The Legend of Bo Whoop
Auction Sales, Bo Whoop, Burt Becker, Fox Shotgun, Guns, Nash Buckingham
On December 1, 1948, two hunters emerged from the cool wetlands of Clarendon, Arkansas, and ambled along a country road. The menâ€”Nash Buckingham and Clifford Greenâ€”had spent a long morning in a duck blind and were headed back to Greenâ€™s car, on their way home. Buckingham, then sixty-eight years old, was at the time one of the most famous writers in America, a sort of Mark Twain for the hunting set. At Greenâ€™s car, they met a warden, who asked to see their hunting licenses. The warden quickly realized that he was in the presence of the celebrated writer. He asked Buckingham if he could see the most famous shotgun in America, Buckinghamâ€™s talisman, an inanimate object that the writer had referred toâ€”in loving, animistic termsâ€”in a great number of his stories. The nine-pound, nine-ounce gun was a side-by-side 12-gauge Super Fox custom-made by the A. H. Fox Gun Company in Philadelphia.
The carbon steel plates on the frame were ornately engraved with a leafy scroll. The gun companyâ€™s signature fox, nose in the air, was engraved on the floorplate. The barrels had been bored by the renowned barrel maker Burt Becker and delivered 90 percent patterns of shot at 40 feet, an uncharacteristically tight load for a waterfowling shotgun. It was named Bo Whoop. A hunting buddy had designated it so, after the distinct deep, bellowing sound it made upon discharge.
The warden chatted up Buckingham, handling and admiring the writerâ€™s gun, like a kid talking to Babe Ruth while holding the sluggerâ€™s bat. At some point during the conversation, the warden laid the gun down on the carâ€™s back fender. Buckingham and Green soon bid the warden farewell and drove off, forgetting about Bo Whoop until many miles into their trip home. In a panic, they turned around and retraced their route, painstakingly eyeing every inch of the road, to no avail.
Buckingham spent the next few years in a desperate hunt for Bo Whoop. He lamented the loss of Bo Whoop in print, likening it to the death of a treasured hunting dog. He took out ads in local newspapers, offering rewards. He befriended local wardens and police, appealing to them to be on the lookout.
He would never find it. …
Sometime in the 1950s a foreman at a sawmill in Savannah, Georgia, was offered an elegant but well-used Fox shotgun with a broken stock. The seller wanted $100. The Savannah foreman took one look at the fractured stock and countered with an offer of $50. The sale was made at that price. The foreman then put the gun in his closet, where it remained for the next three decades.
The foremanâ€™s son, who also lived in Savannah, eventually inherited the gun upon his fatherâ€™s death. He, too, left the gun in his closet, this time for nearly twenty years. But in 2005, for reasons unknown (the consignorâ€™s family wishes to remain anonymous), he brought the gun to Darlington Gun Works, a South Carolina shop owned by Jim Kelly, a noted gunsmith. The foremanâ€™s son wanted to repair the broken stock. Kelly, a student of hunting history, saw that on the top of the right barrel there was a hand stamp that read: â€œMade for Nash Buckingham.â€ On the top of the left barrel: â€œBy Burt Becker Phila. PA.â€ Kelly was floored. â€œI couldnâ€™t believe that this gun had walked right in here,â€
Bo Whoop was sold by James D. Julia in 2010 for $201,250. Its purchaser donated the historic shotgun to Ducks Unlimited.