The Rest of the Story…

Some stories can only be told after the subject is no longer with us. Shortly after commissioning Gene Bullard to write for RodMaker Magazine in 2005, an episode began in which one of the very earliest rods which Gene had built in the mid-1960’s began a voyage which resulted in both a sad and a happy ending.

The rod in question sported what may have been among the very first decorative crosswraps ever placed on a custom fishing rod. It resided at the home of owner Ron Allison from Texas, a long time friend and customer of Gene’s. Ron sent the rod to me for use in Andy Dear’s RodMaker interview with Gene. After photographing the rod, I was instructed to send it to Richard Jankauskas in Florida, who also wished to photograph it for his personal collection. At that point, Richard then shipped the rod back home to Ron. That last shipment is where things went awry.

Somewhere on the voyage between Richard and Ron, the rod disappeared. Although insured for $2000, the shipper denied the claim. Richard did everything in his power to prove the historical value of the rod, but the shipper continued to deny the claim for that amount. After all, how could an old fishing rod possibly be worth $2000?

Richard then sent me a personal note and informed me that the shipper was adamant that the claim would not be paid without a letter from an “authority” which would establish a credible value for the rod. He requested that I write the claim manager and attempt to convince him of the rod’s value. I did so.

A week later, the manager paid the claim in the full amount. But the story does not end there…

Both Richard and Ron preferred that Gene not know that the rod had been lost. Nor did Ron want the money for what had been his rod. He preferred, instead, that the claim money be sent anonymously to Gene for help with medical expenses incurred against the illness that would eventually take his life. And so it was.

As Paul Harvey might have said, “…And that’s the rest of the story.”

Tom Kirkman



  1. David Spence on January 13, 2011 at 6:10 am

    I wish Gene could have attended one of the recent High Point Expos-he would be amazed at both the growing popularity of the craft and the advancement in rodbuilding techniques, most of which have been inspired by Rodmaker Magazine. Knowing him as I did, I know he would have been the first to subscribe.
    When I first started building rods down in Texas thirty-odd years ago, I was a huge fan of his Diamond II. It’s too bad that the authentic version of that product died with him-I believe that it would probably be just as popular today, even with the increasing number of finishes on the market.

  2. HGH on January 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    You three guys did a very nice thing for Gene. These are the sort of behind the scenes stories that most of us never learn about.

    I also commend you for getting UPS to pay such a claim. It’s hard enough to get them to fork over the money for any claim, let alone one of that amount for a mere fishing rod.