(Crawford, TX) The scene was pretty dire out at Prairie Chapel Ranch, home of former president George W. Bush and wife, Laura. The news had just arrived that the president had fired FBI director James Comey and George already knew what was coming. “I know what’s coming,” he sighed. “My father was the director of the CIA before he became president, and I am pretty sure Donny doesn’t know the difference between the two.” He is probably right.
Thankfully, I was already at the former president’s estate when the call came in, so I was able to get the scoop.
“Laura? Can you get my brushes?” 43rd president of the United States yelled into the house from his porch.
“So, are you saying you wouldn’t take the job?” I asked.
“Oh, I couldn’t leave my life’s work,” George responded, while being handed his brushes. “It’s far more important than any government work I have ever done.”
“Your life’s work?” I asked.
“Oh yes. My dog paintings,” he smiled, getting out his chair. “Let me show you.”
He hobbled off of his porch as I followed his lead and got up, leaving Laura in the lurch as she was about to pour me another iced tea. We walked around the house and down the driveway. Just as we were about to get to the main road, former president Bush suddenly turned and marched into the forest. After following him for another few minutes through the thick vegetation, we came to a shed of unusual size. It wasn’t terribly large, it was just a weird in-between size that didn’t seem to fit where it was placed.
“Hold on a minute,” George grabbed some keys out of his pocket and unlocked the deadbolt on the large double door. He slowly opened half of the giant door, just enough for us to slip inside. Once we were both inside, he clapped his hands and the lights all blinked on. “Here it is: my life’s work.”
The shed was filled with hundreds, maybe even thousands of paintings, all of dogs. I knew the former president pretty well after spending many hours playing checkers together, so I knew that he occasionally painted, but I had no idea the depth of his work.
“I have been working on these ever since I was a boy. My father had this built for my 8th birthday and I have just been adding to it my entire life.”
I was speechless. Somehow, all of the paintings, from those that had fresh paint to those that had probably been there for 70 years, were mediocre at best. Not one of them showed any improvement or growth as an artist. It was incredible.
“I sent one to a friend of mine once, but I never heard back from him if he liked it. I was so embarrassed. After that, I kept it all to myself, expect for my best work. I bring those out when people interview me.”
“This is why I will never accept any other positions in the government for as long as I live. I need to keep painting, otherwise my pieces will be lost to time.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, still dumbstruck by the view surrounding me.
“My first paintings are coming apart at the seams and disappearing from their frames. I keep having to repaint them.” George said, almost on the verge of tears. “I haven’t painted anything new in almost 6 months.”
“I am still confused, they may be fading, but they aren’t falling apart.”
“Look closer,” he said. I looked again at some of the older looking paintings and saw that he was correct, the paint was falling off, not just fading. “I never should have bought Sateen Dura-Luxe, the exact same thing happened to my friend Rabo Karabekian.”
With this, the former president took my arm and escorted me out the door, through the woods, and back to his house just in time to see Laura taking cookies out of the oven. I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the porch, watching George repaint the same picture of a dog that he told me he had originally painted in the 80s. It was such a noble pursuit, to repaint all his work again, I was really coming to appreciate this man in a different way.
As I was about to remark to him about this, I noticed the paint can he was using said “Sateen Dura-Luxe” on the side. As I was about to point this out to him, I caught Laura’s eye through the window as she put a finger over her mouth, making a “Shhh” motion. There was a mischievous gleam in her eyes, so I didn’t make a comment.
Instead, I just sipped my tea and let him paint, just like Laura would.
This article was written by Nathan Ellwood, who once received a letter from George W. Bush when he was president, that weirdo. Follow him for more on Twitter @NPEllwood.