The gun-slinging, adrenaline-seeking farmer with big heart
THE small regional town of Karara bid a fond farewell to a farming legend last week when Donald McLeish passed away at 93 years of age.
"Charitable Don", as he was nicknamed by the community, was a larger-than-life character who could be relied upon for an open ear and a helping hand.
Son and friend Bruce McLeish said Donald led by example, always the first to knock on the door of a new neighbour, offer assistance when someone was in trouble, or to teach an old trick to the younger generation.
"He would do anything for anybody," Bruce said.
"He'd take time for people, he'd show young people how to ride a motorbike, a pushbike, or how to shoot a gun.
"And whenever you spoke to him, you knew you had his full attention."
The large crowd, filled with people aged from 15 to 90-years-old, that gathered at St Mark's Anglican Church on Saturday, a testament to the mark Donald left on each person he met.
"He taught us to treat everybody equally and to expect the same back," Bruce said.
"He said to never judge a book by its cover."
Donald's soft-hearted nature came in stark contrast to his harsh rural upbringing as the youngest of 15 motherless children surviving through WWII and the Great Depression.
At age 14, Donald would ride a bicycle around his father's property at Jericho with a military 303 rifle slung over his shoulder.
"He used to shoot kangaroos, skin them, salt them and sell them to earn enough money to leave and make it on his own," Bruce said.
"He'd cut cardboard to put inside his boots so he could still wear them when the soles wore out.
"It was a lot of hard love and for him to come out of that such a wonderful man … he didn't have to be, but he was, and he brought that out in everybody."
Donald worked the land at Waraghai since 1983, developing his own wool growing business and establishing a reputation for himself as an agricultural powerhouse with extensive knowledge of the sheep and wool industry.
He remained there, on the land he loved, until old age, requesting a brand new electric motorbike for his 90th birthday.
"It was the only thing he wanted in the whole world," Bruce said.
"When he saw it he was like a kid in a lolly store, looking all over it and within minutes he'd put the dog on the petrol tank and was riding off into the paddock, a mile-a-minute!
"He was a very fit and healthy man and even when his health faltered, you just thought he'd be the type to live forever."
Donald passed away peacefully at Akooramak Aged Care on January 27. He was predeceased by his wife Judith, and is survived by Bruce and daughter Wendy.
"It's the end of an era," Bruce said.