“Flying Padres Down Under…”
On the two way radio one morning, I had an unknown person call St. Vidgeon’s Station. At first I thought it was a prank set up by my ever-kidding brother-in-law.
The man introduced himself as the Flying Padre who visited remote cattle stations to provide pastoral care. Other than at St. Vidgeon’s household, I had not heard anyone speak Spanish in the Outback. Not one word. Ever.
Yet here was an Aussie calling himself a Flying “Padre.”
The men were away from the homestead, so I asked the gentleman to call the next day so I could provide a definitive date and an accurate count of people who would be there for his visit. Thinking all along that this was a setup, I didn’t want to fall prey to a joke. Later that day, I called Dieter, our shopkeeper friend at Roper River Settlement. He confirmed that “Flying Padres” was a pastoral service provided by the Salvation Army, based in Darwin, that covered 1.25 million square miles in the Territory and Western Australia. (See yellow area in map below).
After my initial distrust of the Padre, I handpainted a sign with a mariachi wearing a wide-brimmed sombrero to welcome him.
The Padre arrived, tied his plane down, and gathered all six St. Vidgeon’s inhabitants for prayers. Over dinner, he mentioned I could fly to Darwin in his plane since this was his last stop before heading home. My friend Dora had invited me to spend a couple of weeks with her during the mustering season when I was frequently alone at the station. The next morning I got on the radio to make sure her invitation was still good.
Our warm-hearted and enjoyable guest carried my suitcase to his Salvation Army plane. He proudly showed me how he’d recently fastened one of the wheels with wire. He’d have it fixed in Darwin, he said. Taking one look at that wheel, I remembered, all of a sudden, important radio communications and other chores that prevented me from traveling that day. I enjoyed adventure, but a wheel fastened with wire was too much.
Six months later when the Padre visited us again, he smiled at me over dinner and mentioned he would not invite me to Darwin this time.
“I know you didn’t like that wire holding the wheel on. I’ve been too busy to get it fixed.”
Next installment: More Adventures at the Homestead
Visit me at https://www.Kathryn-Lane.com I love hearing from readers. Ask a question, suggest an idea, or comment about this blog or a previous one. (All blogs are on my website.)
This series of My Life in the Outback is based on recollections of my life in Australia many years ago. My own photographs of Australia are not only limited, but they are also old 35mm film in dismal condition. To make the series more appealing to the reader, I supplement with photographs that are similar to the experiences and locations I’ve described. I’m often dependent on pictures from the public domain and Creative Commons.
*Names of some people have been changed to protect their identity since this is not a memoir, but merely my recollections of Australia. The name of the cattle station where I lived was known as either St. Vidgeon’s or St. Vigeon. I use the first spelling in most cases, but on occasion, the second one comes in handy.
All photographs are used in an editorial or educational manner.
Welcome sign – by Kathryn Lane using Canva and a picture by Cranky.Pants – licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
Airplane Wheel by FebbieG – licensed under CC BY 2.0
Map of Flying Padre Territory and Flying Padre visiting remote cattle station in his Salvation Army Plane – from Salvation Army, Australia. www.SalvationArmy.org.au
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