If Buster Heckman was to make a list of accomplishments, it would read like a television adventure series. In spite of being fully deaf, he has never been hindered as someone who has a disability. The life he leads fills picture frames and photo books with amazing wonder.
As a talented builder, Heckman built onto his grandfather’s home, adding a second story by himself, then adding a yard full of amusing art touches he built alone. One fence line imitated a full western city face front, which was eventually purchased by a business owner that moved it to Goldfield. With mining carts made as display pieces for the likes of the Klondex Mining Company, to local yards and businesses, if you look closely at his pieces you can find unusual, recycled materials recreated into wheels to smoke stacks. The cherished wooden train lines he has built are on display in places such as Goldfield, Walker Lake and Hawthorne.
But its Heckman’s earlier days that set him apart in a riskier way. From 1970 into 1988 he was a professional Enduro Tunnel Boat racer, maneuvering an outboard boat with increased speeds that dominated the racing world.
His first assignment as a racer was through a sponsorship in a boat owned by Reno’s House of Transmissions, which was named Miss Walker Lake. Heckman explained that it was an expensive, Italian made body which pounded the waves, going over 100 miles per hour using a big block Chevy engine. With these sleek boats moving so fast over river or lake waves, they could easily go air born if not for a sensitive driver’s sense. Although deaf, Heckman spoke well, explaining, “When you start out the boat is heavier with fuel, but as the laps go on the boat becomes lighter, so the driver has to make adjustments to stay on the water and not fly into an accident. Those controls were on the steering wheel itself, with buttons to raise and lower the lift using hydraulics. There was a knack you developed for feeling the boat and respecting the risk involved.”
By the late seventies, Heckman decided to build his own boat with his half-brother, Jack Roark, in a garage at the Cliff House in Walker Lake. The undertaking required an extensive hardwood frame, glued with boat epoxy and a fiberglass molded top which was ordered. Either way, Heckman preferred the hard work over spending a minimum of $22,000 for the purchase of a new boat. With their homemade project, the 2ET Tunnel Boat was ready for numerous races at Parker, Ariz., Walker Lake and other locations, coming in at a low $5000 price tag. The 2ET raced at a speed of 120, carrying a 394 Chevy big block engine and Heckman still recalls spending $5 per gallon for the hi-octane fuel required to run. “It was an expensive sport,” Heckman said laughing.
Today, he shares his home with his wife, Linda, of eight years. They originally met as teens in an Idaho Boarding School for the Deaf, but reunited through a school reunion and married. They share in collections that range from decorative sail boats and nautical items to railroads and mining items. Heckman is a long time Hawthorne man whose accomplishments span years of remaining active, creative and busy.