Posted on 16 Comments

Billy Boomerang

Everyone thinks I’m a boomerang collector.

Not so…

I sell boomerangs. Many I have tested. Naturally, some end up in my throwing kit.

But, customers come first with me. I seldom hold back rangs for my throwing kit.

I was the first to do boomerang auctions. Mainly to see if boomerangs were collectible.

Several of my auctions confirmed that people do collect rangs. Today, Ted Bailey continues with his online auctions.

Recently, a fellow in New Orleans was going through his late father’s things.

He found a boomerang that his mother was going to junk along with other “stuff” his dad had collected.

Something about that rang made him curious. Was it special? Was the maker a legend, what?

After some online searching, he found his way to me.

One look at the photos he sent and I promptly replied with a  basic history of the maker, stating that the boomerang should be worth not less than $100.

Over the past forty plus years, I’ve  seen only three of that maker’s boomerangs that were typical of the rangs he sold to tourists who had watched him throw. His boomerangs were good, basic flyers, but not truly special.

Ben Ruhe (an avid expert boomerang enthusiast and boomerang book author) had invited the maker to attend one of the annual Smithsonian Associates Boomerang Workshops that Ben directed. The maker never attended any workshops nor responded to my offers to buy some of his boomerangs.

Click any image for full-size view.

I had never seen one by the maker decorated like this. On the backside, he inscribed the date he made the boomerang and listed his throwing feats and records.

There are some dings on the tips and elbow, typical of a thrown rang, otherwise it’s in excellent condition.

I offered the New Orleans man more than the $100 value I had stated.

A few days later he drove up from New Orleans and I purchased the BILLY BOOMERANG (John McMahon, the maker’s name).

The man from New Orleans was pleased that the boomerang was going to someone who would enjoy it and cherish it more so than someone who would try to profit from it.

I hope you’ll enjoy seeing the photos of this rare 1983 BILLY BOOMERANG.

No, it’s is not for sale. Yes, yours truly is now A COLLECTOR:)

But there’s more to this story and it goes back to 1977.

I began this business in 1975.  I attended the  In 1976 Smithsonian boomerang workshop contest to see if there was a market for boomerangs.

That first trip led to many more such trips.

I had an amazing time meeting many of the top names in boomerangs: Ben Ruhe (boomerang expert/contest director); Herb A. Smith, World Distance Record Holder (Sussex, England); Eric Darnell; Ben’s nephews, Peter and Larry Ruhe, Ned and Barnaby Ruhe; Al Gerhard; Giles Healy (Mayan archeologist); Carl Naylor (who became the first United States Boomerang Assoc. President) and many others who continued in boomerangs for many years.

I returned for the 1977 Smithsonian’s boomerang workshop.

Inspired by the amazing designs of Herb Smith, Al Gerhard crafted a beautiful strip lam, weighted hook boomerang.

Ben decided it would be the major award on contest day.

During a visit to the National Archives, Ben showed my wife and me the “On the Road with Charles Kuralt” TV clip of BILLY BOOMERANG throwing on the Texas gulf beach. Billy made several throws ending with a cascade of rangs, each returning for the catch. He used a light toss with returns aided by the gulf breeze.
Here are some clips found on YouTube:

Contest Day 1977 was extremely windy. I looked like I’d never thrown a rang before. Rather embarrassing for someone calling himself The Boomerang Man.

The final event was called SUICIDE. All throwers lined up (over 100), and on Ben’s command, everyone threw their boomerangs…

Sudden death. Miss your catch and you were out.

After several rounds, only Larry Ruhf and I remained.

I won’t go into the details except to say I remembered BILLY BOOMERANG’S throws, and I used his technique to win the Al Gerhard Hook (see it here).

Having acquired the special 1983 BILLY BOOMERANG brought back memories of the 1977 contest.

So, here in 2017, I won again.


b-man, rich

16 thoughts on “Billy Boomerang

  1. Glad to find this. I remember watching Billy Boomerang throw at the jetties when I was a kid. It is likely that I had one of his back in the day, but if so, it is long gone.

    1. thanks for your comment. I’ve not seen but a couple of Billy’s rangs. I know he sold many at the beach. most were not as decorated as this one, there is a Facebook video of him throwing.
      From that video,I learned about throwing in the wind 🙂 rich, b-man

  2. Nice find Rich!! That video was great. How come I never ended up with any of his?? LOL

    1. that’s because Billy Boomerang never sold any rangs to me, Paul
      Next time to come to Monroe, I’ll let you hold it:)

  3. Enjoyed the video and story. It made me think about my lost Yanaki. It was the best rang I ever had. If you ever come across one of the original Yanaki’s for sale please let me know. I have the “Tassie Devil” which is somewhat like the Yanaki, but it’s still not as good. The Colorado Boomerang version of the Yanaki is actually the worse boomerang in my collection. The only thing similar in Colorado’s “Yanaki” , to the original, is the paint job.

    1. thanks,Charlie, glad you enjoyed the story.
      I agree, the Original Jim Mayfield YANAKI was a terrific boomerang.No one(IMHO) has come close to
      matching it. I treasure my Original by Jim. He made the first few totally by hand spending 30 to 40 min.per.

      his dedication and workmanship was the key.
      rich, b-man

  4. Hey Rich, Great story, great find! If you weren’t so far away I’d come meet ou and listen to more stories. I’ll be sending you another order soon.
    You’re one cool cat!
    British Columbia

  5. Thanks for sending this article to me Rich…what a great read! It brings to mind some of my boomemories, which include you, Rex and friends coming down to Georgia to our Spring Fling tournaments…great memories!

    1. thanks, Neil, Rex and I remember you and your Georgia band of b-rangers.
      glad we are able to keep intoucn.

  6. Thanks for sharing that story and the very cool photos Rich. I’ve always enjoyed hearing stories like that about the boomerang community – especially the ones from the 70’s when I first got hooked. I’m so glad that with 100 throwers all tossing at once, SUICIDE didn’t end up being called INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER! 🙂

  7. Enjoyed reading the story. I’m proud to say RICHARD HARRISON IS MY brother-in-law.. Thanks for posting this story.

    1. you’re too sweet, Dora. Miss seeing you guys.

  8. Awesome story, Rich!! Love it.

    1. thanks, Chet, you and your brothers are a major part of the early years of this sport.
      glad you enjoyed the story. I’ll bet you have tons of similar tales, too.

  9. Great story! I really do enjoy hearing (or in this case, reading) these!

    1. coming from our #1 child, that means a lot.


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