Big Frank

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs

A conversation about Big Frank.

Submitted: February 15, 2018

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Submitted: February 15, 2018



‘Sad about Big Frank.’ Albert said shaking his head glumly.

‘Yeah, poor bugger.’ Replied Henry. ‘Couldn’t accept being in a wheelchair! Hard on his missus and his kids too!’

‘Oh,’ says Albert, ‘I didn’t know he was in a wheelchair.’

‘Just goes to show, you do a favour for someone and it can turn to custard.’ Henry snapped in fingers. ‘Quick as that!’

‘What happened?’

‘A mate of his had a tree that was too close to his house.’ Henry explained. ‘It was apparently only a small tree about eight inches in diameter. Anyway, it came back on him, smacked him across the shoulder and bang! He was in a wheelchair!’

Big Frank had been an Environment Forest Ranger. Which meant that his job was to protect the indigenous forest by killing animals that don’t belong there. He and his team used to arrive on all the forests within the conservancy to carry out night shooting work, mainly targeting hares, rabbits and possums. But if a deer, pig, stoat, ferret or feral cat popped up in the glare of the spotlight, it too was controlled.

Talk about glare! The light was hand held, a Boeing aircraft landing light if you please! They had to rig up the electrics on the truck so it had the grunt to power it, as far as Henry knew, the modification included two alternators. After each night’s shoot they would always call at the office to report how many animals they had taken. They always reported to Henry because the boss, Ernie and Big Frank had a coolness that, at the time, Henry couldn’t quite figure out, he presumed because they both came from down south, they’d had some difference or other in the past.

‘Frank and his crew were good blokes.’ Albert commented, not knowing that they had a reputation of being a law unto themselves when it suited. Henry knew, but said nothing. And smiled at the thought.

‘He took me to some weird guy, close to Naseby.’ Henry remembered. ‘It was in the early days of deer farming and we had to inspect his fences to make sure they were up to spec. He had other animals there too, including a scrawny-necked, randy ostrich! You had to watch in case he took a bloody fancy to you!’

Albert laughed, imagining what randy ostriches do.

‘Anyway this guy had a collection of dresses.’

‘Dresses?’ Albert didn’t understand.

‘Yeah, I don’t know if he ever married or not, but he collected flash dresses.’ Henry explained. ‘I suppose not really dresses, they were actually gowns. Gowns like the ones Miss New Zealand contestants wore. He had bloody wardrobe-loads of them! And photos of the women wearing them. He even had dresses worn by famous people, can’t remember who, but Audrey Hepburn rings a bell.’

‘Audrey Hepburn? How’d he get them?’ Albert commented.

‘No idea. Big Frank didn’t seem at all phased by him, he’d been there before but the old bugger certainly opened my eyes!’ said Henry, ‘I hear now he’s tipped up, some people want to make a museum display of them!’

‘I got to know Big Frank pretty well.’ Henry reminisced. ‘Remember old Keith our big chief Conservator?’

‘I can tell you a story or two about him!’ Laughed Albert.

‘And me!’ laughed Henry. ‘On a four wheel drive trip through the Kakanui Range, the highlight was when Big Frank took a photo of old Keith’s bare arse! There was no back on the bush dunny! And Big Frank sent the picture to just about every forest! But you know, old Keith took it in good part.’

‘Big Frank didn’t hit it off with Ernie thought, did he?’ Albert remembered too.

‘Well, I found out this much later when Troy, one of Big Frank’s mates came into the nursey to buy some trees.’ Henry grinned. ‘Apparently Ernie and Big Frank had agro that went back a long way, but anyway, one evening, Ernie and Tilly were sitting in some pub-restaurant, all flashed up. Might have been a wedding anniversary – I don’t know. Remember they always used to drink beer - Speights? Well they’d ordered a handle each when Big Frank, who had a spotted them from the bar, sat down at their table. Tilly gave him a lemon-juice look, which Ernie picked up on and was just as sour toward him. Frank didn’t give a toss, he’d a few beers under his belt, enough to make him cocky! It didn’t get any better when the squid-ring entrée arrived and an unceremonious Big Frank plucked a couple of rings off Tilly’s plate using his grubby fingers. “You don’t want to know where these finger have been.” he smiled. Tilly dabbed her lips with a napkin and gave him a look to burn letters into granite, and Ernie shifted his chair back, about to have a crack at him. “You don’t like me much, do you?” Big Frank asked Tilly a rhetorical question. Not expecting a reply, he quietly took out his top denture, swished it around in Tilly’s beer, stood up and left!’

‘No wonder the air was frigid when Ernie and Frank met up!’ Albert grinned. ‘Bet that put a dampener on the celebration too!’

‘No love lost there!  Replied Henry. ‘Big Frank was one of the larrikins that crop up in your life from time to time.’

‘Amen.’ Albert agreed.



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