Auction Report

The Sporting and Military Auction is an annual event held by Duane Merrill & Company (their ampersand) in Williston, Vermont.

It is a typically gun (rifle) and taxidermy-heavy affair drawing a cast of characters ranging from local gun dealers and hunters to safaristas, gun collectors, American Picker wannabes, Stowe, Charlotte, and Shelburne-based wives with more money than sense, and, of course, wood boogers. Saturday’s attendance felt like it was down from 2011 if only slightly; less people crowding the wings, more people leaving well in advance of the auction’s end, etc.

A 12 Gauge Mossberg Model 590, not unlike the one Ice Cube sang about.

Save for the odd gun that might pop out at the preview (reference the soldier-customized Enfield .303 purchased last year, or two tactical shotguns—a Mossberg and a Remington—that caught the eye this year and elicited unsuccessful bids this year) I (sorry for the first-person) attend for all the seemingly miscellaneous lots with which this auction (like 2011’s) did not disappoint. A quick scan of our “considered set” of lots shows everything from Old Hickory, Stickley, and Westport chairs to a British Fairbairn-Sykes OSS dagger with a surprisingly delightful miniature basket woven out of pine needles.

A Dartmouth poster that had no intentions of coming home with me.

There were 18 items in total that I went to bid on; by the time I left, I felt good about my hide still being intact, and having only won five of the lots I had eyes for. The random, peripheral, decorative things of the type I had little competition for last year I had to fight hard just to lose out on. In many cases I either didn’t even get a bid in or wasn’t even the underbidder, time and again being done in by some psychotic in the room or—more often than not—by someone or some thing from the ether (internet bidding accounted for a great percentage of the action on Saturday.)

I was smarting from having lost the first three items on my list (which included the earliest Stowe poster I’ve ever seen; a big, single-color screenprinted deal that, even after I had doubled my self-imposed max bid on, still couldn’t bring home.) Looking down my list, I had visions of the day turning to dust, figuring that each of “my” items was going to see ridiculous bidding, when Lot 56 came up.

FB Hayne’s occult masterwork “California, Here I Come!”

I have yet to find any record of an “FB Hayne” as an artist, but there are certainly other interesting details about “California, Here I Come” (which I got) that warrant note. The artist dated the piece “’26”. I don’t profess to knowing much about California ski history but I am surprised to see skiing portrayed this far back. Soda Springs’ history as a resort only dates back to the ‘40s so maybe it was a hiking spot? Ech, that’s all just window dressing. The real interesting thing is the reference to “Bohemian Grove” which we all know is a meeting place for the ILLUMINATI! Could FB Hayne have been the in-house caricaturist for the Grove’s owners, the Bohemian Club? Perhaps the painting is a keystone or some other object imbued with mystical powers? Unless a black helicopter lands in the backyard, its occupants bent on repossessing it, we may never know…

Holy Moses, look at those planks!

This Stowe item is typical of the posters that Vermont and New Hampshire printed to hang in rest areas and other high tourist-traffic zones; telltale signs are the size, the cheap chrome frame, and the relatively uninspired layout. I have seen similar ones for Bromley, Mt. Snow, and Killington, and own a few from New Hampshire. This Stowe one features sportsman/travel author Ernie Gay going down what looks like Goat or National.

Beaver dams, waterskiing, possums. Just like today.

I won’t go into details about how I won lots 148 and 149…the only thing that matters is that I did. Matched set of Lewicki’s Stowe posters from around 1970. Lewicki is credited with a lot of illustrations for the resort from the mid 1960s onward, which featured in brochures and other ephemera as well as posters. This Summer/Winter set is loaded with details including what appears to be a visual tally of every swimming pool in the area at the time. I have a bumper sticker which is cut from the same visual cloth as the Winter poster that I’ll have to dig out.

For some reason I don’t think this is to-scale…

This guy…a real specimen. He and his McPoyle-esque family menaced my friend Evan at last year’s auction. Pffft. I also picked up four WWII marksmanship posters that I’ll post at a later date. See you at the Mid-Century auction in April…

Duane Merrill & Company