Jerara sat motionless beside Dad Hobbs, watching to see when—or if—the next breath would come.
Thirty years had passed since the day Jerara had crouched behind a cluster of trees, shivering as he waited for a kind face to appear at Myall Creek sheep farm. He could not remember much of life before that cold June weekend, nor could he remember life since, without the thought of Myall Creek. It had defined him, just as it had defined Mr. Hobbs
Jerara whispered his heart’s release. “Dad Hobbs, man of a million tears, go now into the great Arms of comfort. He will show you a bottle where every drop has been collected. And He will dry your eyes.”
Jerara’s dark-skinned family had lived in a village at the edge of Myall Creek. White people who had come on a boat also lived among them. They brought much help to organize the shepherds and sheep at the farm. The sheep provided warmth in the winters, and milk, cheese and meat throughout all the seasons.
Mr. Hobbs was the farm manager and took great care that each person had a job to do. Everyone worked. On Sundays Mr. Hobbs hosted lunch at his home beside the creek, after which he opened the Bible and taught. The parables were a favorite among the villagers. They listened intently and then discussed the wisdom of Jesus amongst themselves. With full stomachs and good conversations, the villagers rested well on Sunday afternoons.
But on the weekend of June 10, 1838, Jerara had no food, no warmth and no more family. On that weekend, his grandmother, mother and six year-old sister were led away, chained together in a long line with other villagers, by a band of men—the accused and exiled from England who lived in other villages—now accusing Jerara’s village of stealing their cattle.
Blood-thirsty humans avenging the loss of animals. Blood-thirsty animals. That day, Jerara was glad that his father had passed away a year before, so that he did not have to witness the massacre of his own people. I alone have escaped. Words from the Good Book brushed across his mind, blotting at the bitter torment.
His daily runs through the bush—hours of chasing friends—had prepared him for that day. During the attack, Jerara had pried himself from the clutches of a demon-man and escaped. His family had not.
His feet flew to safety on the wings of a strong heart which, he feared, would now fail him. For all it could bear, Jerara felt his heart would drop out of his chest under the weight of such sorrow.
For two days, he hid in the nearby forest, in a hollow tree which only days before, he had used as a station for fun and games. Now, it was the only protection between him and the grip of death.
And then kindness came. Jerara heard noises from the direction of the village. He crept silently to get a closer look at the commotion. There, he beheld the white face of Mr. Hobbs—the man who loved Jerara’s people, the man who now raised his arms to the heavens and then folded them down over his head, the man who wept.
As if God had connected them by an unseen thread, Mr. Hobbs’ and Jerara’s eyes met across the distance. Mr. Hobbs leapt to his feet and in an instant was holding Jerara in his arms. “Oh, my boy, my boy. My dear, dear boy.” He had said, over and over again. He did not need to say anything else.
Mr. Hobbs rode on horseback to Sydney and turned in the witness reports—names, places, dates and evidence—of all that had occurred.
The ex-convict settlers were arrested and tried—twice—for the murders at Myall Creek. Seven white men were convicted and hung for the crimes.
Jerara gazed upon this man of God who had lived the life of Christ and had lavished God’s goodness upon him all these years. “I will take care of Mama Hobbs as you have taken care of me. God will be with us,” Jerara promised, and then he kissed Dad Hobbs’ cheek.
Mr. Hobbs drew his last breath.
Author’s Note: It is true that Mr. Hobbs was the sheep farm manager at Myall Creek sheep station. And the sad incident at Myall Creek is also true. Though a couple of the village children did survive the massacre, the associations I have portrayed in this story are fictional.
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