Does the 8 minutes include cooking time??? And if other competitors got to the 'kill' stage in the 8 minutes, what happened to all the dead sheep????
But I digress.
Congratulations Jack! Despite competing in the home town of the greatest Australian shearer of all time - Jackie Howe - you've still managed to make your own record!!
*Modesty forbids me from mentioning the plethora of prizes (many of them firsts!!) Pilchard and I have won for jams, pickles, preserves and produce in various country shows!