Bill was carting for the squatters in the dry and dusty north
To make a living at the only trade he knew.
Where it’s hard and tough to travel over mud or dust or gravel
With a motor truck that’s not exactly new.
Bill cooled himself with visions of a foaming icy beer
On a day so hot the desert lizards fried.
He caught his breath and muttered as the engine shook and spluttered,
And with a final shudder coughed and died.
Bill cursed that stubborn engine as he laboured in the heat
And tried with all his skill to make it go.
With his head beneath the bonnet he was swearing out a sonnet
When a quiet voice behind him said, “Hello”.
Old Bill had learnt his language from the teamsters of his youth
When the muleteams and the donkeys felt the goad,
Where the camel chains they clattered and the bullocks were all spattered
With mud and slush or bulldust as they struggled with the load.
He described with full embellishment everything he’d tried.
“I’ve changed the plugs and cleaned the carburettor.
It’s not a faulty coil, and I’ve checked the sump for oil
But maybe you can think of something better.”
The quiet voice behind him continued unperturbed
And made a mild suggestion that perhaps he’d better pray.
Bill didn’t turn his head, but his ears and neck turned red.
He really did excel himself that day.
The dust clouds rose in visions of the battlers of the past,
As the last of the old masters let off steam.
The atmosphere turned blue with swear words old and new
That would have lifted any bullock team.
When he’d finished with the truck, and the dirty crook that sold it,
His visitor’s ancestry he related.
With words to shock a mule he called the man a fool,
Then turned, and saw the Bishop he’d berated.
In a Diocese that covered more than half a million miles,
The Bishop knew each mining town and station.
He traveled near and far in his battered old Ford car,
Respected by each tiny congregation.
“Your Holiness”, Bill stammered, and he stuttered and he blushed.
It seemed that there was nothing more to say.
He tried to make amends for he wanted to be friends,
And said, “Perhaps you’ll teach me how to pray”.
A masterly oration followed on that invitation.
Exhortation from creation to temptation, expiation,
Tribulation, retribution, confession, absolution,
Inspiration, revelation and eventual salvation.
One could hear the church bells tolling in his final ringing challenge,
“Although it’s true all men are born to pain.
We know faith conquers all, however low you fall,
Gird up thy loins and go to work again.”
Bill tottered to his vehicle, though he seemed a trifle punchy,
The old truck sprang to life beneath his hand.
With a miracle occurring and the engine sweetly purring,
Bill swears the Bishop said, “Well I’ll be damned!”
By Dick Turner ©