Monthly Blog

One Man’s View On The Things That Really Matter

When blindness is a means of coming to the light – 4/5/2022

Walladinga was one of those sprawling Centralian holdings that had few boundary marks and even fewer tracks. At the time of this incident there were almost no roads because cars were almost non-existent and a flying Doctor Service had not yet been started.

Tad had been ‘on this boundary run’ for a few weeks  now and things weren’t going too badly; he had a reasonably good stock of rations still in the panniers of his pack horse, he had plenty of ammo for his old WW1 .303 rifle, his main riding horse was in good condition because it had been a fair season and there was reasonable feed for him each night when Tad stopped to make camp despite the fact that it had been a long and hot summer. So, all in all, Tad was quite content. He enjoyed his own company, and if he wanted to have a yarn then he could talk to ‘Old Mule’ his half breed dog. Old Mule was aptly named – he was a cross between (Tad thought) a kangaroo dog and a Queensland Blue Heeler – big body, large head, teeth like iron stakes and a tail that when wagged could almost knock you over if he wagged it near someone, which wasn’t often because like Thaddeus, he also preferred the solitary life.  But a superb hunter of game.

Tad loved his solitary life and could hardly wait for the stars to come out each night so he could plot the movement of the earth by the number of degrees on his old compass as the moon and various stars rose each night. An independent ‘old cuss’ he was too. He knew his way around the wide open saltbush and bluebush country and was also familiar with the various rock outcrops on ‘his run’ where he would generally stop and get out his little geologist’s hammer and do a bit of fossicking. “There’s gold out there in some of them outcrops, I know it” he would mutter to himself, “Paddy Hannan found it round the ‘Kal’ and this is similar country.”

Over the years he had found a few lumps of likely looking ore and he was always intending that “one day he was going to get the train from Cook or Tarcoola or one of the other stopping places on the ‘Trans Line’ and head into Port Augusta or the other way to Kalgoorlie to the assay office there and get them tested. Trouble was he never seemed to get around to it.

Until one day, when things took a strange turn.

Over the years his teeth had begun to get rather decayed (to say the least) and now were getting steadily worse – not just the odd ache when he might have something a bit sweet from his rations but becoming a constant dull ache in his right lower jaw. Mostly he was able to ignore it by sucking hard on a smooth round stone that he would pick up from the ground as he went along. But that remedy had now ceased to work. “S’pose I’d better head back to the main homestead and ask ‘the Boss’ f’r a bit of leave and go to the bush hospital at Cook or Tarcoola” he thought. But I don’t like Doctors…. Still, I s’pose I’d better” he concluded one day.

But then something began to happen that really shook him. As mentioned earlier it had been a long hot summer and the flies had been horrendous, and coupled with the glare and the heat, he found that the ‘sandy blight’[1] had got him. He tried to go to sleep early that night but the stinging in his eyes and the persistent pain from his teeth were getting the better of him. “No matter” he thought after tossing and turning in his swag for a couple of hours, “I’ll collect me things and head across country to Walladinga station. I know every inch of the bush out here” But now there was a new complication that he was quite unaware of – he was much sicker than he thought and starting to get delirious and disorientated and didn’t know it.

But he shoved his gear into the pack saddle and strapping his swag around the front of his riding saddle he hoisted himself up and pointed his horse in what he thought was the right direction for Walladinga station.

“C’mon Mule” he drawled, “we’re headin’ f’r home”. But the dog started to trot off in another direction. “This way, yer stupid hound, what’s the matter with yer – y’ know the way as well as I do”. The dog did know the way – it was Tad who by now was becoming disoriented and losing his sense of direction.

The dog was an obedient one and he turned and trotted along behind his master on the horse ahead going in quite the wrong direction for Walladinga Station.

The night wore on and Tad began to get more and more delirious and disoriented as the hours of darkness passed. After a couple of hours Tad came to a smouldering heap of ashes beside a low clump of Mulga. Tad was aching all over now and tried to get down from the horse falling heavily and injuring himself in the ribs department. “Bless me” he exclaimed, “I reckon that this is me own fire that I left not so long ago”. Then a sudden feeling of panic began to creep over him. “I’ve gorn round in a circle! Never done that before in me life”, Tad sank down slowly onto the ground. His teeth were throbbing fearfully and his eyes felt like red hot coals burning into his head. “I’m done f’r”, he said bitterly.

Suddenly ‘Mule’ the dog jumped up and ran into the bush. Tad half saw him go and wondered why. “Mule“ he yelled, but the dog didn’t return and soon the intense quietness of the bush seemed to envelope him like a prison cell. “Mongrel dog” Tad said bitterly “desertin’ me at time like this… ah well, I s’pose me time had to come sooner or later”.

But ‘old Mule’ had not deserted Tad. Mule was a good dog, raised by Tad to be a mate from the time he could first leave his mother and litter. Mule was faithful – to the end if need be and his sudden departure was not like that of a rat deserting a sinking ship. Mule had good ears and was at that moment following some sounds that he had heard.

About a kilometre away a family was camped. An indigenous family of nomadic people who were on their annual ‘walkabout’ had camped. It was the faint sounds of their dogs and perhaps a bit of snoring that Mule had heard and now he was making straight for them. As he came closer the family’s own dogs began to growl and snarl menacingly waking up the family as they camped under the stars.

Mule was a large dog and unafraid of anything that moved and his answering snarls kept the other dogs at bay. By now the family was awake and had thrown handfuls of dead scrub onto their campfire. By it’s light they could see a strange dog that was alternately snarling at the family’s dogs and looking at the now wide awake family with pleading eyes and whimpering between his snarls at the other dogs. When he knew that they could see him he turned and trotted a few steps away, back in the direction he had come, then stop and look back at the family. After he had done this a couple of times they knew that the dog was wanting them to follow him. The father, and two other young men decided to follow him.

