I remember when I was a kid we lived at Oatley, a suburb in the St George area of Sydney. It was one of those ‘leafy’ middle-class areas on the Georges River where we were surrounded by bushland, mudflats and all sorts of possibilities as kids.
Oatley was on one side of the river, and Como was on the other side. The two suburbs were connected by the railway bridge that went across the river. Attached to the bridge were the main water pipes that ran to that area of Sydney. There were two or three pipes, each about a metre or more in diameter. Walking along the top of the water pipes was the quickest way to get from Oatley across to Como, except where they went across the railway bridge. For that section, they were suspended below the bridge, and so the only way to walk across was to use the narrow wooden pathway that lay in between the two steel tracks. It was a ‘single line’ bridge and several hundred metres long, so there was never any suggestion that walking across it was either sensible or safe. But hey, we were young!
The trick with crossing the bridge was timing. You could never make it across the whole bridge without a train coming as they ran too frequently. After all, it was the main Sydney City to Cronulla line! No, the trick was to be able to time it so you could get from one ‘pylon’ to the next before a train came through. The idea was you’d get to the pylon and then lay in the steel girder spacing as the train went passed. It was a bit breezy, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Anywho, on this one occasion, a younger kid had tagged along with us. Now when there are two of you there was just enough space in the girder for both of you to fit. But three….?? Well, let’s just say we hadn’t thought that far.
So here we are, walking along a wooden board about 200mm wide, which is suspended 50m above the Georges River, and halfway between two pylons when off in the distance we see a train come round the corner. Now we needed to run to the next pylon. Not walk. Run! So off we go my mate and me. Forgetting all about the little fella with us, but focused on the oncoming train. About halfway to the pylon I suddenly remember the young fella. And as I turn back I’m shocked to see him still standing in exactly the same spot we left him. Standing in the middle of the tracks, feet glued to the board with eyes the size of dinner plates. Now ordinarily I’m pretty game, but playing chicken with an electric train is not high on my list of to-do’s as it turns out. But…
Now the reason this kid had nagged his way into coming along with us could be if I am completely honest, more to do with the fact I liked his sister than I was one of those “lovely boys who just wanted to encourage and nurture the younger ones”! Just say’n… And, if he died, my chances of her being my girlfriend any time soon were probably going to take a hit. So I was faced with a choice. Find another girl, or rescue the kid!! Teenage boys, I am talking to you now… When faced with that choice, always go with the girl because you can’t be sure you will find another one with the same questionable level of taste (Joke… humour… we’ll see if that gets past the Editor!). Editor gave a wry smile 🙂
So I bolted back towards him. Now he was halfway between the pylons. Even if I could get to him, then get him back to the pylon we were going for there were three of us (surprisingly, a thought that had only just come to me!). And so I raced along the board, scooped him up with one arm and literally carried him to the next pylon back along the track that we had already passed on our way over. We got there seconds before the train did. I’d chucked him into the stanchion gap and thrown myself on top of him. Saved the kid, won the girl, life was grand! Not exactly…
What the Police Officer explained to me was something called ‘Trespass’, and that it’s extremely dangerous. “You could have been killed”, he roared in what I thought was a little too animated. After all, it was much more likely the little tacker was the one at risk of death than me. Go ‘roar’ at him, I thought! Then there was the little tacker’s mum, who was far more animated than even the Police Officer. I don’t remember a lot of what she said, but let’s just say any prospect of marrying her daughter was probably off the table. I tried explaining how I had actually ‘saved’ her son, but she pointed out several fairly obvious facts and gave me that look that only mothers in kill mode can get exactly right.
We continued for several years to walk across the bridge. Even when they installed large steel gates. We just climbed over them. Then they fitted pointy steel spikes on top of the gates. So we’d just throw one of our younger brothers on the spikes, and climb over them! (no we didn’t… Just for clarity!). But we did continue to use the bridge as a public walkway for many years. How none of us got cleaned up I’ll never know. Eventually, they built a new concrete bridge, and we got driver’s licences so that part of our growing up was over! And no, I never did go out with that girl. She thought I was an idiot for nearly getting her little brother squished by a train!
With hindsight, I can see a thousand times when God was obviously looking after me. I wasn’t even aware God existed at that point, but He was intimately involved in my life. People sometimes ask me how I know God exists. Well, I can list the times His hand has been on me. I may not be able to see God physically, but I can see and feel the effect of God in my life. It’s a bit like not being able to see gravity, but you can see what it does. Same with God. What about you? Has there been a moment in your life when you go, ‘but for the grace of God go I’? Well, you nailed it! That’s God at work in your life…
It is worth saying that in times when life has not gone as I had hoped, even there I have known God’s grace and presence.
And now a message from our sponsors – Australian School Insurance Group Ltd:
I definitely do not condone risky behaviour. Safety first! 📷
Have a great week. And be open to seeing God walking alongside you…