Handshakes are contracts

In Tests, June 20225 MinutesBy Dave McCoidJuly 24, 2022

Southland. You know straight away if a bloke has the nickname Rowdy, rest assured, that’s exactly what he won’t be.

“When he first started, it was the winter off season,” laughs Wayne Williams, “Dean would pick up Rowdy and Mike Cody, aka ‘Driver’, from Winton, and bring them to work. Dean and Mike would chat away, but Rowdy would just listen and say bugger all. So, Mike nicknamed him ‘Rowdy’. But, hey, what a great bloke. He’s been here just on 22 years.”

A great bloke indeed. After two days, we needed to think about the ‘Rowdy’ thing. Wayne had told us that Rowdy was a quiet bloke, and we thought, ‘Crikey, maybe we won’t get much out of him?’ Wrong. In the end, we reckoned Rowdy’s not actually quiet, he just doesn’t say shit that doesn’t need saying. But he’s more than happy yarning about what does. True to both his Southland roots and the truck he drives – quiet, and delivers the talk when required.

Honestly, you don’t get much more Southland than Rowdy’s hometown of Winton, and the 50-year-old’s career has been split between farming and driving. From school, it was to the land first, where he spent five years working for Hamish, Conor, and Bill English (yes, that Bill English), on the family farm in Dipton. “Bloody good people to work for. I enjoyed working for the English family.”

From there, he spent roughly seven years on Wairaki Station in the Blackmount area of Western Southland before making the jump to machinery operation, driving diggers and tractors for a local agricultural contractor. It was the height of the dairy boom, around the turn of the century, and work was plentiful. He took the opportunity to run his own truck for a short time, a tipper sub-contracting to agricultural contractors in need of more capacity.

Twenty-two years ago, he gave away the self- employment gig in favour of paid employment again, this time at TSL. “It was six months after Dean and Wayne took over.”

Rest assured, it won’t take much to get Rowdy speaking to that subject.

“I’ve seen a lot happen in 22 years. Bloody great bosses! You know exactly where you stand all the time. You get straight answers, and they call a spade a spade.

“I never hear from Dean. He puts the work in front of you, and as long as you chip away and do it, he leaves you alone.

“I also can’t say enough about their support when my wife Aimee got cancer. They were bloody incredible. That’s the only way you can describe it.”

Rowdy’s first two-and-a- half years were on a Hino sower, followed by a year driving a 209kW (280hp) MAN sower. His first foray into full- time stock cartage came at the wheel of a 281kW (430hp) Foden Alpha, succeeded in 2008 by his first FH Volvo, an FH12 520. Since then, it’s been Volvos all the way, with a sleeper-cabbed FH16 600 before the FH16 700 Globey.

“Why would you drive anything else? You won’t get me out of this. I’m a Volvo man through and through.” Then he laughs: “I had to drive one of the new Kenworths the other day, and Dean said, ‘Don’t forget to change gear!’”

Rowdy. You won’t strike a more down to earth and humble bloke. A key to the man’s integrity is the number of work shirts in his wardrobe. In an era where many have closets that look like a rack at Hallensteins, jumping here and there for a few extra cents or a shiny new badge, here’s a bloke who has buttoned up the same logo for nigh on a quarter of a century. That’s a rare thing. It speaks volumes for him and the people he works for, all of them from a place where a man’s handshake is every bit as good as his signature.