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Rufus and his friend Ike

April 13, 1959
April 13, 1959

Table of Contents
April 13, 1959

Ask Him Anything
Wondrous Wall
Florida Derby
Wonderful World Of Sport
They Call It Baseball
  • HERE, beginning with a few ideas on what one can expect in 1959, Sports Illustrated presents its fifth annual preview of the major league season, with pictures in both color and black and white, scouting reports, schedules, statistics and features

The Umpire
Scouting Reports
  • Even in an inflationary economy there is no safer and better return on your money than the 40¢ profit you get in the fall from the dollar you bet in the spring that the Yankees will win the pennant. New York will win again in 1959

  • The White Sox feel that this is the year the Yankees can be beaten. If such a feat is possible, this is the team that can do it, if only someone would start hitting home runs. The rest of the pennant-winning ingredients are all there

  • Let the small letter i represent the American League. The Yankees, of course, are the dot, so the best the Boston Red Sox can hope for is a place near the top of the stem. Much depends on whether life truly begins at 40 for Ted Williams

  • Colavito, Minoso, Piersall, Power and Martin are about as colorful a crew as you will find in baseball. The team as a whole isn't nearly as good as the perpetual second-place finishers of a few years ago, but it's going to be more fun to watch

  • Every spring the Tigers promise much, but when summer rolls around they deliver little. This year they are keeping quiet, hoping that this team of many stars can finally do what everyone feels it should do—contend for the pennant

  • The Orioles' outstanding pitching and good defense should guarantee a fight for any opponent. Last season they finished sixth, but a good sixth, just three games out of the first division. To finish in fourth place, then, is their goal for 1959

  • The fury of mass trading is just about over, and the Athletics are a lot closer to that glorious day when they will be able to boast 25 major leaguers on the roster. Nevertheless, a .500 season for Kansas City is still a remote possibility

  • The road to the American League cellar is paved with the good intentions of the Washington Senators. Baseball magnates feel it needs a major league club in the national capital, but Cal Griffith provides only the palest imitation of one

  • An original statistical report

  • The Braves are not too blasé to appreciate those fat World Series checks every fall. With a well-rounded band of seasoned players and the richest pitching resources in the league, Milwaukee will not be easily beaten. But it can be

  • The Pirates will be a stimulating team to watch this summer as they throw strong pitching, superior defense, sharp hitting and fast legs onto the field. They'll be nearly everyone's sentimental favorite and might just win it all

  • Talented young players with great arms, blazing speed, sure instincts in the field and powerful bats in their hands are the trademark of the 1959 Giants. Sophisticated San Franciscans are in for excitement if the pitching holds up

  • The great power teams of 1956 and '57 are gone, but so is the bad pitching that wrecked them. Changed also is last year's squad, which was unbalanced in the opposite sense. Now the Reds plan to field a ball club with a smoother blend

  • Bad days have fallen upon the St. Louis Cardinals, and the bright promise of two years ago has been faithless. The effects on the club of uncertain, divided direction and erratic trading policies are now being felt. Busch has a loser here

  • Heavy trading during the past two seasons and a thorough search of the farm system produced last year a hard-hitting lineup that gave the Cubs the best team they've had in a long time. There is, however, still lots of work to be done

  • Walter O'Malley made all the money he expected to last year. Now it's time for the Dodgers to start playing ball. This is too good a team to be fooling around down in the second division. It should be a more pleasant season for Los Angeles

  • The good old days for the Phillies were in 1950, when Manager Eddie Sawyer led the club to its first pennant in 35 years. Those days are gone, and the Phillies are back in eighth place. Once again it's Sawyer's job to take them on and up

Boxing
Horse Racing
Motor Sports
Food
Dogs
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Pat On The Back

Rufus and his friend Ike

Next time the President visits the Humphrey plantation he'll find his young setter waiting and sharper than ever

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.

This is an article from the April 13, 1959 issue Original Layout

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

"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."

Rufus paused. "The President is a regular guy," he said on an impulse, guessing correctly that his visitor was thinking of the same thing.

"He's a very nice fellow and a very good hunter. I can't rightly say if I would vote for him if he were running again. I have never voted because I just registered this year. I haven't got nothing against him at all. I'd probably go ahead and vote for him."

Then Rufus laughed. It was a low outburst that he failed to hide.

"I was just remembering the last time that the President was here," he confessed. "The President fell in a stump hole. Everybody rushed over to see if he's O.K. I went over and picked him up. There were a lot of people around. Maybe 20 or 30 of those Secret Service men. They don't bother me. They're all pretty nice people. The only thing I worry about is finding some birds. That's my job."

When training duties were over, Rufus led the way to his six-room cottage, lonelier now that Rufus is a widower and his children have grown up and moved to town. Inside, Rufus took out a photograph that is a prized and precious possession. It is of the two of them, Rufus and the President of the United States.

His visitor asked if it could be borrowed for use in a magazine. Rufus shook his head and asked the visitor to find some other picture. This one was something between him and the President. "I just couldn't let you print it. It just wouldn't seem right."

Rufus changed the subject. "I once trained another dog for the President," he said. "He took that one, another setter, to Gettysburg and used him to hunt there."

Why didn't Ike try to lure Rufus to Gettysburg?

"Couldn't take me away from Mr. Humphrey," Rufus said.

PHOTORUFUS DAVIS HOLDS LEASH ON PRESIDENT'S SETTER GEORGE (FOREGROUND) AS IKE AND HOST HUMPHREY AWAIT HUNTING START THIS WINTER AT THOMASVILLE