Goodbyes are never easy. Especially when it is the final one. We returned home last night from an eight day trip to Victoria. It was a final goodbye to a gentle man. A man we have known for most of our lives. The week was filled with tears, love and laughter.
As we laid him to rest, many a story was told by those who knew him best. His two sons and grandchildren shared memories with us. Some of them were familiar stories of a man who lived in the country and had a passion for the bush. Some were of the variety ‘don’t tell Mum…’ This was the first time she heard those ones. Stories of driving to the local corner store in the tractor with his grand-daughter to buy an icecream. Of a trip to the local hardware store to buy dynamite with his 13 year old son – to teach him how to handle explosives. Of catching and teaching the kids how to handle snakes. Of the collection of ‘thingamies’ over decades. Hundreds of them carefully stored in a huge shed. Anything from old cars, timber, bone handled knives destined to be made into something that never eventuated. A mezanine floor was added when room ran out. And when that filled another huge shed was added. Of the inevitable decluttering that saw him rescuing ‘thingamies’ tossed into dump bins for disposal. They might still be of use for something….
The rest of the week saw us continue telling tales about this man of few, soft words. His actions spoke far more loudly. Many who knew him have told their own tales in messages and cards.
One of my first memories of him is typical Les. He loved the outdoors. Camping. Adventuring with the lads. At the time we were all teenagers living in far north Queensland. Much of our time was spent outdoors. Back in the pre-electronics era when we made our own entertainment. One such trip saw us head off to an isolated place called Fountain Springs. There was a small lake, girded by tall, majestic cliffs. Les disappeared. When I asked where he had got to someone pointed to the cliffs and said There! It took a while for me to see him. He was almost at the top, having scaled the cliffs barefooted, like spiderman. How he managed to find hand and foot holds is beyond me.
TRH (The Retired Husband) told many a camping story. There was the time they found some sweating, old dynamite in an abandoned mine which of course led them to blowing up a termite mound. Their only shelter from the blast was a thin old tree trunk. It’s a wonder they survived.
Then there was the time when the four wheel drive they were in was left teetering on three wheels off the edge of a cliff. A very cool headed friend told the rest of the lads to not move while he gunned the engine and reversed the car to safety. They lived to tell the tale.
And the time when a very large wild boar with a sore head chased them all into the branches of a nearyby tree.
Then there was the time when they went on a fishing and hunting trip. My cousin, newly arrived from Finland, went along. Les being Les, found a carpet python. He wrapped it around the toilet roll holder inside a long drop (= dunnie = outdoor toilet). Inevitably nature called and my cousin sauntered in to do his business. The other lads stood around expectantly waiting for the showdown. They were not disappointed. When Matti reached for the paper, he saw the snake. Of course. With a mighty roar he exploded through the door of the dunnie, taking it off its hinges, with his pants around his ankles. Apparently it was a spectacular exit worthy of the wait.
My brother-in-law Les was a remarkable man in many ways. His passion for native plants saw him plant his own mini rainforest on their property. Many were grown from seeds collected all over this great land. He constructed a home for his wife. Everything in it is solid timber. It is beautiful beyond description. Over twenty years of love and labour saw them live in it for a bit over two years before ill health forced them to sell and move. It now belongs to a family who treasure and love it as much as they.
Les was many things to many people. Above all, he was a friend to them all. He will be missed.
© Raili Tanska
than your words.