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A Testimony Of Answered Prayer.
Uncle Sam.

No not  this Uncle Sam.
No disrespect intended.

It is this Uncle Sam I want to speak of.
Samuel E. Stovold.
I was going to entitle this page...
Old Dirt Farmer Sam.

Though I felt that "old dirt farmer Sam" would describe Sam well, it was as a result of his nick name, Uncle Sam, he was well known by in the area that I chose the title I did. I don't think I need to explain why he became known by that nick name, it would speak for itself. When Barb and I bought our motel sixteen years ago, Sam came along with the property, we sort of inherited him. After a number of years he became very much part of the furniture around here and a very good friend as well as great asset to our business.

Uncle Sam grew up in the Bundaberg area of Central Queensland of German or Scandinavian stock. His early days were spent working his father's small crop farm. After some years of getting to know Sam he began to open up to Barb and myself in greater detail of his early life, which was not an easy one, one I would find hard to live let alone imagine even trying to live it the way people of his generation did in the bush. Their home was a timber frame covered with sheets of bark, bark that comes from what I call the paper bark tree. The floor was made from compacted termite nest, mud that when mixed with water and compacted set almost as has hard as concrete. I will leave it to your imagination what the rest of the household facilities must have been like. He only managed three years of any form of schooling in his young life as working the farm always came first.

As a young man Sam married, he and his young wife, Anne, worked their own farm together and raised three children. As with a lot of small farmers, there wasn't a lot of money to go around so at some time in their young lives, they left the land and moved to the town of Childers. When Anne was at the age of forty one she fell victim to cancer, leaving Sam to bring up his three children by himself. I am not sure whether it was while they were still on the land or after their move. Every time I got Sam talking of those years he was reduced to tears, he never got over losing Anne. He worked the sugar plantations in the Bundagerg area, cutting cane by hand as it was done in those days. Fires were lit in the fields to kill of vermin, snake's, etc, and to remove the leaf from the cane before the men went in with their cane knives to harvest the field, they worked from sunrise to sunset, a hard and dirty job, they were black with soot from the fires by the end of the day. When I look back I am sure that Sam blamed God for Anne's death, he was not a believer nor was I, though I do believe that God was tugging at my heart and had been for some years.  

Sam later worked as a ganger with the railways, spending weeks at a time out in the bush repairing tracks, the old timber rail bridges, replacing the timber sleepers, again physically hard demanding jobs. The only kind of work a man with little education could get. When Sam retired the then owners of our property rented him a room, his children were now married with their own families and had gone their own way. He moved in with his few meagre possessions and settled into what was to be his home for the rest of his life.  He spent the early hours of a morning over on the River fishing, then would come home to his room and sit around, listening to his radio, sometimes he might take a short stroll back across to the river looking for a better spot to cast the next morning or take his bait net back over to replenish his supplies.

One of the few photo's I have of Sam.
He like Fay was very camera shy.

Sam was of a short stocky build, strong for a man of his years. He got talking to Barb one day about the grounds around the motel, they were in bad need of attention, the previous owners had let the gardens go, the place looked a bit of a mess. Within a year Sam had the front garden and side entry looking a picture. Over the next year the rest of the property began to look a tropical paradise, a green oasis in a relatively dry area. The building itself would win no design awards but Sam's gardens did. Fourteen years in a row Sam won  first prize in the local tidy towns garden competition. If the building didn't bring customers in off the street, Sam's gardens did, and we were told so on a number of occasions. He had at one time also worked as a greenkeeper at a bowls and golf club, if Sam knew nothing else he knew how to work the ground.
When I became a Christian it seemed that Sam would take the Lords name in vain a little more then he normally did, I know it was to goad me on a bit. We were always having a chip at each other in a friendly fashion, knowing that one would not be able to get on top of the other, nor do I believe wanted to it was just friendly banter. I feel at one stage the Lord dealt with me over this. I was not to be offended when people used His name in vain as I would never win anyone if I allowed offense in. Every time Sam would use Jesus Christ as a tackon to a statement, I would reply with a smile; "Well Uncle Sam, your right again - Jesus IS the Christ." He would just get that cheeky broad smile on his face looking skyward at the same time.

Early in 2001 Sam developed stomach problems, he was complaining of pain in the lower abdomen. It was discovered he had advanced bowl cancer. In a matter of months Uncle Sam's stocky frame was reduced to walking skeleton. I would witness to him of Jesus as I had never done before, I would ask the Lord in prayer to let Sam be a walking testimony to the healing power of the Gospel. Though Sam was losing weight at a rapid rate and in tremendous pain he would still spend the mornings chipping away at the weeds in the gardens.

It was early in the May of 2001, that one afternoon Sam came over to the office, he was in bad shape. His eyes were glazed from hitting the morphine he had been prescribed, I dont think I had ever seen someone so close to death as he looked that day. He always came across to us, mainly Barb, when he had forms to fill in concering his aged pension, drivers license and such like. He wanted Barb to drive him to see the doctor who had been treating him. Barb isn't very brave in this particular department, nor am I to tell the truth, but I said; "Come on Uncle Sam, I'll take you."

When we arrived at the surgery the doctor took him straight in, I helped him up onto the examination bed, I think that is what you call them, what ever they are called I hate the sight of them. The doctor prodded his lower stomach gently asking if it was painful here or there. Sam's voice which was quite feeble, something I was not used to would respond accompanied with a grimace look when the doc hit a tender spot. It only took five minutes or so and the doctor said; "I think we had better get you off to hospital again." Uncle Sam didn't object even though he disliked the idea, our place was his home and he didn't want to leave it.

While we were waiting for the ambulance which the doctor had gone to call I said to Sam. "Well mate, it's about time we took this one to the Boss, what do you think?" Sam replied;
" I think so."  I began to lead Sam in the sinners prayer, the longest one I think I have ever said, I didn't want to miss a thing and I heard Sam repeat every word. The bit that got me was was the way he said; "Lord Jesus come into my heart." After the years he had taken Jesus name in vain, this was so different.   

Sam died later that May, we did get to see him one more time though. His eldest son brought him down one Sunday to pick his belongings, while he was here he came across to the office and threw his arms around Barb's neck and wept as he said goodbye, he considered us more his family than his own children. Sam had been transferred to Rockhampton hospital where the son lived.

You would think I would be a little discouraged by now, the first three people I had asked the Lord to heal all up and died on me. It is not for me to know the times or the seasons, also the reasons but I feel the Lord was showing me something here also. With my Uncle, Bob Ryder I was given confirmation through the sequence of events that he made it home safely. With Fay Dineen I was also given confirmation through that experience of tranquility the Sunday morning we received the news she had passed away and her letter. With Uncle Sam I had to take it by faith that he made it home, as I heard him repeat every word of that prayer.

I quite often go over into Sam's old room, he being the old dirt farmer that he was the room resembles a dirt farmers room. I have not done a thing to the room other than use it as a store room for the moment. Each time I go into that room the memories come flooding back of the years he was so much a part of this property. The enemy may rob us of good friends but he will never be able to rob us of the memories and the time we had Uncle Sam with us.

Foot note.... I think that is what you call an afterthought! Uncle Sam was buried next to his wife, Anne, the wife he loved and lost some forty years earlier at Bundaberg cemetery - a fitting end to his life on this present earth and the emotions of those who knew him. But it
is knowing that I will see him again on the new earth, that is what I look forward to.

24th. August. 2002.
Bob Haughey.
 
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