Opinion

Curmudgeon happy to volunteer his own children for CFA duty after rare night out

By Rodney Woods

The old Curmudgeon, I have to confess, is not the most socialising type of guy.

I was a bit more out there in the olden days, when I had a bit more get up and go.

But of late I have been much happier exercising my rights to be a grumpy old man.

Or old bastard, as I have overheard one or two people suggesting of late.

So you can imagine how tickled pink I was the other day to hear the missus had accepted an invitation for two to the annual CFA branch awards night and dinner with some of her loony mates.

And it got worse when I realised I was expected to be one of that double.

Bloody hell. I had far better things to do with my time.

Such as sitting in my favourite chair and nodding off. So I could then deny that I was snoring. Because you and I both know I wasn't. Snoring is for really old and/or fat men.

Hardly a description of yours truly. But for once this column is not about me. No, no, don't be disappointed. I actually have something of merit to share with you.

So back to the dinner, where grumbling and sulking I have been dragged through the door into a room full of snoozers I have never met, lounging around in their uniforms, chests bristling with more medals than that noted warrior Prince Charles on the Queen's birthday.

And then plonked down next to some whipper snapper — also with the aforementioned tinware — who just didn't want to shut up.

But the funniest thing happened. Not just the guy who had obviously been at the bar a little longer than most and missed his seat when he sat down.

Grabbing the tablecloth as he fell, bringing it and everything on it with him (Gold. Pure gold.)

But entertainment aside, the night was soon to undergo another transformation.

Every man Jack in the room was a volunteer. And some of them had been volunteers with the CFA for as many as 55 years. Holy hell, but that's a lot of years.

The buffer who tottered on to the stage to get his medal for 55 years was clearly no spring chicken but he looked as proud as punch to be there.

Others were receiving 40-year medals and so on, right down to 10 years.

Then they wheeled out some long-serving female members of the branch, 20 years or more they had served.

Followed by the ladies’ auxiliary, that backbone to just about every bush organisation, from footy to the fire brigade.

Who weren't, I might add, wasting a crowd, as while the awards were going on some of those hard-bitten biddies were corralling every table with the ubiquitous raffle book to help raise more funds.

The last presentation of the evening was from the auxiliary, which handed over a $2000 cheque to the brigade captain.

In between we heard how this brigade has raised more than $600 000 for charities on top of the vital work it does to keep itself in fighting trim.

Honour was duly paid to members who have died in fires; or been injured in any number of ways while serving their local community.

But these people go way beyond the next valley.

They back up the professionals in Melbourne, they turn out when needed by neighbouring brigades, go interstate when the pressure there is too great for those locals, and when they are not in action they are in training.

All done free — free of their time, largely free of cost to everyone in the district — and do you know, when these heroes, and believe me, that's what many of them are, got up on stage the thing they were most excited about were at the back of the room.

Where a few tables of teens and 20-somethings were sharing the evening's entertainment. Some in uniform and some not, but all of them the future of the branch.

It even made the old Curmudgeon a bit misty-eyed when one veteran got up and ignored his own achievements and heaped praise on the young ‘uns for getting involved.

Well good for him. And if he is looking for more young ‘uns I've got a few at home I would happily volunteer for him.