‘I’d do it all over again’: 50 years not enough

Gordy Leith, of Tokanui, sits behind the wheel of the Isuzu F series bulk sower which he has...
Gordy Leith, of Tokanui, sits behind the wheel of the Isuzu F series bulk sower which he has driven for about 28 years of a 50-year career spreading fertiliser and sowing seed on farms in the Catlins. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON
A Tokanui octogenarian has no regrets about a half-century behind the wheel.

Gordy Leith, 82, retired recently after a 50-year career driving a bulk sower truck around farms in the Catlins.

He loved the job.

"If I had the opportunity I’d do it all over again."

He had sowed seeds and spread fertiliser using the "bulky" on land that had once been covered in bush.

While he had never crashed it, "I’ve had one or two good scares but that’s about it".

"I’ve had them slide down and stop in a sheep track before she went over."

He memorised the more difficult parts of the country he covered for next time.

"You had to have your wits about you the whole time."

It was satisfying seeing the results of his work as he drove along.

"You can see the actual paddocks greening up and getting better and better as time went on."

In the early days many of the farms were about 121ha.

"Now they’re bigger, of course — double, three times the size."

It was challenging terrain to drive at times and had steep sections.

Often it was covered in rocks and sticks.

Sometimes his partner Rosie Moore went out with him.

"I’ve seen amazing views I’d never see otherwise, land I’d never see otherwise," Ms Moore said.

When she first started going out in the truck people told her she would be safe because she was "driving with the best".

The truck Mr Leith had spent the last 28 years driving was an Isuzu F series and was very reliable.

He grew up on a beef, sheep and dairy farm at Tokanui.

Once he turned 15, he left school.

"I was out the bloody door and off."

He did a variety of jobs including milking cows for his father and working for the rabbit board.

"The rabbits were that blimmen thick here you could go out and hit one on the head with a stick.

"They were unbelievable when I was a kid."

He worked for Tokanui Concrete Products for about 10 years while continuing to work on farms when there was no demand in the summer for fence posts.

His next job was with Chisholm Brothers where he drove a crawler tractor to pull implements to work up the ground.

He also started driving a bulky.

Kapuka Transport bought Chisholm Brothers in 1980 and Mr Leith continued to drive the bulky until 1996.

At that point he worked for Coast Trans, which was a new company started by Ken Golden and Lex Chisholm.

In 1999 Titiroa Transport bought Coast Trans and he worked for Titiroa for the next25 years until his retirement.

He had health challenges during his career, including losing

the sight in his right eye after a car crash.

"It took a while to get my balance back."

He also had a heart attack and 18 months ago he was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

About a month ago he passed his heavy traffic licence but his daughter Joanne persuaded him to retire.

"I was going to carry on," Mr Leith said.