Ray Scott is a marvelous host. He greeted us warmly when we met him in his office in Pintlala, Alabama where the walls are decorated with photos of the businessman entrepreneur with his close friend, President George HW Bush, and he told us one of his favorite stories. He said that during the 1980 GOP convention, it was his idea to use air horns to prolong the applause for his man, GHWB. This helped impress the handlers and tipped the scales in his favor, convincing Ronald Reagan to pick him for vice president…and the rest is history.
But Ray Scott has a lot more fascinating stories than his presidential connections. He founded the BASS fishing organization that sued 214 companies for polluting Alabama waterways, and he helped pass a wholesale tax on fishing tackle that has funneled millions into conservation programs around the US. He sold the organization and it was later bought by ESPN in 1986, and now along with a business that sells seeds to attract white tail deer, he runs a high-end fishing lodge where people can come cast into what many consider the 2nd best bass fishing lake in the world.
He’s a wonderful storyteller and he regaled us with stories all night, as his assistants helped answer questions (“Jim, what was the name of that place again?”) and keep the facts straight. He told a funny story about a visit to the lake by his friend George HW Bush. His son George W came along, unannounced, and at the days end, strolled up the driveway puffing a cigar and holding a string of bass after a day of fishing in the catch and release lake! We slept in the guesthouse where the two Bushes have stayed on past visits that look over the beautiful bass-filled 75-acre Presidents Lake. Shoul got the ‘W’ room and I bunked down in the HW room.
After a sumptuous dinner of filet mignon prepared by Ray’s step-son Wilson, Ray threw down a challenge that he could hook a bass in just two casts. We all went outside and watched the master cast one of his spinnerbait lures into the water, lit up with green underwater lights. After just three, he hooked a beautiful five-pounder.
One of the funny things about visiting this very Republican state was the times when we’d be asked ‘how do people up there like how our president is doing?’ Shoul and I would both think, uh oh, here it comes,’ but time and again the result wasn’t as we expected.
We disagreed on some things and found common ground on other things. But down here in Alabama, it felt to both of us that people are more willing to let the other man have his say, and that it’s better to have a dialogue than a rant. I wish Massachusetts most vociferous liberals would listen as well as these good old boys, and stop being afraid of a good political discussion.