Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Pastor (11/30/06)
- TITLE: Shepherd of the Air
By Marty Wellington
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Shouting over the engine’s roar jolted Tim back to reality for a second, “Ya okay, Reverend Fairfield? You’re lookin’ a little green.” A smirk played at the corner of the pilot’s thin lips. Dark shades hid his twinkling blue eyes. Aubrey Tittlesworth was a seasoned veteran of the skies. He served in World War II and now flew for the Flying Doctors.
Tim merely nodded, all the time clenching his fingers tighter around his seat. “We’re almost there?” It was more an attempt at positive reinforcement than a question.
“Yeah, Reverend, the airfield’s just beyond that track below.”
Tim glanced out the passenger side window. A group of buildings sprung into view, dwarfed by a vast sea of red dirt as far as his eyes could see—the same landscape that lulled him to sleep for the past three hours. He was already missing the pastoral setting of his native England.
“Well, it’s no’ exactly an airfield—it’s just a dert runway. Gonna call now to make sure one of the blokes drives his utility ‘cross it a few times. Gotta be sure the surface is level.”
Within a few minutes, the little Dove plunked to the earth, bounced along, and then skittered to a stop in the middle of what seemed like nowhere.
Tim inhaled, relishing the relative safety of being earthbound again. Aubrey’s sharp wit interrupted his comfort. “This here’s Dunwoody Station. It’s the beginnin’ of your territ’ry. Better git to know Mrs. McMahon. She’s the best cook in the Northern Territ’ry. We’ll stay the night and git an early start in the mornin’ for The Alice.”
A short ride in the utility brought them to the station homestead and into the welcoming embrace of Mrs. McMahon. “Well, Aubrey. Brought the new preacher with ya all the way from England, eh?”
“Well, not exactly Mrs. McMahon. Just flew ‘im in from Cloncurry. Not sure if me’ little Dove could make it all the way to England and back.”
The jovial little woman burst into laughter as she motioned them into her home. Introductions ensued between the Reverend and Mrs. McMahon and soon Tim felt more at ease in his newly adopted land.
“We’re so glad to have you with us Reverend. We’re in need of a good spiritual leader in the territ’ry. The flyin’ doctors heal our bodies but God’ll use you to heal our souls.”
“I hope I’m up to the challenge, Mrs. McMahon.”
Ushering the two men into her dining room, Mrs. McMahon invited them to sit down to dinner. “Me Jack’ll join us later. He’s on top mendin’ fences.”
A young girl of about 15 or 16 quietly joined them, setting the table and filling the lacey draped table with all matter of culinary delights. Tom watched her silent performance with concern. Her bulging stomach betrayed a deep sadness that choked him.
“Elsie, this is Reverend Fairfield, the new preacher.”
“Pleased to meet you, Sir,” her voice barely audible.
“And, I’m glad to make your acquaintance, young lady.”
Blushing, Elsie raised her eyes for a quick look at the Reverend, resumed her inspection of the hardwood floors, and then retreated to the kitchen.
“Elsie’s a good girl—‘ard worker. Mum died when she was but a wee one. Her da’ kicked her out when he discovered her condition. She had nowhere to go so Jack and I took her in. This here’s a ‘ard country, Reverend. The men outnumber the girls ten to one. And, the ones that wanna marry for keeps are few.” Taking a breath, she continued “I know it ain’t right, but the spiritual takes second place for many families out here.”
Tom smiled. “You’re doing a good work here Mrs. McMahon. And, now I can see why God led me so far from home to serve.”
Reverend Tim Fairfield became known as “The Shepherd of the Air,” traveling the breadth of the territory from The Alice in the south to Darwin on the northern coast. Tireless in his efforts to pastor his sheep, he used the endless air time to pray over the unforgiving terrain. With purpose, his petitions blanketed the landscape and its people bringing relief to a parched land and hope to a lonely girl at Dunwoody Station.
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