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Georgia was coming abloom with blossoms and buds last week, and not only at Augusta, where the golfers gathered, but in the downstate plantation country around Thomasville too. There, every day, in clear weather or showers, a 60-year-old Negro named Rufus Davis led a 3-year-old English setter named George out over the rolling hills in pursuit of George's continuing education as a gun dog.
In Washington, as Rufus knew, there was talk of the President of the United States coming to Georgia for sun and golf after the Masters. Rufus did not actually expect the President to come to Thomasville this time, but it is part of his pride that, whenever Ike does come to Milestone Plantation, the dog called George will be in a sharp state of drill.
George is a special one among the 20 dogs that Rufus handles and trains at Milestone, home of George Humphrey, former Secretary of the Treasury. Statuesque, like all his breed, he wears a coat of white with blue-black spots that Rufus describes as "blue ticks, kinda like." More importantly, he belongs to Dwight Eisenhower and is called George in honor of the boss of Milestone Plantation. Ike has ordered the setter trained for field-trial competition.
"Rufus," the President said on his February visit to Milestone, "I think George is ready for the field trials. I think he can do O.K."
"Yes, sir," said Rufus, "I think so myself."
So, as Rufus explained before a training walk the other morning, "I'm getting George ready. I take him out every day and shoot over him and teach him the fine points he should know."
But Rufus is not only the trainer. On hunting days he's the guide. He's been doing the same thing for the President for six years now.
"I always wakes up first around here in the morning," he said. "And go on down to the big house to get my orders. When the President is here, Mr. Humphrey gives them to me. He tells me to meet them at a certain location. So I loads up the hunting wagon and gets on my horse and head for the woods. When I find quail, I holler 'point,' and the President and Mr. Humphrey drive up behind me in the wagon. I goes in the middle and flush the quail. The dogs are standing still as I train them to do. They do the shooting and then we go on again."
Rufus can well remember that first time the President came to Milestone. He chuckles with the memory as Mrs. Humphrey tells the story. "The President walked up to Rufus after the hunt was over, and told him how much he had enjoyed it. 'Well,' Rufus said, 'I enjoyed handling you, Mr. President.' "
SMOKED BACON AND RIBS