My mate the drongo

I’ve made vague reference to some of the less socially acceptable aspects of my youth a couple of times on this blog. Not that everything about my past around that time is rotten – I did good things as well – but a lot will have to remain unspoken. It wouldn’t do any good to raise it and possibly some harm (there are interested parties other than myself.)

I’m probably going to have a sleepless night tonight. The old grapevine has brought me some news.

Occasional rude word and drug reference over the fold (naughty words permitted in the comments of this post)…

Back when I was 15-16 in Port Lincoln, I engaged in a few crimes. Nothing that would get me locked up (I suspect) and nothing I engaged in, nor would I engage in again.

These crimes ranged between the morally sound but illegal to the barely peccadillo – and not victimless peccadilloes at that (for a potential victim, think “bunyip-aristocracy, white-supremacist” and you’ll get an idea and perhaps a chuckle.) Sometimes it had a bit of a Robin Hood character.

I had an accomplice in the entire spectrum of not-entirely-reprehensible-crime. Although he tended to go a bit further (without my approval) and steal booze from liquor stores and girly magazines from corner shops. (Why shoplift from a liquor store when you can clean out the collection of an undeserving and quite evil, bunyip-aristocracy, white-supremacist*?)

Said friend was a bit of a drongo. But he did still have a bit of good in him – which the rest of the crowd, many of them who were particularly nasty, I have recently found out, ground out of him.

I can remember one late spring Saturday night in the early nineties, we were broke, up late watching Rage and a certain herbal supplement was giving us the munchies. I swear. My mate the drongo made the best damper I ever tasted. And no, it wasn’t the hunger or the “herbal supplement” that made it taste good. Seriously, I had some for breakfast the next day.

We had some good memories and a few laughs. But in general, things were pretty much a downward spiral for most of us.

There was a rather attractive young lady that had a crush on me at the time, but as I was mates with her brother and all that, nothing came of it. She wound up a few years later after I left town, pregnant and married to a rather violent young man that I used to have tussles with. Poor girl. She was there the night we watched Rage and ate damper.

The other guys that lived at that locale weren’t there that night, and to be honest, that would have ruined it. They had a penchant for violence not matched by anyone in attendance.

Another mate, who wasn’t in attendance had attempted to escape to Adelaide. Escape from his mother and her boyfriend smashing each other over the head with bottles.

My mate the drongo, he was constantly ground down the old fashioned way. Beatings.

He just wanted to be liked by the cool kids. He wanted to be hard like the cool kids. But he wasn’t. He was a softy at heart, and a coward and frankly not that bright.

Once I had to help him out faking a beating. He was sent out by one of the self-anointed alpha males and then someone was to be designated to go kick the shit out of him. I put my hand up (I could hardly be refused considering that said alpha male had recently tried dishing out the same to me with disastrous results), followed him out into the night and then told him what people had in store and that he had to pretend he’d received the beating. Most anyone else in the group would have just beaten him up.

It was a risk. If he didn’t pull it off convincingly, people would know they were being bullshitted and things would have gone downhill pretty fast for the both of us. He already had the bruises on his body and he managed to pull off a convincing imitation of the sound of pain (he’d had practice) and all went well. It was the only good performance of his life.

Most of the time, he was acting out to be who he wasn’t. He bought the right CDs, got tatts and all that. But not only couldn’t he walk the walk, he couldn’t talk the talk. It was always a grotesque caricature of his role models.

He couldn’t lift a hand against another human being, even if they were kicking his arse. It’s what made him such an easy target. But he could do neglect.

A few years after the last time I saw him, after he had followed the mate who previously escaped to Adelaide, he was charged with looking after a dog for a disabled person who had to go away for a while. The dog wasn’t fed, nor was it given water and inevitably it died from the neglect.

So there he was. The hard man who finally had a victim. An easy victim.

It was a friend who dealt with this and I’m not sure how I would have responded. I was more familiar with violence back then, and I was then as I always have been, a dog lover.

I’m pretty sure though, with hindsight, that if he was never subjected to the treatment he received, he wouldn’t have needed a victim. Like the frustrated father that takes it out on his kids, if he either dealt with his issues, or didn’t have them, things would have been different.

Instead of using the money that should have been spent on dog food on the CDs that the cool kids listened to, he would have been his usual softy self and taken better care of the dog. People often look at people like my mate the drongo, like they are just some kind of monster who does something sadistic for kicks. The same goes for those of the rest of the crowd when things go horribly wrong, which in some cases is true – there were more than a couple who were textbook psychopaths.

Most of the time though, many people, like the Law ‘n’ Order types in the media, don’t get to see the good in them. The good that has been slowly eaten away. They don’t see them put up a fight against the encroaching darkness. It’s dehumanising on top of dehumanising.

All the same, I’ll not forgive my mate the drongo for this. He never learned from it, nor anymore has he the chance to.

The old grapevine has today given me some bad news. My mate the drongo, who I haven’t seen in years and have often wondered about, is dead.

Apparently a number of years back, he moved interstate, hooked up with the same kind of crowd and within a few months someone rammed a screwdriver through his throat**, killing him.

Oddly I’m not shocked. I’m pissed off and saddened, but I’m not at all surprised. I do miss him, even if were he alive, I’d not want to know him for what he did to that poor dog.

So this is my eulogy to my mate the drongo, and a lament to all that human spirit that was gnawed away by despair, abuse and the great big yawning hole in people’s lives. And to a few fond memories of breaking the law.

Strangely, somehow a rather absurd song seems entirely appropriate.

~ Bruce

* Presumably because they stock dreadful cask peach wine that gives you indigestion – yuck!

** What is it with fucking screwdrivers? The first time I saw screwdrivers being a weapon of choice was when I was 14 and two guys who were formally best mates had a falling out and a designated appointment to kick each other’s arses, both packing screwdrivers down under the back of their shirts. Being outside of prison and therefore access to a greater range of implements, you would think they could at least be a bit more imaginative (or maybe their lack of imagination is part of how they wound up in a bad situation in the first place.)

2 thoughts on “My mate the drongo

  1. My mate the drongo, who I haven’t seen in years and have often wondered about, is dead.

    This is one of those “you had to be there” things, because you don’t paint a pretty picture though you seem sincere. Makes me think of Lennie Small in Of Mice and Men .


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