- Keith Sutton
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Back on October 1, 2009, I posted a blog about the mysterious disappearance of "Bo-Whoop," a custom-made A.H. Fox 12-gauge magnum double-barrel owned and made famous by writer Nash Buckingham.
My story asked the question, "Bo-Whoop, where are you?"
Now we know. Bo-Whoop has suddenly surfaced, and at a March 15-16, 2010, auction in Fairfield, Maine. James D. Julia Auctioneers will sell the renowned shotgun.
Many believe the high bid will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and considering the incredible story of Bo-Whoop, a gun as prized as the sword of Excalibur and almost as mythical, I have no doubt that will be the case.
I'll even go out on a limb and say the price paid will be the highest ever for a shotgun sold at auction. (The previous high is believed to be $287,500 paid for an elaborate, handmade Parker A1S made for, but never delivered to, Czar Nicholas II of Russia in 1914.)
The story of Bo-Whoop begins back in the 1920s. Buckingham was a respected authority on shooting and hunting. In 1921, Western Cartridge Company president John Olin sent him an Askins-Sweeley (Fox) magnum 12-gauge to field-test the company's new Super-X shotshells.
Buckingham liked the gun so much, in 1926, he contacted Ad Roll at the A.H. Fox Gun Company in Philadelphia and commissioned a 12-gauge Super-Fox waterfowl gun for what Buckingham called "the tall ones." He specified that the barrels be bored by renowned gun maker Bert Becker.
Becker crafted the gun to Buckingham's specifications. It was constructed on a Fox frame with 32-inch barrels, which were overbored to deliver a 90-percent pattern of copper-coated 4s at 40 yards. The gun was chambered for 3-inch shells, had a straight-hand stock, a rubber recoil pad, ivory sights, and, at Buckingham's order, no safety. It weighed just under 10 pounds.
Buckingham frequently wrote about this gun in his articles, and thus it became familiar to the vast readership of Buckingham, eventually making it one of the most famous shotguns in the world and certainly the most famous Fox shotgun ever built.
The gun's unusual name came from Buckingham's good friend Colonel Harold P. Sheldon. He called the shotgun Bo-Whoop because of its distinctive hollow report.
Buckingham was riding back to town with a man named Clifford Green following a Dec. 1, 1948 duck hunt near Clarendon, Ark., when a pair of game wardens stopped the men and checked their licenses and ducks. Bo-Whoop was laid on the fender of Green's car after one of the wardens looked at the gun, and Buckingham didn't notice it was missing until they had driven several miles away. Despite an exhaustive search by game wardens, police and hunters, and ads placed with local newspapers and radio stations, Buckingham never saw the gun again.
Gun enthusiasts have speculated on the whereabouts of Bo-Whoop ever since. But now, instead of wondering what happened to the gun, we know. Here's the story generously shared with me by J. Wesley Dillon with the Firearms Division at James D. Julia, who also provided the photographs of Bo-Whoop and Nash Buckingham illustrating this article.
"Bo-Whoop really wasn't lost, just no one knew exactly where it was, that is until the late 1950s or early 1960s when, according to a notarized affidavit from the consignor, his grandfather purchased this shotgun with a broken stock from an unnamed man for $50 (the man was asking $100). The broken shotgun remained in his grandfather's closet until his death in 1991 and was passed on to the consignor's father. It remained in storage for the next 14 years.
"In 2005, the father decided it was time to have the gun properly repaired. 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, has 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.
"While Nash's loss of Bo-Whoop was a considerable personal loss, at least it was not a financial loss; Buckingham received a cash settlement from his insurance company for its loss."
The background material sent to me by Dillon goes on to describe how the shotgun to be auctioned was definitively proven to be Buckingham's Bo-Whoop.
"After the time of loss, Nash incorrectly referenced the serial number of his lost gun as #31108. Bo-Whoop's correct serial number is 31088, which is, of course, was found on this gun.
A search of the Fox records for SN 31108 discloses that that serial number belongs to an A-grade Fox 12 gauge with 30-inch barrels, nothing even close to a Super-Fox. Fox records for serial number 31088 conclusively describe our gun here and thus unquestionably lay to rest any question of authenticity.
Given the proximity of the resurfacing of this venerable old shotgun, with its authentic markings and rock solid provenance and factory letter, there can be no doubt that what was once lost is now found. This, undoubtedly, is a once in a lifetime opportunity to own the most famous Fox shotgun in the world."
The gun is described to be in "very good to fine" condition. The stock shows the obviously repaired break, but other than a few minor nicks and dings, Bo-Whoop has fared well during the 61 years since it was lost.
I wish I could travel to Maine for the auction of Bo-Whoop. Having written about the gun's disappearance several times over the years, I would like to just gaze upon it for a few moments. To hold it in my hands, to swing it upon imaginary ducks in Buckingham's "tall ones," would be a breath-taking experience were it possible.
I am glad Bo-Whoop was found. We now know more about where the gun has been all these years. One of the great mysteries in firearms history has been solved.
But the shotgun's appearance makes me melancholy as well.
When I drive through the east Arkansas Delta where Bo-Whoop was lost, I no longer will be watching the ditches looking for the gun that really wasn't there or imagining if it might be hanging on the walls of one of the shotgun shacks that still stand along the roads, reminders of days long gone when Buckingham hunted waterfowl in the river bottoms here.
I'll miss that for sure.
To contact Keith Sutton, email him at email@example.com. His book, "Out There Fishing," is available at www.catfishsutton.com.
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