By Sean Gorman
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He squinted to adjust to the soft hue of shadowy light on the other side of the room and, like the light breaking through a swiftly moving storm cloud, Mick swore loudly and leapt out of bed. The quiet uneasiness that had settled on the room was Eric’s life slipping away as his lungs, weakened by infection, had stopped their gentle rasping. Lebeck, whose medical technique when it came to amputation was crude but effective, applied the same principle to Eric’s resuscitation. Flinging Eric from his bed onto the floor, Lebeck battered away at Eric’s chest wall.
To me that smell was intoxicating. When my family lived in Albany, Mt Barker was seen by Albany folk as an insignificant little backwater, a place that was driven through to get somewhere else. But the longer I stayed in Mt Barker the more I found its characters and rhythms to my liking. Barker, as the locals called it, was less frenetic than Albany, which had it all and attracted everyone because of it. Barker was understated, quiet and accessible, and this was why I came to love it as everything just seemed so familiar – even the people I didn’t know.
As Chris recalls, ‘He was treated like one of the family. He’d come around and have a wash and a feed. ’ Jim concurs: ‘We were pretty close friends. ’ Chris’s younger brother Jamie also recalls that Jim was accepted into the family and became so close that he referred to the Backs’ grandmother as Nanna. As Jim’s relationship with the Backs developed, he began to experience new things. Perhaps the biggest of these experiences was a trip to Perth to see the 1970 Grand Final between South Fremantle and Perth, when he was twelve.