AFH’s rough diamond

Terence Alexander Albert Turner, or Snow Turner, was undoubtedly a real character of AFH. Anyone who worked with him between 1960 to 1999, or had anything to do with the company during those years, will know Snow and have a story or two about him. 

While small in stature, stocky and as strong as a moose, he was indeed a larger-than-life figure with a big personality and presence, best known for his colourful language, his pranks on fellow workers and his knowledge of forestry. 

Snow was born in Launceston and grew up in Lilydale. As a teenager, the family moved to a dairy farm at Milabeena. From the age of 15, he worked various jobs on farms. 

He told Mitch Roberts about a job he had cutting ferns at Meunna. He used to camp on-site and cut ferns all day and four nights a week by kerosene lantern. He also played football but stopped after someone’s jaw broke at Myalla.

While picking spuds, his co-worker told him he was going to the pulp to work in the bush after he read a story about AFH buying a D9 dozer.

Snow followed and he started working for AFH on 6 August 1960 after being interviewed by Max Tippett. His first job was off siding on dozers at logging operations, hooking the winch rope onto fallen logs. He freely admits he had no idea about the job when he started. However, he progressed to operating the Skagits and eventually earned a position on salaried staff as a logging supervisor. 

Initially, he rejected the offer to take over from Gordon Bester as a supervisor because he didn’t trust management. A few years earlier, he was one of the few to stand up to Reg Needham over camping allowances. However, it was the wise words of Reg Lohrey that convinced him otherwise:

Take the job son, because no bastard ever gets the sack from the Pulp”.

It must have been his calling as he slotted into the job well and was highly regarded. Snow supervised the harvesting contractors, some company-owned processors, Skagit and Prentice loaders and scheduled contract trucks to the loaders. At times, he also controlled the company Morebark whole-tree chipper and associated trucks that it chipped directly into. It was a hot deck operation that had to be run on precise time schedules, all of which Snow handled with distinction. In addition, he was the principal change agent when the company went from short wood logging to long wood systems. His rapport with contractors made what could have been a difficult transition into a relatively smooth one.

Les Baker summed up Snow’s abilities best:

In days where diversity and inclusion were a figment in the imagination of the downtrodden, one Terence Turner stood as a beacon in a man’s autocratic world. The relief people felt when communicating with Snow was that there was no ambiguity, complete clarity and 100 per cent certainty. Admired by his peers for his sharp mind, capacity to multi-task and simply to get things done, he was 100 per cent reliable. If you had to be in the trenches you would pray for the likes of Snow to be there with you. Men like Snow are truly wasted in peacetime.”

I could write a bit more about his career. However, there are many stories from others to share about Snow, some of which, I am sure, are partially true.

As everyone who has met Snow would attest, he could perhaps occasionally let a few swear words out. But he was always a gentleman around the ladies. 

Snow eagerly gets his copy of “Fires, Farms and Forests” signed by the author at the book launch. Photo Courtesy Andrew Wye.

Josie and Sue Keygan had to walk past Snow’s office to get to their office, and every time he saw them walk past, he’d say, “watch out, don’t swear, here comes a lady”. My wife worked in the plantation section, and when she attended the harvesting meetings as the only female, Snow would pipe up, “righto no swearing there’s a lady present”.

The way he communicated enamoured people around him. He was always willing to assist new foresters and mentor them when required, with many describing him as an honest, loyal workmate and a man of his word.

He possessed tremendous knowledge and insight about the bush and its operations. He had life-long mates, with many now gone. He genuinely cared for those guys slogging it out in the trying conditions on Surrey Hills.

Snow also has a memory which is second to none. He generously provided information for my book “Fires, Farms and Forests”, always accommodating when I rang him, seeking clarification on dates, events and people for the monthly Surrey Hills blogs.

Snow in the office

I will never forget my first encounter with him. When I started with AFH in 1998, I was put in the corner of a large room at the end of the south corridor at the Ridgley office. The desk next to me belonged to Snow, not that he ever used it. Snow wasn’t a paper person. 

Before I met him, I heard him as he walked into the front entrance about 200 metres away around a couple of corners. He was in a colourful conversation with Marion Gard as he walked past the reception desk. It may have been because he refused to take off his muddy boots and walked across the timbered floor onto the carpeted corridor depositing the Surrey Hills basalt as he went.

