Best pubs in Queensland: Lex and Lady walk into a bar.....
HALF a century ago drover Lex Cawthray rode his horse through the front bar of the Miriam Vale Hotel and earlier this month, at aged 74, Lex proved age has not wearied him.
The man who as a teenager in the 1950s helped boss drover Tow Crowsher shift herds more than 160 km from Rodd's Bay to Gin Gin always maintained his horsemanship, even if five minutes aboard Chestnut Mare "Lady'' was not so much a feat of equestrian skill as a stunt for The Courier Mail.
Lex who in 1967 starred in the only Miriam Vale team to win the Premiership in the Gladstone Rugby League comp and who could remain steadfast on the back of a bucking rodeo bronc for "the most dangerous eight seconds in sport,'' never backed down from a challenge.
At age 19 and about to get married he rode his horse through the same bar - an act not unprecedented in Queensland and possibly even carrying a semi-Royal stamp of approval after Bill Hayden, former Governor General, did the same thing at Redbank's Kerwick Hotel in the 60s.
Asked exactly what it is that prompts a man to take a gallop through a bar Lex gives the question 20 seconds of serious consideration before replying:
"They didn't have mid-strength beer in those days.''
One street back from the Bruce Highway between Bundaberg and Rockhampton the Miriam Vale Hotel is like Lex - adapting to change but never compromising its character.
In the 19th Century it faced west greeting the Cobb and Co Coaches thundering along the dusty track that was the Bruce highway; In the 20th it shifted its focus east to greet the new steam trains sliding in on gleaming iron rails.
In the 21st Century it's still offering weary travellers a typical Queensland pub room upstairs, complete with mosquito nets and one of those wooden wardrobes which never seems to have four evenly cut legs so they maintain a delicate little wobble.
Behind the bar is the secret to the pub's success - proprietors Mitch and Leean Brennan whose amiable natures act as a binding adhesive in a community which, like every other in the state, is simultaneously being connected and fractured by technology.
"We still do the Friday night footy raffles,'' says Mitch who keeps alive a spark of that world Lex knew, when the pub formed part of a wider social whirl including everything from dances to rodeos to "Saturday night picture shows.''
"A good pub should be right at the centre of a community, and that's where ours is,'' says Mitch.