Old truckie's 'hobby' is a farmer's salvation

Old truckie's 'hobby' is a farmer's salvation

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HELLUVA HOBBY: Need for Feed volunteer Frank Fitzpatrick, 80, and great grandson, Zacchaeus, 7, on their way to East Gippsland.

HELLUVA HOBBY: Need for Feed volunteer Frank Fitzpatrick, 80, and great grandson, Zacchaeus, 7, on their way to East Gippsland.

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Frank Fitzpatrick, an 80-year-old retired Shepparton truckie, took up driving for Need for Feed two years ago to keep himself busy.

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At 80, Frank Fitzpatrick has a hobby that makes him something of a hero.

The retired Shepparton truckie took up driving for Need for Feed two years ago to keep himself busy.

"After driving trucks for 63 years, I retired from that and then I just needed a bit of a hobby," Mr Fitzpatrick said.

"This is as good a hobby as any and it's putting a bit back into the farming community."

Mr Fitzpatrick donates his own Kenworth semi-trailer to make a trip once or twice a month to transport hay for farmers in need.

One of his most recent trips involved a load from Dixons Creek in the Yarra Valley to Black Mountain, about 50 kilometres east of Gelantipy, only a day after the fires had passed.

The hay donor was Lyn Mullens, who had herself been a grateful recipient of donated hay after a bushfire years before.

Mr Fitzpatrick likes to take someone with him and that 1100km East Gippsland trip from Ms Mullens' home was his first accompanied by seven year-old great grandson, Zacchaeus.

The pair loaded hay on the Saturday afternoon, slept in the truck at Labertouche and joined a convoy of 50 or 60 vehicles at Traralgon for breakfast.

After reaching Bairnsdale saleyards at 1pm, 25 trucks were sent through Gelantipy with a police and CFA escort.

"During the day, you didn't say a lot of fires but, coming back at night, we saw it was all lit up like Luna Park," Mr Fitzpatrick said.

By 7pm, his truck had finally reached its Black Mountain destination and was met by fire-affected farmers.

"The farmer who unloaded my truck had about 2000 acres and half of it was burnt out," he said.

"They were happy and just amazed by how much hay they got.

"Five trucks were shared among about 10 farmers, just to keep them going."

As much as Mr Fitzpatrick enjoyed meeting farmers and the sense of satisfaction helping them brings, the devastation he saw was hard to shake off.

"The fires and the drought, it's just unbelievable," he said.

"Some of them are things that should never have happened and, to think that it does happen, makes you really sad."

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