Ozarks Life: A man named Spunky Bunky Long

Published: Aug. 4, 2023 at 10:03 AM CDT
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WALNUT GROVE, Mo. (KY3) - Outside of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame is a huge black monument. These are the kings of the area racing scene. One of the many names is a little curious. How many guys named Bunky do you know?

“My mother, she’d howler BUNKY,” Bunky said. “But that ‘E’ on there, and I can hear that and so I headed home.”

Bunky Long’s name was really familiar at the area race tracks in the 1960s. He won his first race in Humansville at the age of 19 and didn’t look back. From Bolivar to Waynesville, Airport to the Fairgrounds, he raced them all.

“Well, I won’t brag on myself,” Bunky said. “But I did alright.”

Bunky was a fixture in the standings thanks to his never-say-die attitude. In fact, one night at the Fairgrounds, his engine died after his first race. With 40-minutes before the A Feature race, he needed a new engine and quick. That’s how he got the name “Spunky” Bunky Long.

“I was driving 80 miles an hour on Kearney to get down Golden to get down to the salvage yard,” Bunky said. “I got back and they had the transmission out. I don’t remember what place I got but I placed in I call it in the money.”

Throughout the ‘60s Bunky would have a rivalry with some of the biggest names in the area; Lester Friebe and Larry Phillips. And it was a race at the Fairgrounds in 1969 with Friebe that fans were talking about for years.

“We had an awful good race,” Bunky said. “One time he me on outside then just switching around, and I had him on the outside. I come to the line just in time to beat him.”

A few weeks after that race though, Bunky was at Bolivar Speedway when a car hit his from behind right into the gas tank.

“It threw that fuel on me,” Bunky said, “and we run on airplane fuel which was 100 octane. I flipped out that window and they weren’t very quick to get a fire extinguisher and stuff back then.”

Bunky suffered some serious burns to his arms and back. Physically he was alright, but mentally, he couldn’t shake the jitters from that night.

But being spunky, Bunky Long didn’t sit for long. He traded in his 10-year racing career for a 10-year career as a professional fisherman in B.A.S.S. Tournaments all around the U.S.

“Charlie Campbell told me, ‘Bunky it takes her a lot of money to do this.’ I didn’t have a lot,” Bunky said to the former Bass Pro Shops angler, “but I didn’t listen to him.”

A lesson for us all is to be spunky with whatever life gives us.

The closest Bunky got to a win on the B.A.S.S. Circuit was 8th place out of 300 entries. Eventually, he would race again but this time it was lawnmowers.

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