Anyway, Snow arrived at his desk, saw me, and made some remark about me being the new forester. It wasn’t a hand shaking welcome to the team type of introduction. He then picked up a piece of paper from his in-tray and boomed, “Andrew f^*%*n Kirkcaldie (the Corporate HR Manager in Melbourne), what does he f^*%*n want” and threw the memo in the bin without reading it. I didn’t know whether to continue staring at him, mouth wide open in amazement, or begin laughing.

Snow returned to the office a week later. As I said, he wasn’t a paper person. When he saw me in the corner, he loudly boomed, “Robert f^*%*n Onfray, what are you up to”. Other work colleagues in their offices heard him, and henceforth I was known as RFO, a break from the convention of being referred to by your full initials, in my case RLO, in correspondence.

Snow and mud were synonymous in the office. Geoff Dean said when he started as a forester at AFH, he was advised to be aware of the weather and should manage his affairs so that he had indoor jobs available when it was raining and outdoor jobs when it was dry. If there was a frost, he should go straight up the bush to use the accompanying fine weather. But as field staff grew older, Geoff noticed that they spent more time indoors: writing reports, attending meetings etc.— not what they would prefer to do, except for Snow, who seemed to have “slipped under the radar”.

Geoff asked him how he continued to spend a high proportion of his time in the field when other staff seemed to spend more time in the office. Snow explained that it was important to visit the office after heavy rainfall and the ground was muddy. He could then leave a trail of mud in the corridor and small but annoying lumps on the carpet in peoples’ offices. After a while, senior (office-based) staff become more reluctant to argue that you should spend more time in the office.

Mort Bloom recalled an incident with a mobile phone. After many years of using two-way radio for communications in the field, mobile phones were slowly introduced. One day in the office, Snow walked in with his first new phone and muttered, “I have been trying to change the numbers on this thing all night, and they won’t change”. He yelled out across the room, “BLOOMY”, and when Mort turned to face him, he found the phone travelling straight at him, “fix this thing will ya, I can’t”.

Mort was lucky enough to catch the phone and save it from damage. Mort noticed a screen cover with numbers and said, “Snow, if you peel the screen cover off like this, then you will be able to see what you are dialling”. 

With that, Snow walked toward Mort, “give me the thing”, and snatched it from him. He was reportedly swearing as he went up the passage and out through the front door. The reception desk ladies often recalled the colourful sayings he had that day.

Geoff Dean tells another story about the AFH junk room at the South Burnie office, off the central corridor. There were boxes of old files, loose photographs, tattered map rolls, etc. Unfortunately, any sense of order had long been overwhelmed by the quantity of material and the lack of anyone with sufficient authority and energy to sort the wheat from the chaff. But apparently Snow was up to the task and the contents, worthy or not, ended up at the tip after a journey in Snow’s ute. To this day, I still lament potential vital historical information that I needed for my book had simply vanished.

Snow was not someone you would expect to be overly concerned with the fine points of document management, but he was surprisingly articulate when he couldn’t find a top for his biro. There was a not-infrequent call for the well-capped culprit to fess up and hand over. After one such call Geoff happened to check his bottom drawer and found an inordinate number of biros and biro tops. Like the detective in the famous whodunit, he had to admit that the culprit and the detective were one and the same person. Geoff had to apologise to Snow.

The larrikin

Being a prankster, Snow was always up for a lark when the opportunity arose. There are many versions of this particular story as it has become folklore within the company. Bryan Hayes and Mort Bloom recall a day planning for the Hellyer Railway Spur Project south of Surrey Hills. Mike O’Shea, Bruce Hodgetts, Jeff Angel and Andy Warner were with them. 

They were walking back to their vehicles in single file towards the end of the day. Mike and Bruce were in front, then Snow with Mort and Jeff behind. Andy and Bryan were at the rear. It was a warm sunny day – perfect for reptilian encounters of the most unexpected kind. Due to the dense scrub shading the surface of the ground, cold-blooded snakes would often climb up the trunk of short manferns, then settle in the crown to bask in the warm sunshine.

