We lost the Farm Supervisor, Dave Reardon last Wednesday.
Nobody is irreplaceable but some people are incredibly difficult to replace.
Occasionally there are those whose output and influence is never ever duplicated, even though they are replaced. This larger than life man was one of these.
Dave received a respect from his people that other supervisors and managers long for but few ever really enjoy.
No matter how hard you worked and regardless of what you did, he did more.
Dave was one helluva tough cookie, yet at the same time he had a sensitive, softer side that was hidden very well – until you got to know him.
You needed a parental guidance warning before getting into a conversation with him as his choice of words and phrases were colourful at best and if you were ever unfortunate enough to find yourself on the receiving end of one of his tongue lashings you were very careful not to repeat the actions that bought it on.
Philip, one of the young Irish backpackers would have us in fits of laughter in the evenings at meal time when he would mimic how Dave had got up him during the day. It would fair dinkum sound like Dave was in the room. As funny as it was it was impossible not to see the respect that went along with the mimicking.
I looked up to Dave and held great respect for him.
He was one of the reasons we enjoyed Koramba so much because he had this knack of seemingly breaking all the rules without breaking them. He seemed to be beyond the excessive and ridiculous health and safety laws which drive our workforce into taking less and less responsibility for their own safety. He expected you to look out for yourself. He demanded you use common sense both in life in general and at work and he had precious little time for people who wouldn’t take responsibility for their own actions.
I loved our frequent long conversations about the farm and in particular his take on people. This bloke could take a tiny Estonian girl with very little English and turn her into one of the best tractor operators around.
The stories of the people he helped and the so called down and outers whose lives he swung around are quite legendary in the area.
He represented to me a time that is fast disappearing, when men had to be tough, resilient and unafraid and it was imperative that you backed your own skill and never relied on others to do what you should do yourself.
Dave knew how to operate, maintain and repair almost every machine on virtually any farm and was skilled in handling stock as well as a whole range of farming practices. How could you ever replace such broad experience? He was so confident in his own knowledge and experience it didn’t ever matter who he was talking to, he would take over.
A number of farmers in the area who had the privilege of Dave’s help relate how that although they owned the farm, when Dave walked onto the property you temporarily gave ownership over to him.
He just took over – but it was with the confidence of his absolute certainty that he knew what to do – in any situation.
He was a heavy smoker and loved his XXXX Gold very much.
It was hilarious a couple of weeks ago at the evening meal in the mess room. Dave decided to mow his lawn while it was still light and as the backpackers crowded against the mess room windows, which look straight onto Dave’s house, they were treated to a deft display of how to operate a ride on mower with a XXXX Gold in one hand and a cigarette in the other. With his sun seasoned leathery skin, his unruly dark hair with its patches of grey and his unshaven face and the inevitable stubbies, which were his uniform, it was a sight which all of us will remember fondly when we think of the man.
He came over to the camp one day to talk and he told me how Bev, his wife, had left the water pump on and flooded underneath the house. He told me how he “got right up her” telling her off in no uncertain terms. He finished by adding, “Just as well she was asleep!” About ½ an hour later his phone rang and it was Bev. “Hello Darling”, he said in the timid little voice he used with her, “Yes Dear, No worries Darling,” I heard him say.
It was a treat to see how this little lady could cause this tough, hard living, hardworking bloke to melt so easily.
This farm is about 40,000 acres and yet it never ceased to amaze me how Dave seemed to be everywhere at once. He always seemed to be wherever I was, whether it was the Weighbridge, the Machinery pad, the Workshop, the Camp or down the farthest reaches of the farm, he always seemed to be there, either directing someone or manually carrying out a task himself. He seemed to be able to concentrate on twenty things at once.
Studies should have been performed on the man to find out how so many tasks could be worked on at once, how one man could be so damned productive!
Dave was 4 months older than me and at 61 and with his passing this now makes me the oldest man on the farm, a dubious honour indeed.
The man left us all to wonder how we’d all cope without him, especially Kerrie and I as he really did make our job of running the camp easy. All we had to do was ask and he produced everything we needed immediately.
It was him who told me to grab any machine I wanted, from tractors to Bulldozers, learn how to operate it and then use it. It was he (often with the help of his young protégé Shannon the Mechanic) who fixed the toilets when the pipes blocked up, changed the gas once a week, got the rubbish removed and got us whatever we needed for the camp and best of all, told us he trusted our judgement on what was needed and just go ahead and do it.
Dave had a heart attack while down at the Machinery pad and many of the young workers tried frantically for an hour to revive him but to no avail.
The family decided to hold a memorial service here at the camp on Sunday as they thought it fitting that he was sent off amidst the simple, basic surroundings of the farm from which he often remarked he’d never leave alive. It was a wise decision which I’m sure Dave would have thoroughly approved of.
As Phil, one of the local farmers said, “He died as he wanted to – on the farm, in the open air with his boots on.”
As I try to come to terms with the fact that Dave’s Landcruiser will no longer pass by my window 10 times a day at breakneck speed as it struggles to keep up with his demanding schedule, I realise that this man meant even more to me personally than I imagined. Funny how it takes a person’s passing to make you realise how much they meant to you.