Mum was aware that her two sons were at the age they needed a father
Enter Ray Bishop as a fill-in Dad. Ray was a short, rotund man, hardworking and as an innovative backyard engineer where machinery was concerned. His dedication to the Lord inspired me as a teenager and I looked upon him as a role model.
‘Why do you take your Bible and Sunday school lesson book to work with you?’ I asked as I looked at the dog-eared, blackened Bible and tatty lesson book one day.
‘I have to work from dawn to dusk to get this property cleared, lad. ‘He spoke quietly with a gravelly voice. The rolling hills where he was clearing were covered in tall stringy bark gums and thick under-growth. He was working a caterpillar tractor and chain. He’d stop the tractor for a bite of lunch and study the lesson for Sunday. Even while driving the tractor with falling trees and branches crashing about him he would have the Bible open and be reading. He gradually cleared his property single handed.
‘But you could prepare when you get home? ’I suggested.
‘When I get home the wife wants the wood cut and the cow milked. Then I am too tired,’ Ray smiled.
As the war escalated, ‘Petrol is getting pretty scarce now. Soon I won’t be able to buy any. I think I will put a gas-producer on the truck and tractor,’Bishy said to me one day. Everyone called him ‘Bishy’ young and old.
‘How are you going to do that?’ I asked wondering what sort of a contraption it would look like, knowing Bishy’s method of engineering.”
‘I’ve got plenty of wood to burn so if I build a big iron tank out in the middle of the paddock and fill it with wood, I’ll be able to bake the wood into charcoal. I’ll have to make a fire drum that fits on the running board of the buckboard and filter drums to fit on the front that will clean the rubbish out of the gas before it goes into the engine. I’m sure the idea will work, it should be a piece of cake.’
‘Well you know what you are doing,’ I said with plenty of scepticism and watched as he went about creating a gas producer. The gas producers were finally fitted to his tractor and buckboard and if they were a bit basic what did it matter. They were effective. He also burnt and bagged many tons of charcoal for sale.
‘Bishy, there is going to be a great film showing in the church in Victor Harbour on Friday night.’ A young teenage spokesman for the group approached Ray. He was silent for a moment or two.
‘What is it about?’
‘It is about the power of God,’ the group chorused, sure now that Bishy was hooked.
‘Oh well, I suppose I could take a group of you down. The wife might like to go as well.’
So Friday night came and we were excited about going to the pictures in Victor Harbour. Eight of us piled into the back of his old Buick buckboard which was fitted with his own engineered gas producer, chattering like a flock of starlings.
‘What did you think of the film?’ I asked my mate later on the way home.
‘Ah, a bit weak,’ he replied.
‘Yeah! Pity,’ I agreed.
We continued to discuss the film and its failings when suddenly we found ourselves tumbling into the bushes and trees along the side of road. I struggled to extricate myself and straighten my clothes, hoping my best clothes were not torn and then looked for Don. He was emerging from a bush and the girls were both giggling and crying, and sorting themselves out.
Above the racket, Mrs Bishop could be heard crying, ‘I’m stuck! I can’t get out!’
I stumbled across to see if I could help. The buckboard had tipped over onto the fire drum mounted on the running boar of the vehicle, throwing eight of us off the back into as we went around a sharp corner.
Mrs Bishop was sitting on the down-hill side of the seat against the big fire-drum.
‘Are you hurt, Mrs Bishop?’ I asked.
No, but I’m stuck. Get me out, before I catch alight.’ Her voice trembled, I’m not sure if it was pain, fear, or anger, or maybe all three.
’We can’t seem to find where you are stuck,’ I replied.
‘I’ll crawl in under the gas producer and see what is wrong,’ one of the smaller boys offered. It was a bit embarrassing fumbling around a lady’s figure trying to find where she was stuck
‘Her coat’s caught on a broken spring,’ the rescuer grunted trying to unhook the coat.
‘Is she hurt?’ one of the girls asked.
‘No. I’m all right.’ Mrs Bishop replied. Steady boys, steady. I’m stuck I can’t move at all.’ She surely was. It took a while before Mrs Bishop unhooked, she kept saying, ‘Steady boys, steady.’ Finally she was free.
‘Come on you lads.’Bishy said, ‘Let’s tip this old girl back on her wheels.’
‘OK,’ we chorused and got underneath the buckboard and heaved as only farm lads do, setting the Buick back on her wheels.
‘She looks OK.’Bishy walked around the vehicle, kicked the tyres and said, ‘Let’s go home.’…
We had experienced the power of God to save in a more practical way than the film ever did or could; a lesson I’ve never forgotten