Snow spotted a tiger snake snoozing in one such manfern as Bruce and Mike passed by. Snow said to them, “this will be fun”. He grabbed the snake and tossed it towards the followers. Jeff managed to duck sideways, and the snake flew past Mort. It smacked right into Andy’s chest and landed at his feet, writhing and twisting itself in a knot before it straightened and slithered away at breakneck speed. 

Andy went into panic mode, as you would, and was not very impressed, and told Snow in no uncertain terms by yelling and swearing. No one heard him swear before. Initially, the others were laughing, but not Andy. The look on Andy’s face said it all, and if looks could kill, then Snow should have died at that moment. The group soon went completely quiet.

Snow was speechless and shocked at Andy’s response, but in typical Snow style said, “well that went well, come on I want to get home tonight, not tomorrow”, and strolled off. Not much was said until they got to their vehicles, and it was quite a while before the tension in the air waned. By that time, Andy had time to realise the funny side, they made up, and all was good.

Ian Blanden was in the car with Snow one day when they stopped at one of the yellow steel swing gates with the heavy metal pin on a long chain:

was riding shotgun, so I got out to open the gate. I knew that this gate was tough because it was stiff and required some work to swing open. And so, I took out my keys, opened the lock, put the pin on the outside of the gate and then struck the gate with the full force of my shoulder. The result was inevitable. The metal pin acted like a pendulum. It swung up in a complete arc and struck me on my forehead, fair between the eyes. I fell to my knees, saw stars in my eyes and remember turning around to face Snow, who was still in the driver’s seat of his yellow ute, with tears of laughter rolling down his face. It took quite a while for the smile, and the tears, to disappear!

Snow didn’t like anyone knowing when he got bogged. One day he called Jeff Angel on the radio to meet up with him and the logging contractor near Sugarloaf. Snow told him to come the back way. On his way there Jeff got a flat tyre. When he arrived, he saw Snow’s vehicle in mud up to the doors. After watching Jeff replace the flat tyre, Snow got into Jeff’s ute with the contractor and told Jeff a skidder was just over the hill that he could use to get his car out of the mud, and promptly drove off.

At work

One day Mort watched Snow loading logs at Parrawe with the 555 Skagit. One log wasn’t sitting as he wanted. So, in a rage, he pulled the log off the truck, swung the tongs sharply to the left, then to the right to gain momentum and then let the log go. It ended up about 30 metres down the bottom side of the road. All the time this happened, Mort could see Snow’s mouth working but couldn’t hear the words. Luckily, he didn’t, as he was sure every expletive known to man came out of his mouth.

Snow often took his holidays and weekends over on the west coast at his shack at Trial Harbour, catching crayfish and mutton birding on the islands. Then, on his return, he would sit down for lunch in the bush with the logging contractors and sometimes AFH staff and pull out his crayfish. Ian Blanden recalls witnessing this on a few occasions:

Snow would be eating the tail meat and I would be left drooling over the legs and other pieces that were left for the Currawongs!”

Snow (right) with Doockie Saward with mutton birds on Hunter Island. Photo Toddy and Gwen Vincent.

Snow often argued with the logging contractors under his supervision, particularly over logging rates. With one contractor, they used to thrash it out nose to nose. Most times, tempers would fray, and the matter would remain unresolved. However, some contractors had friends in the “Pulp”, and calls were made later that evening. Snow would then inevitably receive the instruction the next day to:

pay him C4 rate”. We don’t want them to pull the steam in the mill!” 

Ian says that they had a running joke that:

“…if the Currawongs on Surrey Hills could talk, the only words they would know would be C4 C4!”.

Around 1986-87, AFH tendered and won the work to partially construct the new rail spur from near Guildford to the new Hellyer mine being developed just south of the Surrey Hills estate. Snow was given the lead role to get the logging done ahead of the earthmoving tractors. He was in his prime then as a sort of de facto “Lord of Surrey Hills”. His job was to deploy company-owned logging machinery operated by AFH employees as well as contractors to clear the line and then assist where appropriate to complete bulk earthworks. 

However, the schedule was very tight, and they had about 12 months to complete the project. The start date was in late summer/early autumn. That meant logging and earthworks would have to be performed through winter to have any hope of meeting the deadline. From the beginning, Snow strongly advised Bryan Hayes, newly arrived as Logging Superintendent from Tamar and his new boss, that there was no way work on Southern Surrey could be carried out in winter. He told Bryan that the north-west was not like the north-east – and indicated that Bryan was too optimistic about AFH’s capacity and capabilities to get the work done through winter (one can imagine Snow expressing those views rather politely to Bryan to his face, but in a more colourful way to work mates out of Bryan’s earshot).

