An old-timer sat on his veranda and although it was only 10 am, he held a can of beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Despite the cold, he wore a blue working man’s singlet, shorts and thongs on his feet.
Coarse grey stubble grew across his face; it had a bronzy liver damaged pallor. His cheeks lacked plumpness; instead, the skin hung slack, devoid of any fat. His emancipated body was stick thin, no doubt from replacing food with booze, except for a potbelly which projected out as if a cushion was concealed under his singlet.
‘What do you know about the church?’ I asked.
With no intention of stopping, I had driven into the one-horse town of Greendale in Victoria’s Central Highlands. But an unusual church caught my eye; it looked as if it was sawn in half.
‘The money for the other half of the church got stole by Captain Moonlite.’
‘Who’s Captain Moonlite?’
‘Yer drives a fancy car like that, and yer don’t know yer Australian history.’
He proceeded to give me a history lesson. Captain Moonlite had once been Andrew Scott, a pastor sent to the parish of Greendale. In 1875 the community constructed half the church and continued to raise funds for the second half when their preacher and the money disappeared.
He resurfaced as Captain Moonlite, a notorious bushranger with surprisingly impeccable manners, always apologizing and never forgetting to say thank you to his victims.
At one point the police caught Moonlite, but he escaped taking six other prisoners with him. Eventually, he was captured for good and hanged in 1880.
‘Yer got any smokes?’ asked the old bloke
‘Sorry mate, I don’t smoke.’
I thanked him, got into my fancy car and drove away dreaming of the well-mannered Captain Moonlite.