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I'm having trouble understanding of this passage from The Ferryman (Jez Butterworth) What are the meanings of these sentences according to the passage: "get a bead on", "I’m a ways past bailing", "pull a muscle".

UNCLE PAT. So what is it, Father? Have you come get a bead on? Sleeves up, shoulder to the wheel. Has the clergy finally come to earn its tithe, now?

HORRIGAN. Oh, I think I’m a ways past bailing, Pat.

UNCLE PAT. Well, you know what they say. It’s never too late to pull a muscle.

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To get a bead on

I haven't read the play, but within the given context it seems to be meant figuratively. Alternatively "to draw a bead on", the idiom means to take aim with a gun (literally), and figuratively to simply focus on something. In this case it could be taken to mean "Have you finally become focused on the task/undertaking at hand?"

EDIT: James K has a different interpretation, which I'm inclined to agree with:

"draw a bead on" seems to be mostly american. I'd guess this expression refers to "beads of sweat". I.e. "Have you come to do some hard work and get sweaty?" spoken rather ironically (implying that the clergy don't do any real work)

I'm a ways past bailing.

This is a combination of "a ways", more commonly used in the form noted in the definition, and "past" (prep.), meaning that the character has long since passed the point of "bailing" (verb, intransitive). In other words, he is not quitting now, as it is too late.

To pull a muscle

A common idiom, "pulling a muscle" means to receive an injury due to overexertion of the muscles. It is most likely meant figuratively here, and could also be expressed as "it is never too late to work hard."

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  • Thank you for your great answers, But can you explain more about the " I'm a ways past bailing"? – user103409 Jun 19 at 8:57
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    "draw a bead on" seems to be mostly american. I'd guess this expression refers to "beads of sweat". I.e. "Have you come to do some hard work and get sweaty?" spoken rather ironically (implying that the clergy don't do any real work) – James K Jun 19 at 8:59
  • @JamesK That does make more sense, given the author's nationality. – Wehage Jun 19 at 9:04
  • @user103409 If something or someone is "a ways past" something, it means that that something or someone is now far behind them, here meant figuratively. The act of bailing, or quitting, is far behind them, as they are now too far gone from having the option to do so, and so they won't. – Wehage Jun 19 at 9:04

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