The legend of Punchie Wallace. Soldier, boxer, wood splitter, deer culler and private hunter.
Once upon a time, in the mystical wilderness on the fringes of Poronui, there lived a character like no other. For a whopping four decades, Punchie Wallace carved out his own unique slice of paradise, nestled among towering beech trees along the eastern edges of the Kaimanawa Forest Park.
Punchie's humble abode in the bush was a DIY masterpiece, a place where Mother Nature and resourcefulness came together for a quirky cohabitation. His cozy dwelling was fashioned from a simple manuka frame, with several sheets of plastic as its roof. Inside, you'd find two distinct areas - a living and sleeping zone, and a separate kitchen and storage corner. The walls were adorned with vintage curtains that probably added a warm and homey vibe. Punchie didn't go overboard with decor; he had photos of his sisters, affectionately referred to as "under-handers" since they lived down under in Australia, and a few pin-up girls scattered around.
For sleeping arrangements, four bunks made of local wood took center stage, complemented by a sturdy table and a plush armchair covered in deerskins. Even the floor had its style, with pieces of linoleum also dressed in deerskins. This man knew how to make his place comfy!
But what truly set Punchie's roof apart was its top layer - a heavy-duty plastic, his valiant shield against the possum invaders of the night. You see, Punchie had a furry problem on his hands, or rather, on his roof. Those pesky possums had a thing for testing their claws on his rooftop, leaving behind more holes than a piece of Swiss cheese. Nevertheless, Punchie would respond with his rifle and turned this dilemma into a culinary adventure, using possums as key ingredients for his favorite possum and pork stew. Yum?
Punchie's love affair with the bush started in the mid-fifties when this place was just a simple bivvy for hunters. But when fate dealt him a harsh blow with the loss of his wife, he decided to call this bush paradise his home.
He was as rugged as they come, a real bushman. He wore many hats during his life - wood splitter, deer culler and private hunter. He had a knack for hunting deer, bagging over a thousand of them, with most being sika. His greatest achievement? A near-perfect symmetrical trophy from 1957 that scored a whopping 203 7/8 Douglas and still proudly resides at Deer World in Taupo.
Punchie had more to him than just hunting. This guy was a real fighter - not just in the bush but also in the boxing ring. In World War II, he battled in North Africa and Italy before taking up boxing in the late 40s and early 50s. That's how he earned the nickname "Punchie." He even KO'd Jack O'Leary in Hamilton in 1949 to claim the New Zealand middleweight championship, but a showdown with the famous Aussie boxer, Clem Sands, left him on the mat. That's when he called it quits in the ring, saying, "I wasn't as good as I thought I was, and I didn't feel like being beaten up and dying before my time."
In the wild, time has a different rhythm. Punchie was quite the rebel when it came to punctuality; he went long stretches without a watch. Instead, he relied on nature's clock, using strategically placed beech trees as his timekeepers. There was a 'morning tea' tree and even an eleven, twelve, and one o'clock tree. However, winter posed a bit of a challenge with its low-hanging sun, offering just a 12 o'clock and a four o'clock tree. You can't blame a man for trying!
His life in solitude had its share of adventures. Mother Nature once unleashed a fierce cyclone that sent mighty beech trees crashing down like matchsticks around his sanctuary. It took Punchie several months to clear the mess and reclaim his kingdom.
Punchie had some unconventional companions in his wilderness home. First, there was a pet pig named Lightning, who brought company and chaos in equal measure - digging up the clearing, attacking visitors, and wrecking the hut. Lightening eventually met his bacon-y fate, becoming a pickled porcine pal. He was replaced by a tomtit named Tittie, who would flutter around Punchie and perch on his cap.
Punchie saw the bush as his backyard, never feeling the need to venture beyond its boundaries. He dreamed of drawing his last breath in this untamed paradise, but Alzheimer's had other plans. Hunters would often stumble upon him sitting in the middle of a trail, lost in his thoughts. Fortunately, some good friends cared for him before he made the bittersweet journey to a nursing home in Whakatane.
Punchie may have passed away in 2010 at the ripe old age of 86, but his story lives on, a wild and wonderful adventure in the heart of the New Zealand bush.