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Nash Buckingham

Don Webster, author badge, myoutdoorbuddy.com

heophilus Nash Buckingham (1880-1971) was an American author and conservationist from Tennessee. He is known for being an avid shotgunner and wingshot, and a best-loved outdoor writer of his time. He was a staunch advocate of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and a pioneer of wildlife conservation.

Note: What follows is taken from my book, “Bears, Beer, Trout Tacos, Etc.” – Short Outdoor Tales & Other Quasi-Kindred Illuminations.

I continue to lament that I was born 100 years too late. During those nights when my sleep cuts loose the chains that have bound me to a frenetic day filled with screaming sirens and horns honking in a frenzy of hyper-stressed people speeding recklessly in their cars, I drift slowly. I dream of an era that is gone with the wind and rests peacefully in the dignity of memory.

...I dream of the flooded timber at Beaver Dam near Tunica, Mississippi in the early 1900’s, and I’m there with Horace Miller as he busies himself and makes the rustic, duck hunting camp ready. He keeps an ear cocked for the sound of the Limb-Dodger train that is bringing his friend Nash Buckingham on the rails from Memphis. There are few people and even fewer cars. The only sound in this unspoiled wilderness is the quacking of a hen mallard somewhere off in the distance, and the sizzling of Horace’s skillet. He cooks with a big, cast iron skillet and a Dutch oven on a wood-burning stove in the open air. He’s fixing up a mess of catfish, quail, and squirrel fricassee. The tantalizing aroma wafts its way into my nostrils and makes my mouth water.The Best of Nash Buckingham

I gaze spellbound as Nash arrives, larger than life, a strapping figure of a man who, slightly over a decade earlier, had been a member of “The Milo Trio” weightlifting act and the captain of the University of Tennessee football team.

While Nash eats supper, he and Horace talk of where the birds are, and their great numbers, and where the best shooting is likely to be in the morning. The food is plentiful, but Nash eats lightly. He prefers to retire early around 7:30, and doesn’t like to rest on a full stomach. He’ll rise an hour and a half before dawn and down a hearty breakfast before paddling into the flooded timber.

I watch as he falls asleep quickly, and although I’m opaquely aware that it’s a dream, I’m in awe of the man who slumbers on his cot. I’m slightly more than an arm’s length away from arguably the greatest outdoor writer who ever lived. He is one of the finest wingshots of his time or quite possibly any time. He is the man who pioneered wildlife conservation and bag limits when scant few even had a clue as to what he was talking about. But what I’m in awe of most is the character of the man. There is a gentleness in his charisma, an easy yet confident grace born of countless, unhurried days afield. A quiet magnetism inherited from family tradition, a genteel charm and polite manner of living that will gradually be eroded and disfigured by population, greed, and immorality. It will all disappear forever, never to return.A duck call in the hand of the unskilled...

Something tells me I will wake from my dream before Nash rises in the morning. He will step lightly into a world that I can only dream of, and I will rush into a world that appears more strange and foreign to me with every, passing day.

A lump forms in my throat. I know something the man asleep in his bed does not know. He knows his past, but I know the future when he is gone. In spite of my many blessings, I can’t help feeling cheated. I want to live the life that Nash Buckingham is living. I want to live his years. But I can’t have them. I can only read about them and dream about them. I must face reality...

...I awake and begin my day thinking of Nash Buckingham, the man, the legend. He never cared about having a lot of money or owning fancy cars. He lived most of his life in an apartment. His magnificent, finely-crafted books and stories, although popular, never sold in great numbers.

Nash Buckingham

He lived to be in the outdoors and do what he loved. Fortunately, for him, he lived during the best time on earth to pursue his passion. He was given the gift to write about it like no one will ever write about it again.

Thinking about how Nash faced reality near the end of his days, I get another lump in my throat. The great outdoor sportsman was struggling well into advanced age, having to continue writing for money in a courageous, hopeless effort to pay for the care of his fragile, ailing wife.

I remember some of his last words in a letter to his old friend, Major Carlos Lowrance. “...I’m trying to write a few stories, but whether in this strange, new world there’ll be a place for sentiment of outdoor yarns, I dunno...”

...I’m back in my own strange world. I grit my teeth, and grip the steering wheel tightly. My blood pressure soars as I force my way into a sea of mad traffic.

Don E. Webster has been an avid outdoorsman for over 60 years. In addition to being a columnist for MyOutdoorBuddy.com, Don has published three books: "Bury Me In My Waders" An Old Duck Hunter Recalls His Fowl Past, "Double-Ought Buck" a novel, and "Bears, Beer, Trout Tacos, Etc." Short Outdoor Tales & Other Quasi-Kindred Illuminations.

Webster's MyOutdoorBuddy column entitled “Canine Comics" won the Phil Ford Humor Award from the Outdoor Writers Association of California in 2013. Visit Don's website at donewebster.com

He continues to love fox squirrels and hate eucalyptus trees.

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