It only took about 10 minutes till they come to the place where Tad was half sitting, half lying against a stump, his own fire now almost out.

“Who is it?” he called and then he vaguely made out the form of Mule and some people with him. The people were a group that Tad had always somehow despised. He had been taught that they were inferior to him yet now he heard the words in thickly accented and broken English “Hey Bro -is allright now, we help you – get you to the hospital on the railway line. White-fella Nurses there fix you up quicksmart.” With that he felt strong hands lift him up to try to put him on his horse. Problem was no sooner had they lifted him up than he almost fell off again because of his weakened condition.

“No good  – we carry ‘im”, and then again he felt a pair of strong hands lift him up again, but this time onto the back of one of the young men in the group. “You okay now bro. – We bring ‘im horses and take you to hospital. No worry mate – allasame good Samaritan fella – y’know?” Tad vaguely remembered hearing once about Jesus and a story he told about a man who was down and almost dead and how he was rescued by some despised foreigner. “No worries bro – we friends of Jisas – , he our bossman now, you be okay”.

Tad was beyond anything much now, all he could feel was the muscular body of the young man who was carrying him through the bush. After that he must have passed out because the next thing he knew was that the sun was high and that he was looking into the weatherbeaten but kindly face of an old woman who was holding a one of his own water bottles to his lips trying to get him to drink. He was beyond caring about anything now – his body seemed to be in screaming with pain and his eyes felt like they  were on fire. Then they were off again, Tad on the back of another man who was padding through the bush at a slow jog. How the shaking pained! Then another stop, more water, then, nothing! Tad passed out.

It was almost 3 days that it took the group of ‘Jisas people’ to reach the Bush Hospital he found out later. But the next thing he knew was being in a bed, and with a hand gently lifting his head so that he could have a sip of… something…. Medicine he supposed, and a woman’s voice saying “Hello there, good to see you’re awake. I’m Sister Barbara of the Hospital here. You are a very fortunate man. If it hadn’t been for your Aboriginal friends you wouldn’t have made it…”

Tad could feel a slight swelling on his lower jaw and ran his tongue over his teeth – or at least where some of teeth once were.

“You’ve had a rough time” said the Nurse “fortunately we had the Doctor due yesterday on his monthly visit and it seems that he has had a fair bit of tooth pulling experience and was able to take out a couple of your teeth which were so rotten that they were poisoning your whole system. And”, she added “we have been able to put some drops into your eyes that will soon clear up the ‘Sandy Blight’”.

Tad looked around and asked “Where am I exactly?” “Tarcoola Hospital” replied the Nursing Sister. “But how,,?… How could I have got here?”

“Your friends carried you here on their backs over 3 days to get you here.”

“And all this time I’ve treated their kind so badly” said Tad. “I wish I could have thanked them” he remarked wearily.

“You can”, said Sister Barbara,” they are camped in the hospital yard. They have refused to go until they knew if you were going to survive. They’ve been looking after your very faithful dog and your horses” she added.

“Please” said Tad, “can I see them? I got a lot of questions that I need to ask them”.

“Certainly said the Sister, I’ll get one our staff to call them in. They’ll be glad to see you. Mind you, their English isn’t too good but they are some of the finest folk you’ll ever meet. They were some of the first people out here to become Christians…. “

“I think I guessed that from what they told me when they started to bring me in” replied Tad………

So, Tad had been saved from death by Old Mule, his faithful half breed dog and the kindly wandering nomadic aboriginal family that found and looked after him, taking him to the bush hospital at Tarcoola on the ‘Trans Line’.

Tad thought that he knew ‘the way’ but he was wrong. It took a group of despised nomadic Native people to bring him both to his senses and medical help and also to show him the meaning of a story that he had heard one of the Bush Missioners relate about a man named Paul who was struck down from his horse, had lost his sight and had to be led to his destination where he had been helped by a group of people that up till this point he had despised.

Tad had never been a believing man but now it hit him. Just as long ago Paul had to discard his ideas about Jesus which were really pre-conceived and false ones with no basis in fact, so now he had to relisten to and think about that message of Jesus that he been indifferent to for so long. What he may have been taught…… he now had to  re-evaluate it in the light of what the New Testament really said about the man who was willing to give His life to save people from the eternal consequences of their unbelief.…..”

And it took a group of bush people who had had their own ideas changed to make him understand about the real ‘Jisas’ who is alive and in Tad’s case was living in the lives of those kindly bush people and a bush nurse in an isolated, and tiny hospital – far away, but so close to Heaven.

The above narrative follows on from last month and is based on the following Bible passage:

Acts 9:1-17   The Damascus Road Incident.

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

“Who are You, Lord?” he said.

“I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting,” He replied. “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the sound but seeing no one. Then Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. He was unable to see for three days and did not eat or drink.

10 There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. And the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Here I am, Lord!” he said.

11 “Get up and go to the street called Straight,” the Lord said to him, “to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, since he is praying there. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands on him so he can regain his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on Your name.”

15 But the Lord said to him, “Go! For this man is My chosen instrument to take My name to Gentiles, kings, and the Israelites. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for My name!”

17 So Ananias left and entered the house. Then he placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you can regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”


More next month.

*  Sandy blight is the common name of Trachoma and was once a common disease in Outback Australia. The symptoms of which are: eye irritation, redness and discharge (conjunctivitis), swelling of the eyelids, inflammation inside the upper eyelid development of eyelashes that turn into the upper lid and then rub on the cornea, cornea scarring (transparent membrane that covers the eye surface). It was a feared disease amongst many of the old bush people and Aborigines.