vale Don Harley

They buried Don Harley at St Bathans on friday.

I first met Don when he started the Hawkdun Landcare Management group. He asked me to be part of it, and I used to ride through the Pigroot on my wee Honda CB 125. Vague memories of standing up and ‘walking’ on the footpegs, to keep the circulation going and clear the snow from the crutch. I probably let him down – too ‘nice’ at that stage, when in hindsight, I should have told the Michael Peak folk what I thought of tussock burning, for instance.

That was a bigger move from Don, more impressive, than it ever was for me. I was Roslyn middle-class, grown through museum visits, anthropology and physics were just part of the tea-time conversation. For Don to ‘get it’, with a rural/rugby background, took a bigger leap and greater faith. Bigger balls, really.

As a spin-off, he let us stay in the ‘spare house’ during the winter term holidays. The kids were small, and we were on the bones of our arse. I think he realised what the experience meant to all of us. The sound of curling stones wobbling their way down the ice, could be heard from the house. The slope out the back was ideal for sledging. Once. a water-race burst it’s embankment, and the spill froze. Don gave the kids a plastic bin, they could sit in it and slither down the ‘glacier’. They’ve never forgotten it. Nor have they forgotten the spouting frozen to the ice off the roof, hanging a metre out-and-down in space. Nor the time we had to pour hot water on the tyres of the Peugeot 504, to free them from the ground.

We had another loose connection, too. Don’s dad Scobie, I believe drove the car which stopped on the side of the Wedderburn Straight so Granny could deliver my uncle John. A bit of snow meant they never made it to Ranfurly. My grandfather was the schoolteacher at Cambrian at the time.

I lost track of Don when they moved to Wanaka, saw him twice when he was on Regional Council, heard he was crook, and that was it. As you do, I’ve got a million things I’d like to say to him. This will have to do.

Thanks, Don. Thanks for what you did for my boys, thanks for what you did for us, thanks for what you did for the planet. Sleep easy.


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