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Brave hay runner finds solace through giving

When Sue Ryan lost her truckie husband last year, she thought her hay run days were behind her; but thanks to the generosity and support of those around her, she’s continuing his legacy.

Buster Ryan was a truckie with a heart of gold, who had been in the job for over 30 years. He was a farmer in his younger days, but a truck driver for most of his working life.

Based in the town of Leeton in NSW, he carted hay for a local family business called Killoran Ag.

The couple met after Sue got her truck licence and approached a local company in the hope of cementing her skills.

“I’ve had my licence for 20 years – I got it with the intention of getting into the industry but I never actually did. I went to a trucking company to get experience with one of the drivers, and they put me in the truck with Buster, so that’s how we met,” said Sue.

Buster and Sue began doing hay runs in 2016 with the Burrumbuttock Hay Run. They did their first run with Need For Feed, an organisation they were both very passionate about, in September 2019, and continued to support that cause ever since.

Buster and Sue did many hay runs together and were passionate about supporting Need For Feed.

Need For Feed is a Lions Club project, and it took Sue and Buster to farmers in need across NSW, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia.

Together, they took part in several hay runs a year and had plans to continue doing many more. They were due to head to Cobar for their next one in late October, but it wasn’t to be.

Tragically, on October 13, 2020, Buster went to work and never came home. He was 66 years old.

“My husband Buster tragically passed away in a workplace accident last year, where he had been road training loads of hay for his work. That’s primarily what Buster did, cart hay – and he absolutely loved his job,” said Sue.

“He was in the process of having his road train unloaded, when he was struck by a telehandler.

“We were booked to go on a hay run to Cobar but then Buster passed away so they made it a memorial for him. Need For Feed took me in and supported me. They’ve been so prominent in my healing.

“Some of the team knew Buster, some didn’t, but they are all genuine salt of the earth people and I find I’m in the absolute best place when I’m on a hay run.

“After losing Buster, I was certain that I’d never participate in another hay run, but after regaining myself and thinking what would Buster want me to do, I realised I needed to keep his memory alive by continuing to help others by means of getting loads of hay out to drought affected farmers, And in fact, I’ve now participated in three hay runs since my husband’s passing, with a massive thanks to Matt Shaw at Wagga Trucks for continuing to donate a prime mover to this cause.”

The affiliation with Wagga Trucks began in September 2017 when Buster was in need of a donated truck for an upcoming hay run.

He rang around to various dealerships, but it was Managing Director of Wagga Trucks Matt Shaw, who was more than happy to come to the party.

Sue delivered a load of hay to this farmer at Cecil Plains on the Australia Day weekend.

“When he got onto Matt and told him what we wanted to do, the first truck he got us was a new Mack Superliner. He just handed us the keys and said go and have fun. Matt didn’t know Buster from a bar of soap. It all came from a random phone call, and Matt’s been happy to support us ever since,” said Sue, expressing her gratitude.

“The Macdonalds are the family Buster worked for and who have been donating the loads of hay. They’ve said they’ll continue to donate hay when I go on a run on my own.”

And it’s this sort of support that has enabled Sue to continue her charitable work, which she says has helped with the healing process too.

“I drive the truck which has been a massive thing for me. When Buster died, I said I couldn’t do another hay run and I didn’t until December when I went to Cobargo. I had friends here in the industry who said they’d come with me to share the driving. They didn’t want me to go on my own in case I wasn’t up for it mentally,” revealed Sue.

She did her next one in January, which was to Cecil Plains and then another in March, which headed to Winton. And she did them both on her own.

“That’s three runs in four months, and each time Wagga Trucks has had a truck there for me. Being able to do these hay runs puts me in a good place. It’s not only the fact that we’re helping the farmer at the end, it starts from the beginning of the journey before you leave. While organising the journey, I’m carrying on Buster’s memory. He wouldn’t have wanted me to stop. Though it’s not yet official, the next hay run could be in April,” said Sue, adding that the buzz she gets from the farmers she meets is incredible.

“We’re met with tears and hugs. The farmer I just delivered to couldn’t believe they were getting a whole load of 41 bales – she was blown away. The farmers you meet tell you their story, and it helps them knowing that others care.

“They don’t feel so alone when they know that others are thinking of them. We think we’re just doing the things that need to be done, but we’re in a position to be able to help and that’s why we do it. We’re met with sheer gratitude.”

During her most recent trip to Winton, which is currently in drought, she tells of a farmer she met who had lost nearly 400 head of cattle during the floods.

“We’re standing in a dry paddock and the trucks of hay rock up at their place and they’re lost for words and can’t thank you enough. It’s all about bringing them hope. I get just as much out of it as the farmers in the end.

“It’s the people you meet, the comradery and the friendship. I don’t have a truck or a trailer or grow hay, but all the support I have behind the scenes allows me to continue doing this work and I am so very grateful.”

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