When Uncle Fred went missing, it came as no great surprise. Mum had been saying for years that he was beyond help.
Fred was her younger brother, a single man who spent most of his waking hours in the pub before staggering home using the fences along the street as supports. Though one night he forgot that Mrs Pilly didn’t have a fence but rather an impressive hedge and he fell into it leaving a large hole in it much to Mrs Pilly’s disgust.
But today there was concern that Uncle Fred was missing and there was a fear he had turned the wrong way out of the pub and wandered off into what we called the back of beyond.
This was a forested area, thick with lantana and inhabited by creatures only too happy to bite you and not care if you died, as then you became their dinner.
Search parties were organised, and after several hours hope began to fade as no sign was found of him.
Fred was not a bushman, he was actually a very good slaughterman and worked long hours when he was able to at the meat works corralling the cattle and sheep and efficiently dispatching them to ultimately land on our respective dinner plates.
He was a single man, for the most part, he didn’t do his body any favours, and the joke around town was that when he died his body would be so pickled as to never decompose.
But he was part of our community, and despite his wayward life we were concerned for his safety.
The final search party for the day was heading out when they discovered Fred sitting on his front porch, having an afternoon beer. It turned out Fred had never left his house that day, feeling a little under the weather, which we thought should have been his default health position, he had stayed in bed which was a very unusual thing for him to do. His routine was such that people expected to see him at various times during the day and when they didn’t they raised the alarm.
Mum said Fred was beyond help once again as she rolled her eyes thinking of her brother causing us all so much bother.