I imagine Nash Buckingham was looking down from the heavenly hunting grounds this week and scratching his head in disbelief.
On Monday, March 15, Bo-Whoop, the fabled 12-gauge HE Grade Super Fox shotgun once owned by the renowned author of Tattered Coat, De Shootinest Gent'man and other outdoor classics, was sold by James D. Julia Auctions in Fairfield, Maine. The live audience started the bidding at $50,000, a price Buckingham no doubt would have found mind-boggling.
That was just the beginning. At just over $100,000, two motivated phone bidders took over the action and battled back and forth, each increasing the bid in increments of $5,000.
The hammer didn't fall until the bidding reached a whopping $175,000. With the 15-percent buyer's premium added, the total came to $201,250, the third-highest auction record attained for an American shotgun. The auction house reported only that the winner was a "business from down South."
"A short chorus of Amazing Grace was sung just before the lot went to the block," said Wes Dillon with the Firearms Division at James D. Julia.
"I once was lost, but now am found ..."
After a December 1, 1948, duck hunt near Clarendon, Ark., Buckingham and his friend Clifford Green were stopped and checked by game wardens. One of the wardens asked if he could examine the gun Buckingham had made famous in his stories, and Buckingham consented.
Bo-Whoop apparently was laid against the fender of Green's car afterward. The hunters didn't notice it was missing until they had driven several miles away.
In the weeks that followed, an exhaustive search was conducted. But the gun wasn't recovered. Buckingham never saw his beloved Bo-Whoop again.
No one knows for sure who actually found Bo-Whoop. But the shotgun resurfaced in the late 1950s or early 1960s when an unnamed man offered to sell it for $100 to the grandfather of the consignor, who hails from Georgia. After some haggling, the grandfather bought the gun, which had a broken stock, for $50.
The buyer put the shotgun in a closet where it remained until his death in 1991. It was then passed on to the consignor's father, who also stored it away.
"In 2005, the father decided it was time to have the gun properly repaired," Dillon said. "He took it to Jim Kelly of Darlington, S.C., who informed the father of the shotgun's history, Nash Buckingham, and how famous both shotgun and man were.
Kelly faithfully recreated the broken stock in about a year, and the shotgun went back into storage. In January 2009, the shotgun was handed down to the consignor who, now aware of the shotgun's history and fame, decided to allow it to be sold to someone who will appreciate it for what it is and honor the memory of Nash Buckingham and the legend of Bo-Whoop."
When reports started coming out that Bo-Whoop had been found, controversy swirled around the ownership of the gun. But Buckingham received a cash settlement from his insurance company for its loss, which apparently negated any claims of ownership by the writer's descendants.
"... the gun has no question of title," the auction company said in its catalog. "Because the insurance company settled, Nash's descendants no longer have any possible ownership. In regards to the insurance company (if it still is in existence) there is no practical way a claim could be made 60 years later, and, even if it was, they could only recover their original settlement (which was probably $500-$700) ... James D. Julia will guarantee clear title to the buyer of the gun now and in the future."
Perhaps we'll learn more about the buyer of Bo-Whoop at a later date. But for now, the saga of the legendary shotgun has come to an end.
It is a classic story fitting of the man with whom it began, a man who loved guns and hunting and the outdoors, Theophilus Nash Buckingham, an author and conservationist from Tennessee who surely must be smiling down at the wonder of it all.
To contact Keith Sutton, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His book, "Out There Fishing," is available at www.catfishsutton.com.