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"On that same visit Mr. Humphrey asked Rufus if he were thrilled to hunt with the President of the United States. 'Well,' Rufus answered, 'he's a fine hunter, Mr. Humphrey, but he ain't steadied to shot. Every time he shoots a bird he runs out and picks it up. Shucks, that's what I train dogs to do.' "
For the visitor, Rufus talked some more about his friend the President. His eyes sparkled, as eyes do when recollections are lurking behind them, etched in the memory and brought up to date by questions.
"The last time the President was here," Rufus spoke, "we talked about smoked bacon. He told me about the good old smoked bacon he used to get back in Abilene, his home town. We have it down here, and that time we also had some good ribs. The President really goes for those. When he comes down here he gets healthy. He leaves all his troubles and worries in Washington.
"He didn't come for a good while after he had his heart attack and even now he takes it easy. He has to stop and rest every once in a while."
Without so much as reaching down for a second wind, Rufus went on, stretching his lean, 5-foot-9 frame to shake the early-morning fuzziness from his head.
"That dog of his is a real good one. George came to Milestone as a pup. The President told me one day he has this dog somebody gave him and he wished me to take him down here and see what I can do with him. He told me he didn't know what he would make, but he was well bred. I told him he would have to ask Mr. Humphrey if it was O.K. If it was, it would be a great honor for me. He got the consent from the boss and I went to work on George.
"He turned out to be pretty good that first year, and now, two years later, he's really a good dog. By next year he'll be ready to run with the best in the field trials."
George is only one of two English setters on Milestone. The other belongs to Mrs. Humphrey. The 18 remaining dogs are pointers. The difference was apparent. George and his single colleague wore the long hair of the setter and swished a longer tail.
"These are mighty fine dogs," Rufus bragged. "I'm not saying I'm a good trainer, but I always gets the job done. I'll let somebody else say I'm good. We nearly always gets the limit of quail. The last time the President was here, only one day did he fail to fill the bag. He got nine one day, but all the other times he got 12 and that's the limit."
Rufus explained that Ike used a 20 gauge on his last safari. "He usually uses a 410 gauge," he said, "but the quail were stronger and the larger gauge was necessary."