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Kev has many Warwick rodeos under his belt

RIGHT: Kev Thumpkin training one of his endurance horses.
RIGHT: Kev Thumpkin training one of his endurance horses. Contributed

KEV Thumpkin went to his first Warwick Rodeo when he was just four years old.

That was in 1929, and he has witnessed many changes in the event since.

Today the 88-year-old, who is one of the oldest life members of the Warwick Show and Rodeo Society, recalls his nearly 50 years of involvement with the organisation in varying roles and positions.

BACK THEN: Kev Thumpkin takes a break during the Warwick to Gold Coast endurance ride in the late 1970s.
BACK THEN: Kev Thumpkin takes a break during the Warwick to Gold Coast endurance ride in the late 1970s. Contributed
RODEO STALWART: Warwick Rodeo stalwart Kev Thumpkin attended his first Warwick Rodeo when he was just four years old.
RODEO STALWART: Warwick Rodeo stalwart Kev Thumpkin attended his first Warwick Rodeo when he was just four years old. Linda Mantova

 

Those roles included a stint as show chairman, as well as being the chairman of the committee that ran the gruelling 200km Warwick to Gold Coast endurance ride for close to a decade back in the 1970s and 1980s.

Kev witnessed the rodeo grounds under several metres of floodwaters on a number of occasions, as well as rodeos where Driza-Bones were a

necessity and some years so dusty you could hardly breathe.

Yet it is an event he looks forward to each year and, even though on a walking stick, Kev makes the annual pilgrimage to the Warwick Rodeo for the Sunday morning bucking events and final of the Gold Cup campdraft.

His involvement with the Warwick Show and Rodeo Society hasn't been without controversy.

"I get on well with most people but don't take a backward step and I don't apologise for anything," Kev said.

He was born in 1925, and his association with the long-standing event began when, at four years of age, his

parents, James and Hannorah, took him to his first Warwick Rodeo.

"Dad had an outlaw horse, and he sold it at the rodeo to Jim McKenna, who drove the horses from Warwick to Toowoomba," he said.

"All I can remember about that first rodeo was that they tied the buckjumpers in the ring to a stubbing post.

"I can't remember anything about the campdraft back then."

Kev did his schooling by correspondence up to Grade 2 from his parents' property, east of Warwick.

"I then went to school at Inverleigh from Grade 3 and did my scholarship there," he said.

Kev recalls riding his horse 4½ miles to school and back every day.

"There was a grey mare that I used to ride, and she was a nasty old thing and used to try and bite me, so we had to muzzle her," he said.

"Mother used to make me wear a tie to school, and we always had shoes. This was in the depression times, but we were pretty independent of it, as we killed our own meat, etcetera."

Kev then attended Christian Brothers in Warwick for two years and Nudgee College in Brisbane for one year.

"I came home from school and Dad put me on the bar and shovel building fences," he said.

"McDougalls wanted me to come and work in their office because I had what was classed a reasonable education in those days, but I stayed home and helped Dad."

In fact, Kev made his living throughout most of his life from fencing and yard-building. He did want to join the army as a young fellow, but that was not to be.

"I found out while I was at Nudgee that I had poor eyesight, and that affected me getting into the army," Kev said.

"I thought I might squeeze through into the army but I think my parents told them they needed me at home, so I never went. Knowing my predilection for getting into strife, I probably would have got shot, but I wanted to get out in the big, wide world."

Kev's father died in 1945, and he took over the management of the family property, The Glen, at Leslie Dam.

"I then went away and leased the place out. I went to

work on the dingo barrier fence, 90 miles south of Long

reach," he said.

"I did that for a couple of years, during which time we built 36 mile of barrier fence. The government supplied the netting and there were piles of it as big as houses out there.

"We used to cut gidgee posts with axes."

Kev married Cath in 1956, and they have five daughters - Cherie, Kim, Cathryn, Tammy and Megan - as well as 14 grandchildren.

Kev said he first got involved with the Warwick Rodeo in 1946 when the then rodeo chairman, the late Ian McMaster, asked him to come and help repair the old chutes.

"I got on the committee, then onto management," he said. "I argued over every point that needed arguing

over."

He served on the rodeo committee with many men synonymous with the success of the Warwick Show and Rodeo, including Denis Conway, Douglas Feez, Tom Barrett, Jack Fanning, and Bill Gross - just, to name a few.

Kev said he got involved in the endurance ride by accident.

"Barry Masters had just become Mayor of Warwick, and he thought it was a good idea to have a ride to the coast to promote the rodeo, and it grew from there," he said.

The first Warwick to Gold Coast endurance ride was held in 1976, and continued for another nine years.

"It was a hard ride to run, as it started at midnight and travelled 200km over some tough country, up to Gross's yards and over Spicer's Gap, down through Kooralbyn, before finishing at the pub in Broadbeach," Kev said.

"We used to travel three times as far as the horses to set up the checkpoints, and mark the ride in the weeks leading up to it," he said.

"The first year Carmen Batterham (nee Cooper) got lost, and we had to search for her, and another year a rider cut a fence when he couldn't get through a gate," he said.

"I also had several goes at the ride, as well as my daughter, Cathryn," he said.

The front page of The Courier-Mail, October 31, 1977, shows a Brahman bull wreaking terror in the members’ enclosure at the Warwick Rodeo, and Kev wielding pliers at the bull.
The front page of The Courier-Mail, October 31, 1977, shows a Brahman bull wreaking terror in the members’ enclosure at the Warwick Rodeo, and Kev wielding pliers at the bull.

 

In fact, Kev placed second one year at the Queensland Endurance Riding Championships in his younger days.

"Catherine was a top horsewoman, but I was only an ordinary rider and I used to ride her horse and train it for her," he said.

Kev recalls the Warwick Rodeo being cancelled in 1965, due to drought.

"It was only a bit of a dry spell compared to what we've had since, and it finished up raining before the rodeo, so we could have had it anyway," he said.

"I also remember the year the Brahman bull jumped the fence and ended up in the member's enclosure. One boy had his arm broken and we were lucky there weren't more people injured."

A photo from that incident made the front page of The Courier Mail, in Brisbane, on October 31, 1977, with Kev wielding a pair of pliers at the bull in the foreground.

Kev was also almost single-handedly responsible for the construction of the rodeo chutes back in 1975, which are still standing today.

"I think I worked nearly all night under floodlights to finish them just before the rodeo," he said.

He said the rodeo was known the length and breadth of the country for its campdraft, which is the one true Australian horse sport.

"The thing I like about the campdraft is that it's really Australian, as opposed to rodeo, which is very American," Kev said.

Kev and his daughter, Cathryn, about to start one of the Warwick to Gold Coast endurance rides.
Kev and his daughter, Cathryn, about to start one of the Warwick to Gold Coast endurance rides. Contributed

Topics:  horse sports people profile rodeo rural characters


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