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Good keen man died doing what he loved
Thursday, November 22, 2007

By Jo Moir - Wairarapa Times-Age

Les Pracy  at 87  was a good, keen man who died doing what he loved at Tuhitarata on Sunday.  

Speaking yesterday from Les' Greytown home where he had lived for the past 31 years, long-time deer-culling friends Barry Thomson, Dave Pratt and John McCann recalled some of his achievements and more light-hearted moments from his life.

Barry was with Les when he disappeared from the riverbank while whitebaiting and said, "he died with his boots still on, which is exactly how he would have wanted it".

Les had gone down and cast his net at the river near Tuhitarata around 6am and Barry met up with him later in the day and put his own net in the river about 25m away.

"He was perched on the side of the bank in his seat when I saw him and a bit later in the day I went back to check on him because there had been a ski boat going up and down the river causing waves."

Barry said only his hat was left and after searching the willows for a few minutes he called emergency services. He found his mate in the river around 4pm not far from the spot where he had last seen him.

"He was an original good keen man," he said.    

 

 

 

Les was born on August 26, 1920, and lived to be one of 's oldest deer cullers, after starting his career in 1939 as a culler for the New Zealand Government, and he only departed to serve during World War II.  

 

He left for the war in 1941 where he served as a tail gunner until his unit demobilised in 1946.  

Les married his wife, Val, at the end of the war in 1945 and they went on to have two daughters, Lindy Lamb, who lives in Masterton, and Karen Pinfold, of Carterton. His two daughters, nine grandchildren and 3-week-old great-grandchild survive him.  

After returning to deer culling, which took him throughout , he was made a field officer in 1953.  

Barry said he started the first national government possum control throughout and set up search stations at Orongaoronga and Paraki valleys.  

He conducted the first survey for a long-standing study area where he went out checking every watershed in over the seven-month possum season.  

"Every season he would go through 16 pairs of boots, that's how hard it was on his feet walking all over . There were no helicopters in those days."  

His daughter Karen said he knew like the back of his hand and would see an advertisement on television and be able to name the exact place it was.  

"His knowledge was second to none," Dave said.  

Karen said Les and Val were a great team and he was left heartbroken when she passed away five years ago.  

"His health went downhill when she died but he's kept everything of hers in the house just like it was.  

"Val was just as much of a hunter as he was," she said.  

They lived for several years in the bush and a fond story of Les' was the day Val shot two goats with one bullet.  

"There's photos of her with goats on her back and he saved her from drowning a couple of times. He plucked her out of the water by her red hair and she still had possum skins in tow," Karen said. 

Barry said Les' knees gave way, "probably after all the walking he had done", which lent him to become a keen fisherman.  

"Les always had an interest in fishing and diving but deer culling was his big thing.  

"He has always been asked for help whenever anyone from the deer-culling society got tripped up on a date or a figure. His knowledge and memory was outstanding."  

Les had a favourite dog, Darkie, and there were plenty of stories that went with him, he said.  

Twice Darkie got his nose into the possum bait and to save his life Les cut a tip of his ear off each time to make him bleed.  

The bleeding made the heart pump faster and would stop the poison from killing him, Dave said.  

"You can only do it twice though and then you're all out of ears. But that's how Darkie lost both of his tips."  

Les was a bit of a perfectionist and kept his initials on everything, even the broomstick.  

"Everything had its place and his gardens were so well looked after. Les grew most of his own vegetables and bottled and froze his own fruit.  

"He would always have a freezer full of venison and crayfish and groper and every day he would cook himself three decent meals," Dave said.  

The house and garden were both immaculate and only recently he painted the whole outside of the house on his own. 

"You would think a professional did it, the way it's come up so well."  

Barry said Les drove like he was an 18-year-old and everywhere he went was at 140km/h.  

"He would take me down fishing and I'd be holding on to my seat the whole way there. He wasn't a bad driver, just a fast one."  

Karen said he enjoyed his years in Greytown apart from more recently since it's "got a bit icky".  

"He would complain if he couldn't get a park outside the library because there's so many more people here now."  

Les was a big reader, she said. "He would go through a book like there was no tomorrow and he read a bit of everything."  

There were plenty of years left in Les, according to his deer-culling mates though "he wouldn't have wanted to go any other way", Dave said.  

"We've lost a real colourful bush character."  

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