Footballers going off the field in agony and facing a full knee reconstruction are a regular feature of sporting news each week. Their loss of income and mobility is certainly significant and it can also mean medical procedures many years later. At the age of ninety, Bluey’s knee was the subject of much medical interest.
Bluey is my Dad, lives with me and I was away overseas when he had a severe fall because the knee had just simply collapsed. I returned from my trip in a wheelchair, to find him on crutches. Within a couple of days, we were off to see his surgeon to confirm the procedures needed the risks of surgery and his admission to hospital. He has robust good heath, the specialist was very optimistic about a good outcome and Dad’s own view was that at ninety he would take the risk of an anaesthetic rather than be immobilised on crutches and in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
In the early twenties, my Dad went to school in Midland with Wes Retallack, who was later a well known trainer at the Swan Districts Football Club. During the war, Dad joined the RAAF with his best mate, Jimmy Price of Coodardy Station, near Big Bell but they were soon separated and Bluey was posted to Geraldton. Another identity posted to Geraldton was John Curtin, son of Australia’s Prime Minister and, by good fortune, Wes Retallack. With their wives, the two old friends made a regular foursome around town. Bluey spent some of his time training and riding racehorses, with the consent of his Wing Commander, Wes became Bluey’s racing manager and began sourcing horses to be ridden and trained.
Bluey turned out to be a fair sort of a jockey and had two favourite horses – Maruna and Chipo. These nags were owned in partnership by a Mr. Smith and one “Snuggy” Hall – whose niece, was the wife of Artie Molinari. Sadly, he passed away only a couple of weeks ago. Bluey had a win on Maruna and a second on another horse on the same day at one meeting and he was hoping to ride both Maruna and Chipo on the day of the Geraldton Cup in 1944 .
Fate intervened. Wes arranged for Bluey to go to Walkaway to ride a horse called Gold Coast, owned by the wife of the local baker, which was being set for the Geraldton Cup and Wes planned for Bluey to have that ride. On that inauspicious April Fool’s Saturday in 1944, an earlier ride on a different horse led to an accident with the rail and Bluey’s riding days were pretty much over. He broke his leg and damaged his knee. He had a leave pass from the Wing Commander – so that was one problem he didn’t have deal with, since the Armed Forces take a dim view of servicemen coming to grief in their personal time when the country is at war.
Apart from a knee arthroscopy in the late 60s, Bluey’s knee has held up very well until now. His surgery was a great success and his specialist is amazed at his recovery. After only a few weeks, he no longer needed any crutches or the bathroom aids on loan from the Red Cross. The special chair that makes him sit up straight is still very welcome and he continues to prop up his legs, resting them on a pillow on a dining chair. This is more so that Splinter has somewhere to lie, at full stretch, when he isn’t sitting atop the back of the chair, examining the top of Dad’s head and looking for all the world like Snoopy in Peanuts pretending to be a vulture.
Bluey had a couple of weeks of attending hydro-therapy at the local pool but his lovely young physiotherapist has discontinued her visits. A well known bike rider in his younger years, Bluey gives an exercise bike in the breakfast area a good workout two or three times a day, while he reminisces about the days of riding from Geraldton to Northampton or Big Bell to Cue. After ‘riding’ the Tour de France with him almost every night, I am glad to idle away some time on the weekend.
This is a photo of Bluey & Splinter – Making Breakfast