Famous for Asparagus (Jennifer Compton)

I had heard a great deal about the Koo Wee Rup pub, what with one thing and another, so, while I was staying with them, the daughter and her bf took me out there for a look-see. Mind, there’s nothing much at Koo Wee Rup. For instance, there’s no Opera House. There’s asparagus, and one pub. The Royal Hotel. In spite of being royal, tiaras are not mandatory. And, in spite of there being no Opera House, as it turned out, there was plenty of high drama.

We drove out through the rural fringe of Melbourne, and the daughter and her bf were giggling about how they had been going to shout me an asparagus tour. It was a big joke. But I was well pleased at the idea of an asparagus tour, as I love eating asparagus, growing asparagus, all things asparagus. So their joke fell flat. But it was the wrong season. So no tour. But we did see the fallow asparagus beds stretching out to the horizon on either side of the road. The beauty of asparagus is that there is no need to fence it in.

Do you like rough pubs? Me, I’ve always had a penchant for a rough pub. They assured me the Koo Wee pub was really rough. So, good oh. But this was a full-on rough pub!

Fair enough. There was a purple rain cloud approaching, the drought had been biting hard, the bushfires had been outrageous. The pall of smoke across Victoria had been apocalyptic. So perhaps the boys got a bit carried away as the precious rain began to fall.

Let me try to paint the picture for you.

The front bar was heaving with very big men in very casual states of dress. Dress code! What dress code? Shorts, maybe a t-shirt. Maybe not. The daughter’s bf told me they were very big men because they only ate asparagus. But he was yanking my chain. These guys weren’t vegetarians.

The young couple went into the bistro at the back to have a parma and pot. A speciality of the region. Chicken parmigiana and a glass of beer. Called a pot in Victoria for a reason inscrutable to me. Because the blackboard menu was totally composed of what had once been a living creature — no asparagus at all — I gave the bistro a miss. So I was standing in the front bar having a smoke and a glass of a brutal white, looking out at the unforgettable sight of rain falling and giving the poor bastards on the fireground a break — WHEN — one of the very big guys fell with a mighty crash in through the swinging door onto the floor.

Then two or three other big guys fell in on top of him.

Then a few other big men indiscriminately poured their beers on top of them.

Then a guy who was just wearing shorts opened his fly and started to piss on them.

Then another guy who was just wearing shorts pulled them down and started to crap on them.

I retired to the bistro in ladylike confusion.

Which is marginally better than retiring stark mad in white satin.

A friend of the daughter’s — a cool, local chicky babe — told me the game, which is called Stacks On (as in stacks on the mill), is quite popular. It doesn’t necessarily have to rain for them to play it.

She also told me you can do anything you like at this pub — except behave.

I noticed there were no security guards. We had been to a rough pub in Pakenham the night before and there were three security guards, one of whom was from Sicily.

It seems the proprietor of the pub in Koo Wee Rup will occasionally say, as he is mopping down the bar with a damp rag — ‘Settle down, boys’ —  but that is it as far as crowd control goes.

The daughter always warns me not to be weird when she takes me to a pub. I told her that I can guarantee that I will never be weird at the Koo Wee Rup pub.

‘Too chicken, eh?’ she riposted.

I replied — ‘Cluck cluck’.

Jennifer Compton lives in Melbourne and is a poet and playwright who also writes prose. Her stage play, The Goose In The Bottle, has been shortlisted for the Lysicrates Prize in Sydney, and will be performed on February 10 with the other two shortlisted plays, whereupon the audience will vote for the winner. In effect, a play slam.