Victor 5 Company scout and tracker Ruka Hudson lost both legs after stepping on a landmine in the Nui Thi Vai hills in July 1970, 10 weeks after his arrival in Vietnam. He has gone on to become a successful artist, proud father and grandfather, Korowai teacher, fluent Te Reo Maori speaker and keen fisherman. "I came to a place where a low branch crossed my path and to get to the other rock I would have to stoop quite low down and jump across. I adjudged that would be difficult and that there wouldn't be a mine down there. So I stepped down and the rest is history." For many years after his return home, Hudson lived with flashbacks and dreams of Viet Cong that left him "sweating like a stuck pig". In 1980 at the age of 44 he learned to paint, and six months later staged his first exhibition. "I was a natural. I had a few more successful exhibitions and supplied galleries with paintings – I loved it." Not long after, the Hudson family moved back to his home town of Ōpōtiki, where he enjoyed diving and fishing from his dinghy. After the birth of his fifth child, painting, rather than engraving, became his major source of income.
Ruka Hudson moved to Hamilton where, after his youngest had headed off to school, he took on yet another new challenge — learning to speak Te Reo Maori. "This was a big break for me, an extreme high as I started to get little insights into what was important to me and why we thought the way we did. I eventually ended up back in Ōpōtiki and proceeded to set up Te Reo language classes." "Looking back, I would say that the biggest attribute to one's outlook on life — with its ups and downs — is attitude. "Life is not easy, but it's only as hard as you make it."
Hit the hills, live the BushLife!
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