Don ‘Moose’ Young says farewell to Bush

George H.W. Bush and Don Young. (Photo courtesy of Don Young.)

When Alaska Congressman Don Young thinks of the 41st president of the United States, he remembers a nice guy who could be fierce with a racquet.

Bush played baseball at Yale but that wasn’t his only ballgame. Young said the president would regularly come to Capitol Hill to play racquetball with him and other House members. He said Bush had a mean corner shot that he called “nearly impossible to return.”

“He did that to me three times in a row,” Young recalled this week, as the former president lay in state in the U.S. Capitol. “And I turned around and very hottedly looked at him and said ‘I’m thinking of a word that starts with a P and it’s not president.’ And his Secret Service people went YAIAIAI. Of course, he got a big kick out of it.”

Young says Bush had a nickname for him: Moose.

“Everybody’s (said to be) really a nice guy after they die,” Young said. “But he was a nice guy when he was alive.”

Bush famously called for a “kinder, gentler” nation. He had a hard time boasting of his accomplishments, and he was married to the same woman for 73 years. Some commentators find it impossible not to contrast Bush to the current president. Young, though, waved off an invitation to compare them.

“Each one of them has their style,” he said.

Bush’s casket will be taken across Washington Wednesday for a funeral at National Cathedral.