Feature photo above: Ruth C Hall with Dr James Cooper receiving her equal third prize for her story, ‘My Dad’. She shared some photos with us, as well as a bit of backstory.
My Dad, Harry Hall, would bring stories to life. I well remember sitting around the dinner table as a child with my four siblings. One of us would ask Dad for a story and then we’d all be on his back for a tale. When Dad would agree, Mum’s rule that we had to have eaten our dinner first would kick in. Then we’d sit spell bound. We’d heard most of them many times, but I guess it was the way he retold them that kept us coming back for more. In those tales from his shearing and early life we felt like we were there with him.
The story I’ve shared in the anthology is really the basis for the rest of Dad’s life. His salvation story was pretty dramatic – the way it happened and also that it was so real in a practical sense. He miraculously gave up his drinking and smoking at once and was able to pay back his gambling debts. At that time he was shearing on the Yorke Peninsula, and God put two people in his life who discipled him with love and taught him about God and His Word. Brian and Janet Daniel were a major influence in his life at that time and became lifelong friends.
His early years before knowing God held many difficult times. His family life as a child was quite dysfunctional and the intense disappointment of not being accepted into the army during wartime because of a hearing problem meant he saw his mates go off without him.
So he left the city and worked as a station hand in the outback before moving on to become a shearer, over the years becoming one of the best – a gun shearer.
Dad was always a man of high integrity with a gentle nature and although he was very intelligent had left school after year seven. But as the story shows, even though by the age of thirty he was at the top of his game as a shearer, he struggled with the effects of his past and he drank to cope. The way God met him when he was at his lowest was very special.
Dad developed an intense love of the Bible, and in later years would spend hours every day in study. And even though his life continued to have different ups and downs his deep love for God never wavered.
His stories of that time were so fascinating that before he passed away my sister spent a lot of time with Dad in preparation for writing a book about his life up until his salvation. In that book entitled Harry, by Julie Carbone, Dad’s stories as he told them have now been kept alive.
My Dad’s influence on my life, although subtle, has been profound.
Ruth’s story ‘My Dad’ was published in our recent anthology Bones and Blue Eyes and other stories of life.
Bones and Blue Eyes is the seventh anthology in the Stories of Life series, true stories of ordinary people experiencing a connection with the divine in the context of their ‘ordinary’ lives. They are electricians, accountants, butchers, mothers, preachers, children; people grieving, people rejoicing, people helping and being helped. In each story we see individuals believing, however shakily, in a God who cares and comes to them. The writers are honest about pain, doubt, poor choices, unjust circumstances, fear… This is not a collection of neat stories, perfect doctrine, and pasted smiles. On the contrary, many are unfinished stories of people who simply acknowledge that, along their way, the God of love meets them.