Bryan wagered Snow $100 – quite a lot of money at the time – that they would complete the project on time. Snow accepted the wager confident that mother nature would do her bit and prevent the job from getting done, despite him being responsible for ensuring the project was completed. In any typical year, Bryan’s odds of winning were minimal. But it wasn’t a typical year.

That winter on Surrey Hills was the driest that locals could remember and probably one of the driest on record. Snow got the job done on time, and Bruce Hodgetts, Mike O’Shea and Mort Bloom were able to keep earthworks going and achieved a successful completion to enable the railway line installation contractors to start on time the following summer. Snow had to pay the $100 ceremoniously. Bryan reminds Snow about this at every opportunity, much to his chagrin.

Work cars

During Snow’s time, field staff were allocated Ford utes as company cars that would have to do the work of a 4wd. When Snow got his new ute, he would drill holes in the bonnet and attach a Mack bulldog using bolts. Les Baker describes the typical outcome for Snow’s new ute:

From that day onward the only way to describe the condition of Snow’s ute would be one of highly accelerated depreciation, to the point that at the end of its short life it had the value of scrap metal”.

This Ford ute is the same as the last work one Snow had when he retired. Note bulldog on the bonnet. Photo courtesy Lisa Turner.

He would take his utes anywhere, including places forbidden to 4wds and D7 bulldozers. If harvesting contractors or truck drivers complained about the road conditions, Snow would take it upon himself to prove them wrong and manage to get his ute to the operation despite the mud and wheel ruts. His ute was used as a yardstick for whether additional road maintenance was required.

Snow didn’t particularly like the fact they were issued with standard Ford utes without 4wd capabilities. He used to have to reverse out of bogs at “50 miles an hour”. He believed the 3-speed was too high powered. Consequently, there was a discussion between the AFH field staff about whether you could travel the same speed in reverse as second gear. One day Jeff Angel and Snow decided to find out at the Basils Road airstrip. In second gear, they managed to travel at 80 miles an hour.

For reversing, Jeff sat in the passenger seat to keep an eye on the speedo and Snow put the ute in reverse and steered via the rear view mirror.

He couldn’t do both at the same time otherwise he would have easily rolled the car a few times. Sure enough, they managed to get to 80 miles an hour as well and thus prove the point. But it still took a few more years before they got 4wd utes.

Mitch Roberts recalled the time Snow took Andy Warner’s brand new XD Ford station wagon to the bush, when Snow’s ute was getting serviced. It was winter, and he was heading to Painter Road. There were some ruts in the road, and those vehicles had mediocre ground clearance but heaps of power. He struggled to get to the landing, so he just gunned it until the car couldn’t go further, then backed up and again gunned it forward. This process was repeated several times. The actual damage to the spoiler, underbody and radiator wasn’t identified for some time later until about six inches of the famous Moory Road pit slurry was washed from the front of the car by a less than impressed Andy.

Another time, AFH was opening up the Huskisson Road area. There was an old track crossing the river. Snow thought he could cross the river in his Falcon ute. He was wrong. He got stuck mid-stream. In desperation, he loaded big rocks in the back to gain traction. That also failed. Tony O’Malley had a photo of a less than enthusiastic Snow standing alongside his ute midstream with both doors open and a heap of rocks thrown in the tray. The image was titled “I’m just getting Ethel some rocks for the garden”.

Snow loved myrtle firewood. When Lockwood Creek opened up, he was living the dream. Mitch Roberts tells the tale when Snow went back to get another load one Friday night during daylight savings. He was cutting a ute load out of a big log:

It was so big he cut most of the way through it and then had to try and roll it. He couldn’t do it by hand, so he drove his axe into one of the cuts, tied a chain around it and then hooked it up to the ute. He moved the ute a bit too far forward with a tad too much acceleration and as the log rolled the axe flew out. A sheepish Snow managed to cover up the real cause of damage to his ute for a long time”.

