© Ellis Campbell

Winner 2010, Coo-ee March Festival — Humorous Section, Gilgandra, NSW.

The tiny church stood on a hill, beside a sandy creek –
its weatherboards were shabby—long deprived a coat of paint.
It serviced Birch Flat residents with sermons twice per week –
a congregation not designed to house a pious saint.

The night was dark and gloomy, drizzle hurled by swirling wind
lashed walls and whistled through the eaves, to sigh a doleful tone.
The pastor poured another Scotch—quite sure he hadn’t sinned –
well satisfied was Reverend Tobias Weatherstone.

The Reverend was certain none would venture out tonight,
such weather was beyond the faith of any in his flock.
He sipped his Scotch and snuggled by the cosy firelight –
though time for service he ignored the ticking mantle clock.

A headlight’s gleam pierced darkness, shining through the timbered track,
and swung around to halt before the little country church.
The Reverend—astonished—knew he’d been a little slack
and blundered out the doorway, giving just the slightest lurch.

A frozen farmer waited in the shadows of the porch,
perplexed because the Reverend was running late tonight.
But then he saw a probing gleam—a fast approaching torch –
and Reverend Tobias Weatherstone hove into sight.

The solitary figure shivered in the lonely pew,
as Reverend Tobias preached at length in pious tone.
Like someone with a vision—every action right on cue –
he thundered at that farmer freezing slowly there alone.

Outside the church he shook the hand of poor old Farmer Rouse.
“My friend,” he said, “tonight you’ve taught a lesson all should learn.
I was prepared to forego church and stay inside my house,
but you have shown a path of truth that none should ever spurn.

“I was unworthy in my thoughts—I failed to comprehend
that even one’s important—you’re a martyr in disguise –
for you conveyed a signal from the Lord, my holy friend.
You’ve shown to me a blinding truth I failed to recognise.

“So well you tend your starving stock with needful loads of hay,
and brave inclement weather many others likely shirk.
If only one poor cow were there your purpose would not stray –
she’d still receive attention as you carried out your work.”

Poor Farmer Rouse rubbed numbing hands and carefully he said,
“Your Reverence, I thank you for the kindness you endow.
Though words you speak are truthful—all my stock are surely fed –
I never fill the truck with hay to feed a single cow.”

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