A Love Letter to a Hawken Rifle

"It’s been almost four months since we last saw each other. And not a week goes by that I don’t wonder how you are..."

To the One That Got Away,

I want you to know that I still love you, but I know that the next person will love you just the same. It’s been almost four months since we last saw each other. And not a week goes by that I don’t wonder how you are. We announced the opening date of our renovation yesterday and I sit at my desk wondering what might have been if only you could have stayed.

I was walking through the gallery the other day and I saw it—the empty case—and it reminded me of the good times we had together.

Remember how I always bragged about you to rock stars, celebrities, and families that came to the museum? In fact, I met you on my first trip to the Cody Firearms Museum over six years ago.

The rifle, which was on display at the Cody Museum for 20 years, is up for auction by the James D. Julia auction house.
The rifle, which was on display at the Cody Museum for 20 years, is up for auction by the James D. Julia auction house. Check out the listing here.photo from James D Julia Auctions

You are and always will be, without a doubt, the most beautiful Hawken Rifle I have ever laid my eyes on. As you know, most Hawken rifles are so plain. Never mass produced, they maintain a simpler, yet functional aesthetic. Mountain men were drawn to their form but less concerned about physical beauty. You however are special. You're almost 200 years old, but somehow look brand new. Your silver adornments, engravings, and mother of pearl scrimshawed insets set you apart from the rest.

You were always a beloved firearm, from the time you were conceived and made specially for George W. Atchison—a steamboat captain and boat builder on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers in the 1830s. You then passed on to E.R. Butterworth in the 1870s and stayed in that family to this day.

A closeup of the left side of the stock.
A closeup of the left side of the stock.photo from James D Julia Auctions

We were fortunate to be able to display you on loan for almost 20 years. And while we couldn’t keep you, we know you will go to another amazing home someday soon. And with that new owner, your history will grow deeper. So, it is a bittersweet goodbye. We hated to see you leave but are so excited for the journey ahead.

And I have a feeling that no matter what, we will see each other again someday.

Love,

Ashley Hlebinsky

*One question we get at the Cody Firearms Museum often is whether we buy guns. We have bought some in the past, but sadly many museums suffer from having small or no acquisition funds. We were proud to the display this firearm for almost 20 years at the museum and are so thankful to the family for loaning it to us for so long. This piece was auctioned by James D. Julia last week. Congratulations to the high bidder! We know it will go to a loving home. And who knows, maybe that person will loan it to us again someday. —AH

The right side of the stock with an engraved plaque.
The right side of the stock with an engraved plaque.photo from James D Julia Auctions

Ashley Hlebinsky is entering her sixth year with the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and assumed the curator position in January 2015. In addition to her duties as curator, she lectures around the country and in Canada to both the firearms industry and the academic community on the glamorization and stigmatization of firearms both in modern culture and in museums.