I’ve been a drifter all my life, but I never realised the Lord was directing my steps. My old man brought us up after the old woman left, and the people across the road used to take me to Sunday school. I spent a lot of time at my grandfather’s farm, and that’s where I learnt a love for animals. I get called Cowboy, and it’s been so long that no one knows my real name!
I’ve always been a wanderer, and just picked up work wherever I could. I did a lot of smoking and drinking. One drink was too many, and a hundred drinks wasn’t enough.
I got a one-way ticket to Oz, and picked up a job working the dodgems at a fair, and then got onto the rodeo circuit. They were a good crowd, but they were a hard crowd. If you upset someone, they would rope you and drag you behind a horse around the ring to degrade you.
One night I was drunk and telegrammed my mate to send me a ticket back to New Zealand. When I sobered up I didn’t want to go home, but the ticket was already on its way, so I had to go through with it. I reckon if I had stayed in Oz I would be dead by now.
It got to the stage where I was drinking 24/7, whatever I could —including meths. In 1990, the judge ordered me to The Salvation Army’s Rotoroa Island. They were good people on the island. There was always something to do: painting, games, fishing, and it kept you occupied. The real test was when you got off the island. I would walk across the road if I was going past a pub, so that I could avoid the front doors. I have been sober now for 24 years.
I drifted to Masterton, and got married for the third time—this one has worked and we’ve been married for 13 years. I finally found a place where I wanted to stay put. A couple of years ago, I started going to picnics The Salvation Army church held. I felt like I was part of a family. They take people as they are, and look after people. I started to go to church there, and then to a men’s group, where I had a laugh and a giggle, and read a bit of the Bible. I didn’t know you could be with people who didn’t care about smoking or drinking, and still have fun.
Then my lungs packed up and I was close to death. I was in the hospital for 10 days. Even the doctors had given up on me. I reckon I was on my way to the big fella, but he said, ‘I’m not ready for you yet,’ so I’m still here. Medical science had something to do with it, but it was a miracle. God still wants me here. I don’t know why, but he has a reason.
I chose to become a soldier (Salvation Army member). It was my way of showing that I believe, and to give back to the Lord for all the things he’s given me. It’s also my way of saying I’ve put all the bad parts of my life behind me, and I’m walking with Christ. Giving up smoking was a battle, but I just plod along and listen to the Lord. If you have ears, he speaks to you.
The Lord is there the same as the sun shines, but you just don’t see him all the time. He helps you because he wants to, and he just wants us to do the same to others.
By Roy Carley