Ironbark Bob and the Lagerphone
© Tony King 2017
Ironbark Bob knew the answer to the question, as he was the only person within 5 miles of his bush shack at Jakickabilly.
It didn’t stop him hoping however for someone to come out of hiding and own up to it.
He gave his huge knotted red beard a bit of a scratch and something crawled out and sought asylum in his egg stained overalls.
He had approximately 4 hours to find and fix his lagerphone, a family heirloom and percussion instrument, which had been damaged dancing a tango with the blue heeler named Ladder. So named as it was “always up to somethin’”
He had got on the Bundy a few nights ago and broken the family Lagerphone in a dramatic finalé to the tango, which involved trying to swan dive off the water tank into a bunch of hay bales that weren’t there anymore. Apparently Mick had taken them on Thursday and forgotten to mention it.
The Lagerphone consisted of his great grandmother’s grass tree broom handle covered with the bottle tops of every beer his grandfather had drunk over the summer of 1946.
Ladder had survived the swan dive by bailing out at the last second and sneaking back down the plank leading from the top of the tank, which was the only way up or down since the steps had rusted out. Ladder saw the lagerphone as a stick to be fetched and had hidden it in the barn while Ironbark Bob laid spread-eagled on the ground ‘til the concussion and Bundy had worn off.
“Where….the….HELL’S….THE….LAGERPHONE!!!!!!” echoed up the gully.
Ironbark always left huge holes between words that perfectly mirrored the huge gaps between his teeth. Ladder would sometimes bark in between the words to fill in the spaces, which drove Ironbark berserk. He eventually found the Lagerphone by following a trail of bottle tops that had been loosened in the fall and had come off on route to the barn. The top was cracked and had to be shortened by a foot. A dozen bottle tops needed to be re-attached. All this happened to the soundtrack of Ladder gnawing on a flea between his back legs.
“Stop….. gnawing……YER ……BALLS!!!!”
Ladder understood English perfectly and chose where and when to use the gift.
Today was not one of those days.
Ironbark Bob had played traditional Australian folk music since he was a kid and was the founding member of an outfit called “When Bush Comes To Shove”
They were playing today at the cemetery, then onto the Jakickabilly Mechanics Institute Hall for the wake. He would have to get there on the tractor as the ute wasn’t going. He’d have to get a wriggle on to get there on time. The problem was compounded when the tractor wouldn’t start either and he was forced to get to the gig on the ride on mower. The blade was rusted in the down position and he was going to get in 50 shades of shit with his neighbors mowing a strip on his way to town through their properties to save time.
He’d have to deal with that later.
Ironbark was fond of saying “Lagerphones…..are….a….piece…of…PISS….TO…PLAY!!! I…mean…LITERALLY!!!!!”
Then he would lead the laughter, actually it was the only laughter and Ladder looked forlornly on with a rising impulse of dis-ownership.
The technique of playing one was to shake it in time to the music, but what had worked out better was for the other band members to follow him. The resulting rhythm resembled a drunk winding an old 78 by hand.
When played by Ironbark Bob, the Lagerphone sounded like a peg legged pirate chasing a billy goat ‘round a tin roof.
Despite the ordeal of his transport arrangements, Ironbark was excited to be playing a new song for the first time entitled “Geez it’s itchy down there” They were the only words. He’d tried adding a few more but it stuffed the song up, so he went back to the original.
He had perfected the “one part harmony”
That was what the band called it, as he had an emphysemic drone going on that chased the melody around, exactly a fifth above it.
They mostly did funerals as Ironbark reckoned people’s standards were about 6 feet lower than normal on the day.
They were doing a funeral today if he got there on time.
He was looking forward to cranking out the new song as they lowered the coffin down. “Geez it’s itchy down there!!!” He prided himself on picking the right song for the moment, and even though the song was written about another awkward event in his life, it seemed to fit like a sock.
He had backed off the throttle going through Chainsaw Jack’s place, as he didn’t want to explain the reverse “Mohawk” he was putting through Jack’s wheat field, not tonight anyway. Actually he was hoping to never see Jack again, but as that was unlikely, he was already cobbling together a story involving aliens and had singed Ladders fur with his Bic lighter, which he would later say was done by the afterburners of the alien space ship.
No shotguns so far, this was good.
Only the gauntlet of two more farms and he’d be at the cemetery.
He was just starting to relax a bit when the John Deere spluttered to a halt, out of fuel, and a mile from the cemetery, right in the middle of the Kelly’s prize winning Rose garden. Well what was left of it anyhow.
He ran with his lagerphone and a barking dog the rest of the way, whilst practicing the lyrics to the new song out loud as people scuttled out of his road. He rounded the bend and ripped the arse out of his overalls as he vaulted the stonewall of the church, just as people started arriving for Sunday mass.
And there stood Fickle Fingers O’Connor the bass player, staring at him like he was the last beer in the fridge.
“WELL, WELL!!!!! Ironbark Bob at MASS! !!!!! Now I’ve seen EVERYTHING!!!”
All Ironbark could muster was “Where’s…the…BLOOODY…FUNERAL!!!!!!”
“ Next week Bob!!!! It’s NEXT week!!!!!”
Ironbark scoured the sky very carefully for aliens, pointed at something that wasn’t there…..then slowly limped into Mass.