The Rev. Russell Buck has known difficulties all his life, including confinement to a wheelchair for the last 33 years.

But he refuses to let any of it get him down.

The Rev. Russell Buck has known difficulties all his life, including confinement to a wheelchair for the last 33 years.

But he refuses to let any of it get him down.

“We all have problems,” said Rev. Buck, a resident of the Heritage Nursing Home. “It’s the way you handle the problems that counts. I never get discouraged, depressed or afraid, and if I feel anger rise up in me, I control it.”

“He shows me what it is to be a true Christian, always happy no matter the circumstances,” said Connie Bright, RN and charge nurse at the nursing home. “I admire him and come to him with my problems, and he gives me advice and backs it up with the Bible. He prays with many of the residents and staff members.”

Rev. Buck was born in 1929.

“That was the year the stock market crashed and brought in the Depression,” he said. “This was also Dust Bowl days. My family and I were in Liberal, Kansas, in 1935 or 1936, and one day us kids were out playing in the yard and we saw red dust and dirt real high in the air. Somebody said it was blowing in from Colorado. Around 2 p.m. it got pitch dark. Our parents took us inside and lit the coal oil lamps, but it got so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. A lot of people got scared and thought the world was coming to an end.”

Many people left the area, and Rev. Buck remembers seeing them, their Model T trucks piled with their possessions, heading for California.

His father worked 10 to 12 hours a day, often earning only $1.

“He bought a .22 rifle from Sears for $6 and shot rabbits and game,” Rev. Buck said.

Finally, his father moved the family to Nebraska and got a job on a cattle ranch.

“I learned to do vet work and take care of livestock,” he said. “When I was 16, I was breaking horses to pick up extra money. On Aug. 16, 1947, just before my 18th birthday, I went into the U.S. Navy. My dad had to sign the papers so I could enlist, and I still remember him crying. I think it hurt him that I wanted to leave.”

Rev. Buck served three years on a destroyer. He eventually started a tree business, and in 1975, when he was 45, broke his neck in an accident.

“God really got my attention,” he said, smiling. “My father always took us to church Sunday morning and evening, and Wednesday evening, and I think it was because of that I started thinking more about God after the accident. For a while I didn’t even want to live, but as I began to read the Bible I just lived in the Bible for a while, and people brought me Christian tapes.”

He spent six months in the hospital, three of them in intensive care, then another 14 months in a rehabilitation facility. As a result of an accident in a Liberal nursing home, he broke both legs and for a time doctors wanted to amputate his legs.

“The doctor tried to convince me that, being paralyzed, I’d never need my legs again,” Rev. Buck said.

Finally he persuaded the doctor to call another physician at a rehabilitation facility in Amarillo, Texas.

“I said that if Dr. Thomas said I should have my legs amputated, I would,” Rev. Buck said. “Dr. Thomas told them that if they couldn’t take care of me, to send me down to him, so I went back to Amarillo and spent 10 weeks there.”

After that, he was in a Hugoton nursing home until his son, who then lived in Pittsburg, moved him to this area around 1983.

“Then my son moved to Lawton, and asked if I wanted to move there with him, but by that time, I’d met Janie, and six months later, I asked her to marry me,” Rev. Buck said. “I thought then, as I think now, that she’s the most wonderful person I ever met.”

His wife took care of him at home for several years. He has been at the Heritage Nursing Home for seven years.

“I think it’s the best one I’ve ever been in,” Buck said. “I’m blessed to have a facility like this to take care of me.”

He noted that the nursing home, for the fifth year, has the least deficiencies of any facility in Crawford County.

He is in relatively good health, which he believes is due in part to the vitamins his daughter sends him, and enjoys getting out in his power wheelchair.

“I like to get out into the country and see the farms,” he said. “It reminds me of when I was growing up.”

He became an ordained minister 16 years ago.

“When people allow me to talk to them, I like to tell them about a better way of life,” Rev. Buck said. “I tell them that everyone has a future. As far as I’m concerned, life just gets better. I believe we continue to learn as long as we live, and God will continue helping me to be a better person as long as I live a life pleasing to Him.”