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'Backflip' Johnny Dudley discovers prop in act is family heirloom

by Tracy Renck | Aug 09, 2019

PRCA Media Coordinator

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Rodeo clown "Backflip" Johnny Dudley made an unexpected discovery recently when the single-shot, 12-gauge shotgun he used for his act broke before he was scheduled to perform at a rodeo in South Dakota.

“On the butt plate on the stock, the plastic piece or rubber piece that would go up against your shoulder, this was an old shotgun and that piece was plastic, one of the screws fell out of it and it broke,” Dudley said. “The plastic piece fell off and inside that buttstock there’s a hollowed-out area and in there was a handwritten note.”

The note had all the details of the gun and that it was a family heirloom. Dudley purchased the gun for $100 at a pawnshop in Livingston, Texas, more than 10 years earlier and knew nothing about the gun’s history.

The note in part read: “This 12Ga shotgun was given to Steven Wood II ... which was (passed) down from Steven’s grandfather W.O. Britt to John Britt now to Steven.

“May it never be sold or traded but to be kept in the family forever. This gun is of no money value. Only sentimental. This is to show one’s love for family over money."

Wanting to find the owner and return the gun, Dudley took to social media.

“When I saw the note, it was right before the rodeo and I was getting ready for my act,” Dudley said.  “During the barrel racing is usually when I go back to my trailer to get ready for the bulls, and I grabbed that note and was looking at it. I took a picture of it and put it on my Facebook page just to see what it would generate.”

The photo drew immediate interest and solved the mystery.

“By the time I went back out there for the bull riding and made it back to my trailer it was probably 45 minutes and it had over 200 shares,” Dudley said. “Within two hours after the bull riding, we located the owners and they got in touch with me via Facebook.”

John Britt, the author of the letter and owner of the gun, contacted Dudley. Britt told Dudley the gun was stolen during a home burglary, and the family didn’t expect to see it again.

“I apologized to him and told him the gun was beat up because I have been using it for like 12 years,” Dudley said. “I’m doing a bull riding in Conroe, Texas, in October and I’m going to invite them out to the bull riding and return the shotgun to them. I wasn’t expecting this to happen at all and I’m kind of glad it did. It makes me feel good to give it back to the rightful people.”

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