Snow was a bit of a smoker in his younger days. Jeff Angel recalls they were leaving Ridgley to go to the bush one day. Snow declared he was going to give up smoking. They stopped at the Ridgley servo, and Snow asked for some chewing gum. He was offered a packet of PK. Snow said, “no I will have the whole carton thanks”. And that is how he gave up smoking.

A serious side (well, sort of)

Snow at home enjoying his retirement. Photo courtesy Lisa Turner.

There was a serious side to Snow which belied his tough persona. One day Snow had a conversation with Geoff Dean’s wife, Ann, on the vexing subject of managing teenage daughters. Snow recalled the time when he was introduced to his daughter’s first boyfriend.

“I shook his hand,” said Snow, “and told him how welcome he was as I squeezed his hand. We spoke about his favourite subjects, and I squeezed his hand a little bit more. I kept squeezing, till, in the end, tears were rolling down his cheeks. I knew then that he wouldn’t be getting my daughter into trouble”.

“The problem is, Snow,” said Ann, “you remember what you were like when you were young.” To which Snow admitted with a twinkle in his eye, “too right”.

On one occasion, Geoff Dean asked Snow for help when one of his ewes was down while giving birth.

The incident was made more memorable because Geoff’s wife was watching and in a state of advanced pregnancy herself.

In turn, her mother was there waiting for another grandchild’s birth. She said that watching Snow assisting with the animals was beyond her experience. She had never met such a rough diamond.

And there is one final story relating to the annual Christmas break celebrations. Mike O’Shea recalls in the mid-1970s when they used to have the function at the Bay View Hotel in Burnie. In those days, quite a deal of beer was consumed, and when it was time to go home, wives would come and pick them up. 

One year, Bruce Hodgetts, Snow and Mike arranged for Annette, Bruce’s wife, to come and pick them up at the end of the night. Getting into Bruce’s car was a challenge for all three of them. When they arrived at Snow’s house, the only way Snow could disembark the car was to fall out. His wife Ethel was watching from the doorway.

Now for those who know Snow, he was never one to avoid an argument. On this occasion, however, he stood up rather gingerly, stumbled across the lawn and quietly went inside with the door promptly shut behind him. And not too quietly, Mike adds.

I didn’t get the chance to benefit from Snow’s wise counsel, so freely offered to foresters learning the ropes. That was because I only experienced the very twilight of his career as he retired (he claims he was sacked) only six months after I started. It was still a privilege to still have that short opportunity to work with Snow and get to know him. And for that I am very grateful as he was one of the best characters I met in my forestry career.

I am sure there are many more memorable stories involving Snow. If anyone has more stories why not share them as a comment on this blog.

Oh and happy 80th next week Snow. I hope you are still talking to me after you read this!

12 thoughts on “AFH’s rough diamond”

  1. Robert MacAulay

    Great read, thank you Robert, and Snow for introducing me to Surrey Hills.

    What happens in the bush stays in the bush.

  2. Sno – Happy Birthday for next week!!

    May your pots be full with crays, your firewood stacks be long and red and your day filled with family, friends, laughter, crayfish and BBQ’d Mutton Birds!

    The rough diamond of Surrey Hills!

    I have a lot of fond memories and lot to thank you for – there was never a better teacher for a young, “wet behind the ears” forester from university! Thanks again!

    I am looking forward to an upcoming blog from “RFO” (with your assistance) on the Hardwood Contractors of Surrey Hills and the ‘26 Concession including the Nothrop’s, the Rawlings, the Chatwin’s and, of course, the Sweeney Bros!

    Happy 80th from Gianella and me!

    Say hi to Ethel.

      1. Rodney “Junior“ Wells

        That’s fantastic “RFO”. The stories people like me remember and love to read.

        So from my read I’m assuming Max Tippet employed “Snow”. I would love to know what “Snow’s” thoughts are of my life-long friend. Truth would be taken gracefully. 😂

        I enjoyed the opening photo AFH staff 1979. My brother is in there 21 years young.

  3. Another great read Rob. This keeps our many memories alive. Snow was a treasure to work with, his knowledge in his field was invaluable.

    Happy 80th birthday Snow. I guess we will all get an invite to the shed party ha! ha!

  4. Christine Jean Atkinson

    Another excellent story. I recognise Phil Carswell & David Bissett in the feature photo.

