There will be rain. It’s a topic of much debate for the locals sitting at the next table. At ten minutes to four, they say. Some tourists eagerly peer into the windows of a derelict building across the road, much to their amusement of the natives. ANZAC Day seems to have bypassed Menzies – there’s not a flag in sight, and the talk turns to footy. In the meantime, my friend, el geologo, and I are busy swatting flies from a muffin with frozen blueberries.
I have returned to Menzies, town of the iron-plaque people. I never thought to see the place again and I’m noticing things I missed the first time round – the gas station covered with licence plates from all over Australia, the cut-out iron figures of the policeman with this prisoner, the patient carried on a stretcher, and the baker placing his buns in the oven.
However, the iron man we’re looking for stands fifty kilometres away, on Lake Ballard. The local schoolteacher who also runs the café assures us that the road is good. It is also long, unsealed, and very red and dusty. Still we persevere and arrive at the lake in due course.
He’s still standing at the edge of the lake, of course, waiting to greet visitors. This time round, I realize how short this figure is, as I drape my arm around his skinny iron shoulders to pose for a photograph. Beyond stands another figure – a woman, by her pointing iron arrow breasts. Iron people with iron hearts. Suddenly I’m reminded of the other iron-hearted men who died at Gallipolli.
We saunter up to the little island in the middle of the lake – a hill with jagged rock fragments lying at its foot. There are more statues beyond, of course, but it’s the anticline (no, I cannot explain this – look it up) to our left that catches my friend’s eye. The last time round, I visited the lake with architects. How different it looks through a geologist’s eyes.
We battle flies every step of the way. They swarm across our backs and my resourceful companion has turned my cardigan into a fly whisk. We are soon routed though and we retreat to the shore. A family is valiantly picnicking at a bench there. Brave souls.
Several hundred kilometres southward, one carwash, and an ill-judged McDonald’s meal later, my friend and I check the show times at Orana Cinemas in Kalgoorlie. Some movies are best seen on the big screen, he says. I agree. After all, we’re planning to watch Iron Man 3.