Meridian Star

Life

June 23, 2013

A remembrance of Meridian great Oliver ‘Bill’ Buntin

MERIDIAN —  It’s hard to explain 69-year-old Meridian native Jim Farmer’s excitement upon hearing a new story about his cousin, Oliver Buntin. Each legend is like a gift that brings back a memory of someone so stoic and untouchable; Farmer himself feels larger than life while listening.

    More than 40 years after his cousin’s death, Farmer still makes his way out to North Meridian to visit his cousin, Barbara Bosarge, Oliver’s older sister. Thumbing through old photographs, like a child stirring through a candy jar, he pauses to ask Barbara about a particular picture. “This one, when was it taken? You mind if I take this one, too?”

    Barbara nods, it’s the 13th photo Farmer has requested. This one is of a young Oliver – leaning back with his hands in his pockets.

    “I like this one because you can see his biceps,” Farmer said. “Man, you can tell he was a real tough guy.”

    To Farmer, Buntin is more than just a local legend –– he’s the epitome of manliness, the perfect combination of brute strength, confidence and compassion.

    “You see these great people, the Herschel Walkers, Jackie Robinsons, Mickey Mantles – they all had that special something about them,” Farmer explains. “Oliver had that, too. He was just one of those special people that come around once in a generation.

    “I’ve always said his life would make a great movie; there are just so many parts to it. If not a movie, it would at least make a good book. People like him deserve to have their name and legacy shared forever. It’d make one heck of a book, and I’d like to be the one to write it.”

    Farmer has already begun to compile stories into a 51-page laminated spiral-bound notebook, fittingly colored royal blue and white to celebrate the former Meridian High School great.

    The stories are typically short and are told in first person. Most are second-hand accounts Farmer received through people who knew Oliver best. Actually, Farmer had only a few encounters with the idol he holds so dear. Aside from the occasional Sunday afternoon spent at his cousin’s house, Farmer and Oliver hardly ever spoke. However, it was one of those magical encounters that has stayed with Farmer his whole life and now serves as the cornerstone of his interest in his cousin.

    By far his favorite story of Oliver, Farmer still remembers the way his uncle Ol’s dairy farm looked one summer afternoon as he stood out in the pasture –along with his father, older brother and cousins, Bob and Oliver.

    “There was a wild horse out on the horizon,” Farmer starts, almost like he can see the action playing out again. “It didn’t have a bridle, halter… nothing. Bob, Oliver’s father, turns to Oliver and says ‘son catch that horse.’”

    Farmer explains Oliver’s strained relationship with his father, whose demands were often daunting and punishments almost always severe.

    “Oliver went up to the horse and threw his arm around the horse's neck, but it shook him off,” Farmer continues. “Bob then looked over at Oliver and said, ‘Son, I said catch that damn horse.’

    “With no rope, no bridle, nothing but his bare hands, he wrapped his arm around the horse's neck with one arm and grabbed it by its nostrils with his other. The next thing I knew, the horse was subdued. Oliver had put the horse on the ground.”   

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