Since tugging his mum's sleeve and pointing out a tin crawler tractor in a Bundaberg toy shop window at age 11, Ray Heale has been enamoured with heavy machinery.
The South Kolan resident has owned and operated R.R & D.J Heale Land Clearing and Earthmoving since February 1964. With 55 years of industry experience, and 50 with his own skin in the game, Ray has operated used Komatsu equipment for the past 37 years. President of the Bundaberg Yesteryear Machinery Society for nine years, Ray has always made a point of operating his machines himself: both for his own peace of mind and because he loves getting behind the wheel and driving heavy machinery, no matter what kind.
At 74 years of age, Ray's passion for all things mechanical has not dulled.
After initially struggling with machine reliability and consistency, Ray purchased his first used Komatsu machines in 1978 and says he has been a Komatsu man since.
"I was always in trouble financially with other gear they kept me broke but since I discovered Komatsu I've always done well," says Ray.
"I started with two second-hand D155s and I've had about eight of those over the years. I've presently got three. I've also had about eight D65s and I've still got one, and I had one D85 that I sold. I also still have a PC200 and a PC300 excavator."
The reliability and quality of his gear has allowed Ray to build a business on the back of the knowledge that he can always complete a hard day's work.
"With a Komatsu you can go to work, and say you're going to do a day's work. With other machines I have had you could not guarantee you would get a day's work out of them."
"Reliability is the thing that has made the difference; Komatsus are better constructed, they are a sturdier machine.
"I've always purchased used Komatsu equipment, but anything I have bought has been from Komatsu itself. I could go to the Brisbane office back in the 1980s and it was just like walking into my own office," Ray says.
Over the years R.R & D.J Heale Land Clearing and Earthmoving has been relied on for jobs great and small around the Bundaberg region.
"I've pulled thousands upon thousands of scrub and forest country acres over 50 years, and I've always driven machines myself.
"I haven't just employed blokes to drive and sit back and watch them bend them up. I'm always at the coalface," he says.
"I'm 74 now and I still enjoy driving the machines. I can efficiently drive any of the gear and when it comes to Komatsu I'm pretty well qualified."
It hasn't all been sunshine. Suffering financially early in the piece in 1966, Ray considered packing it in and going to work at the City Council. A piece of advice from his mother kept him on the path that he wanted, turning a passion into a career.
"Mum used to say that you wouldn't be putting the effort into it if you didn't believe in it."
Bundaberg and its surrounds offer up the tough conditions and high temperatures expected of regional Queensland. Despite the heat, Ray's gear has always remained cool under pressure.
"I've never had any heat problems with the transmissions and motors. Other machines were sweating all day we always needed to keep pulling them up and letting them cool down but I've never had that trouble with Komatsu."
Ray has sold on much of his Komatsu equipment to his son and to friends around the area, and enjoys seeing them still getting use out of even the oldest machines. As for his own machines, Ray doesn't mind telling it how he sees it.
"There are a lot of blokes that I have convinced to try Komatsu. Once you get them into a Komatsu there's no way they want that other bloody junk."
With reliability on his side, Ray has worked hard over five decades and done well, owning a beautiful patch of country just outside Bundaberg.
"With just a pair of hands and a will to work I have done alright for myself. A square mile of country and about 400 acres of cane."
Of course, Ray keeps plenty of vintage machinery on hand.
"I have heaps of machinery around here crawler tractors, wheel tractors, jump tractors and all kinds of Komatsu equipment 280s, 130s, a Komatsu D65 and an old model D8. I have all kinds of tractors and trucks, and even a grader in the shed too."