By JOYCE L. RITCHIE
ASHLAND, Ohio — The Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League honored longtime Ohio tractor puller Duane Keener with its 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award.
The award was presented in Indianapolis Oct. 23.
Known for driving the super stock tractor “Bambi,” Keener, of Orange Township in Ashland County, was surprised when Mike Chastain, former director of the Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League announced that Keener was the 2010 Pro Pullers Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.
“It was the surprise of my life,” Keener said. “Never in my wildest dreams — it never even crossed my mind that I would be selected.”
Keener’s pulling career has spanned more than five decades with participation including administration and competition.
Hailing from a family rich in farming history, he began his career in the mid-1950s at the Ashland County Fair with a small John Deere 60. He was in the class for the smaller tractors on the track, hence the name for his little Deere. Over the years, “Bambi” and Keener have grown to master the field of Diesel Super Stock pullers.
The first growth spurt came in the 1960s with the transformation to a JD 4010 with a M&W turbo that he pulled in the first National Tractor Pullers Championship in Bowling Green.
The Green Machine, with Keener at the wheel, became a feature for the folks of the area to watch. Keener said he was “just trying to beat the big boys.”
In the 1970s, he turned his focus to his young family and active grain farm. In 1997, his now-grown son Frank encouraged him to get back in the pullers circuit.
That year, his first year back, Keener was tagged as the SS Rookie of the Year.
Back in the saddle. Keener and his family took “Bambi” from diesel to alcohol in 2006 and granted grandson Billy some seat time during the season.
Together, Billy and Keener were tapped as the 2006 OSTPA Columbus Diesel SS Champions.
Keener claimed the SS Point championship in 2006 and the Keener clan was awarded Family of the Year. He was also tapped as the OSTPA Puller of the Year.
In 2009, he was inducted into the OSTPA Hall of Fame.
Keener has stayed in fifth place or better each year up to and including 2010.
Keener is the only person to have served on every executive board position in the state association, serving as secretary/treasurer, vice president and president.
At 74, Keener is still active in the OSTPA and Lucas Oil Pro Pullers. Keener and his wife Donna celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary this year.
Keener’s son, Frank, who currently serves as president on the executive board, earned Puller of the Year in 2006 on his own tractor, named “XXX,” and today, Keener’s entire family is involved in the tractor pulls.
Grandson Billy officiates the scale and drawbar as well as participating in the pulls. Grandson J. R. and Nathan are skilled in the pit. Wife Donna helps at the announcer’s table and daughter-in-law Jackie works as an entry clerk for the pulls.
The banquet’s capacity crowd included members and participants across a multi-state region, including Forrest and Charlotte Lucas, the founders of Lucas Oil Products, Pro Pulling League’s title sponsor.
The Lucas Oil Pro Pulling League includes the Ohio State Tractor Pullers Association, Empire State Pullers, New York State Pullers Association, Southern Pullers Association, Mid West Region, Shenandoah Valley Tractor Pullers, Power Pulling Productions, East Coast Pullers and the Badger State Tractor Pullers.
“Duane is only the fifth person to receive this award,” said his wife, Donna. “He was truly surprised. It is quite an honor to be presented these awards.
“That morning, my Billy received his American FFA Degree and that night his grandpa got his award. It was quite a day for the Keener guys.”