    Trip down memory lane. Thanks Robert for writing this.

  5. Happy 80th birthday Snow. Enjoyed reading Robert’s story, and all the memories from working with you for six years at AFH.

  6. Happy birthday, Snow.

    In my early days at AFH I didn’t have a lot of contact with Snow due to our very different roles though I was often amused by his two-way radio conversations with others. I can recall asking someone where the rendezvous spot Snow was organising with someone when logging was happening at Boco Siding, “the Tullah post office”. I’d never seen a post office in Tullah but I learnt it was code over such a public medium as the two-way for “the Tullah pub”.

    I got to know Snow much better when I started going on the annual AFH East Coast weekend tuna fishing charters and I like to think that we have been friends ever since. The party was a great mix of AFH employees from all levels and occasionally their relatives. Snow was an institution on these trips and his son Darren often came.

    Peter (Mary) O’Neill, Darryl Barker, Mitch Roberts and his dad, Marty, Alan Dodds, Tom Fisk, and maybe others whose names I cannot now recall made up the balance. Initially, we chartered with Joe Wilkinson on his boat Seafari out of Bicheno and always did well.

    Seafari was a great boat for such a large group and Joe was an excellent skipper with a good deckhand. He eventually retired to Mooloolaba but bought Seafari back down to Bicheno for one more Tuna season before finally pulling the pin.

    Sea sickness! My first career was at sea and I never got seasick on ships, even in storms when most of the ships’ company were sick. However, post navy I spent my before-children years doing yacht deliveries and quickly discovered on an eight-day NZ to Fiji trip that I always got seasick for the first day or two when passage-making on smaller vessels like yachts.

    For those who have never been badly seasick, I don’t think you could envisage how terrible it can be, especially if you cannot get off the boat. Luckily, I found seasick tablets (Kwells) taken before reaching ocean waves worked really well for me but with significant side effects – light-headedness and a very dry mouth. I hated needing to take them and was always looking for alternatives.

    The year after Seafari’s last visit we booked a boat out of Triabunna. It was cramped, smelly, and its motion wasn’t kind to me. It also coincided with the advent of the “latest and greatest” seasickness preventer, an elastic wrist band that had a couple of studs in it designed to put pressure on a couple of acupuncture points on the inside of the wrist. No drugs! Too good to be true! Yes!! On the first day we headed out to the eastern side of Maria Island and I quickly berleyed the water with my breakfast. It got progressively worse. It is hard to throw up when there is nothing left to bring up but you keep trying. Your head isn’t in a good space either. Trying to swallow a tablet at that stage is pointless – it’s only one-way traffic by then.

    Snow, however, is fortunate not to suffer from seasickness. He was, though, concerned about my welfare as we trolled in deep water very close to Maria Island, maybe twenty to thirty meters off, with me throwing up over the side of the boat facing the island. Snow stood beside me (upwind, like all sensible sailors do) and asked how I was doing. I don’t think my answer would have made much sense, such was my physical and mental exhaustion by then. He could see me look longingly at the terra firma of the island and eventually said to me “I reckon if you hopped over the side and ran quickly enough you’d make it to the rock over there before you sank”.

    Such is the despair of deep mal de mar that for a moment it made sense to my foggy brain and I entertained the thought of doing it before reality set in. I think I even found the energy to laugh at Snow’s humour and his understanding of how I must have been feeling.

    Once we returned to the calmer waters of Spring Bay at the end of the day, I came right. When I fronted up for the Sunday’s fishing Snow expressed surprise I hadn’t been put off by the previous day’s experience. However, the acupuncture band had been binned and the Kwells did their job.

    I’m glad I got to know Snow.

  7. There is a brief mention of Snow’s wife, Ethel, in Robert’s story but it is worth mentioning that she too worked for AFH for a number of years as one of the famous “pricking out ladies” in the nursery team, back when the nurseries were at and around Ridgley. She had retired by the time I became involved in the Somerset nursery project (see Robert’s July 2021 story, Nursery Times) in the mid-1990s so I didn’t know her very well. I can recall at least two other nursery colleagues of Ethel who were also spouses of AFH employees – Maree Hodgetts (Cyril) and Bev Lohrey (Merv). No doubt there were others.

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