A love of working with livestock and country folk has seen Elders Mount Gambier livestock manager David Creek put in an impressive innings in the red shirt.
But this week after a remarkable 43 years of buying and selling stock, he is hanging up his boots.
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He says the loyalty and strong bonds he has formed with his producer clients has been a highlight, even working with four generations of a few families.
"I've got clients in the Kalangadoo area that have never sold a beast outside the Elders network," he said.
David first joined Elders in 1967 while still in his late teens and, aside from a decade away during the tumultuous years when John Elliott was at the helm of Elders, he has been a loyal company man.
Being a stock agent runs in the family, with two of his brothers already agents when he joined Elders Lucindale. Prior to this, he had a year working for the Kentish family on their Waterloo property.
Lucindale was a thriving branch led by manager Warren Bowden, with four livestock personnel, merchandise manager and an office girl.
The six months David was there were spent doing office work and merchandise sales.
His next posting was to Coonalpyn for three years, where he met his wife of 48 years, Lynn, and also made his first livestock sale.
David vividly remembers Cliff Schulz from Field ringing up with his broad German accent, while his boss Pat Crowe was on holidays, wanting to sell some old Merino ewes.
"He (Cliff) didn't have time to wait so I rang Ron Hooper from Murray Bridge Meats," he said.
"The next day he came down in his big grey statesman. The boss had the company car so I had planned to take him out in my Mini Minor, but when he got to the office and asked what we were going in and I said to him 'we're going in my car', he said 'no we're not' and took his car."
The deal was done and Murray Bridge Meats bought the ewes from CR&SD Schulz for $4.50 a head.
After this transaction, David says the area supervisor Brian Voumard sent him down a company car to canvas clients and his time on the road began.
From there, he moved to Elders Crystal Brook for a short time as an agent followed by a six-month adventure in Qld as the company rep on Corinda Station between Aramac and Muttaburra.
The Elders Goldsborough Mort-owned pastoral property was transitioning out of sheep into cattle with wild dogs a growing problem in the area.
"One of the things that sticks in my mind about that time was on the weekends we would muster wild goats for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the trucks would come and they would pay $1 a goat," he said.
"At the time, cast-for-age station ewes were only making 70 cents a head."
On his return to SA, David moved to Kalangadoo where he remained for three years before two years at Mount Gambier.
In the mid 1970s, David returned to Kalangadoo, this time as manager.
The grass has looked greener when Elders was going through some tough times, but I know long after I'm gone the red rectangle - which is what I call Elders - will still be going strong.
Another move saw him posted to Lameroo, but in the late 1970s he resigned to return to the South East with his family, marketing fertiliser with TOP Fertilisers across the region.
A decade on, when TOP was bought out by Pivot, he re-joined Elders Mount Gambier and has been livestock manager for much of the past 28 years.
"When I came back to Elders I always said that we would only part ways again if it was the wish of either party," he said.
"The grass has looked greener when Elders was going through some tough times, but I know long after I'm gone the red rectangle - which is what I call Elders - will still be going strong."
David says he has been "tremendously lucky" to have the unwavering support of his family during the decades in the job.
"There has been many a family occasion I have missed that my wife has had to explain 'Dad was drafting sheep or loading sheep'," he said.
Two of the biggest changes he has noticed in the 54 years since he started as an agent have been the transition from dollars a head markets to liveweight selling, and the yardings once dominated by Hereford cattle are now largely made up of Angus.
He also witnessed the Mount Gambier saleyards move in the early 1970s from the timber yards in White Avenue, where stock were sold through the ring, to Glenburnie, where the weekly market and store sales are held today.
David, who will turn 70 years old next February, says he has "mixed feelings" about retirement, but knows he is leaving his clients in very safe hands.
"It has been a work in progress for the past three seasons," he said.
"It is a really good group of young fellas that I've been working with.
"Aidan Auld and Ben Gregory are two of the most promising young auctioneers in the Mount Gambier yards and they both really want to be part of Elders Mount Gambier.
"I'll sit back and watch them go. If they get stuck I'm not going far so I'll be here to help them, but I want to sit back and smell the roses for a while."
COVID-19 has put a temporary halt to a planned trip to Qld with his family, but David is looking forward to revisiting Corinda Station when restrictions ease.
"'I've never seen prices like they are now," he said.
"It's good to see clients who struggled along for years are getting their just rewards for their sheep and cattle."
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