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Farmers Hall of Fame recognizes Buck Durbin

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By Kacie Goode

Walter “Buck” Durbin grew up during the Depression. It was an era where all he had was his word, but that was enough.

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“If he said he was going to be somewhere, Daddy was there,” Lisa Barnes said of her father, who spent his life on a farm in Nelson County. 

His passion for farming and years of hard work, up until his death in March 2014, prompted Durbin’s recognition last week in the Nelson County Farm Bureau’s Farmers Hall of Fame.

“To be able to stand up here and give this award out to Mr. Walter ‘Buck’ Durbin and to his family, it’s just touching,” said P.J. Milburn, vice president for the Nelson County organization, presenting the award at the Farm Bureau’s annual dinner. 

Durbin was born and raised on a farm in the Samuels area, a place where he learned the trade, raised cattle, grew crops, and loved his wife and seven children. 

Barnes and her siblings Arlene Harrell and Randall Durbin, as well as a few grandchildren and other family members, were present for the recognition. 

Barnes read the letter of nomination she’d written that night, describing her father as a true farmer at heart. 

“Growing up on a farm in the 1920s and 30s was not easy,” she wrote. “But for some, it was all worth it.” 

While raising a family and tending to the farm, Durbin worked a job at Heaven Hill Distillery for more than 40 years. He also served his country.

“He was a World War II veteran and received a Purple Heart,” Barnes recalled. 

In addition to his work, Durbin had a passion for antique farming equipment.

Some of that equipment was used in a recent film, “The Old Winter,” which looks at farming families and their struggles after the Great Depression. Durbin was included in a few scenes during production. The film was later dedicated to Durbin, who died before its premiere.  

“Dad loved working on the set for that,” Barnes said. “He felt like a movie star, and of course to us, he always was.”  

The machines seen on the screen can also be seen at the farm. Eight years ago, the family farm began hosting Durbin’s Grain Threshing, which included a demonstration of equipment and a display of antiques.

“He wanted to put on a show,” of something many may not have seen before, Barnes said. “So that’s what we did. In our first year, we had maybe 100 people there and probably 75 percent was family. Each year, it has grown.” 

The annual event is a way for Durbin’s family to continue honoring him and carrying on the tradition he loved and his legacy in agriculture. 

“Daddy always enjoyed just getting everybody together, talking and having a good time,” Barnes said. “He had a heart of gold and a smile as big as the state of Kentucky.”