Mustang keeps retiree "horsing" around

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman S.I. Fielder
  • 347th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
A switch in "mustangs" helped a civilian employee here take a life-long passion to new levels of "horse"power.

After 21 years riding horses and bulls, Buddy Chapman, 347th Services Squadron, traded in his rodeo gear for a mechanic's toolbox.

While stationed in Germany, he lived at a horse farm that put on American style rodeos all over Europe. Mr. Chapman handled the pick-up horses, which plucked riders from the back of broncos after the second ride.

When helping a rider off the bronco, his life changed.

"The pick-up horse reared up and fell over backwards on top of me," said the retired chief master sergeant who served more than 27 years. "I got hurt and was told I couldn't ride horses anymore."

So, while four-legged animals became off limits, he turned to another "breed of mustangs" to keep riding.

For the last couple years, Mr. Chapman has been rebuilding his "new horse," a 1965 Ford Mustang, which is the same year he graduated high school. He made many renovations including new interior, exterior paint, engine, transmission, trunk, and floor.

"Now that I've got it just about where I want it, I work on it maybe two or three times a week doing (a) little touch up work here and there," said the aircraft mechanic who spent two years in Vietnam with the 9th Air Commandos. He then cross-trained into the morale, welfare and recreation program.

When he first began, he only knew the basics like changing the oil and air filter. Mr. Chapman learned the proper techniques to car renovations as his project advanced. He credits most of his knowledge to the stash of books in the trunk of the Mustang and help from others with the same passion.

"I'm in the Valdosta Classic Car Club, and those guys give you all the help you need," he said of his car club buddies. "If I have to get under the car, I go to the Auto Hobby shop here to get expert help.

"It takes a lot of work," he said. "It's a fun hobby as long as you don't mind getting dirty."