It was the day he got hung up underneath a horse and saw his life flash before his eyes at full gallop that Kelvin Duke hung up his rodeo spurs.
Sure, he’d had plenty of busters and close calls before – “I mean you’ve got to be a bit mad” – but that day at Wagga in 1981 was the curtain call on this cowboy’s career.
Kelvin, 65, can recall black eyes and the time a bronc tipped over backwards in the chute and broke his sternum.
“I still rode out but I fell apart at the seams when I hit the ground,” he laughed.
“You never used to think about getting hurt but the day I got hung up was the last one.”
Kelvin, who grew up on a dairy farm in East Gippsland, got his first taste of rodeo at the age of 5.
“My uncle took me to Omeo and I went in the poddy (calf) ride,” he said.
“I loved getting thrown off.
“When my parents moved to Echuca, I started riding steers in my teens at the local rodeos and then horses.”
After joining the army, Kelvin was posted to Queensland where “I rode in some rough rodeos”.
And while he hints at wild times during those heydays in the 1970s, Kelvin will only admit “we were young and really silly”.
It was about the same time he met and married the love of his life Sharon.
Later, when they moved to Chiltern, the pair became the backbone of the rodeo committee.
Kelvin’s 20 years of service was formally recognised on Sunday, December 10 when 300 people gathered to name the arena at Chiltern racecourse in his honour.
There were “a few tears” when Kelvin realised mate Geoff Chamberlain tricked him into dressing up in his cowboy kit for the surprise.
In July, this humble hero learned he had cancer.
“It’s bad,” he said simply.
“It’s in the liver and one kidney; I go back on December 19 and I’m supposed to start immunotherapy … it’s a lot of money.”
For now, though, Kelvin is still shaking his head that so many people went to so much effort just for him.
“I love the sport, I love the town and I love seeing people enjoying rodeo,” he said.
There’s little doubt this extended “family” will now be standing by the man who has always stood by them.