Visits with Bushes

A Few Short Stories

"You guys wanna join us at the lobster house?"

"Hey Bob! You guys wanna join us at the lobster house?"

Note: it was always so entertaining to be with these people because they just loved having fun. 

We piled into our vehicles, went into town, and stopped at Mabel's Lobster Claw Restaurant. Bushes arrived in their SUV.

Mabel's is a truly charming, old time lobster house. When we arrived the place was packed: not an empty seat in the house.

We were escorted to this booth, which we later learned was called "The Bush Booth." 

I looked around to see all kinds of tourists in the place, but I knew that not all of them were tourists. Everywhere Bushes went they had extreme protection nearby. The guy and his giggly "wife" at the table next to us were likely part of the protection. 

During dinner Mr. Bush asked me a question which I don't remember, but his answer afterwards was,

"Bob, you should have been a politician."

"No, sir," I replied. "Would you like to know why?"

He answered affirmatively. So I said with a smirk,

"As long as I just stick to playing the piano, people like me."

Mr. Bush roared with laughter, even slapping the table. Then he said, 

"Bob, you're absolutely right! Why get into these political messes when you can just do what you do and keep everyone happy!"

During dinner we traded stories. Bushes would sometimes insert a story about one of their children. They referred to George W., who was the President of the United States at the time, as  

        "Our son, George."

Linda and I tried to grab the bill, but he snatched it away. Mr. Bush paid cash, saying something about credit cards which I didn't quite catch. It was along the lines of "small businesses not having to pay fees..." Something like that.

As we departed past the colorful canoe I noticed that no one looked up at us in surprise. I suspected early security screening had something to do with this. 

We were inside for about an hour and a half. When we left I was walking with Mr. Bush when we went out the door. I was not expecting to see a mob of hundreds and hundreds of people standing around to get a glimpse of the former president. The word had gotten out that Bushes were in Mabel's, and the street was packed solid. 

Bush's SUV was parked in the middle of the road with all four doors open. The Secret Service had formed a ring around it which continued all the way to the door we came out. Mr. Bush was talking to me just casually, as was Barbara doing the same with Linda. I realized this was normal for them: when you come out of a restaurant there's going to be many hundreds of people wanting to get a glimpse of you. 

Suddenly a man burst past the secret service and came running straight at me and Mr. Bush. The secret service guys were ready to slam him to the ground, but Mr. Bush waved them off. The man ran right up to us with the Secret Service guys just inches in back of him. 

"Mr. Bush!" the man said. "Do you remember me? I'm the guy that shook your hand in the Minnesota stadium parking lot when you campaigned there in the 1980s! Maybe you didn't see my face because it was dark, but that was ME who shook your hand, sir!"

Mr. Bush, in one of the greatest acts of graciousness I've ever seen, shook the man's hand again and said,

"Thank you very much, sir. How nice of you to remember."

Obviously there is no possible way that Mr. Bush could remember this person, but he extended to him the most gracious compliment he could. The man smiled broadly as he backed away. 

Photos from Mabel's Facebook Page and the Internet. 

Christmas Cards

We exchanged Christmas cards right up to the final years. Here is a sampling of th beautiful messages they always sent. 

This next Christmas card requires an explanation. 

We were traveling near Maine when the news reported that Mr. Bush was going to do one of his famous leaps from an airplane on his birthday. I came up with the idea of dragging a piano out into the field where he'd be landing and would be playing ragtime as he descended from the plane. I immediately called to see if this would be possible. The conversation went like this:

Me:  "Hi Mr. Bush! I hear your jumping from an airplane tomorrow."

Him:  "Yes, I am! You want to jump with me?"

The conversation trailed off into something different after that. As it turned out, it wasn't possible to get a piano out there. With this in mind, view the next Christmas card. 

I have never parachuted in my life, but to this day I wish I'd jumped with him.

George and Barbara looking normal.

Below: the newspapers were filled with this story. 

This photo and story made international news, as it did every year. 

George (in the sky) not looking normal while Barbara watches nervously from the ground. 

They kept sending cards even into the years of declining health. 


The photo on the left is the George HW Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas. Note that the picture is also on the Christmas card above. Why on a Christmas card? The photo had an interesting story that year, and we learned about it this way.

During dinner one evening, Barbara held up a newspaper article showing the library. She said to us,

"Bob and Linda, the press has been calling us all day asking about what happened at the library speech that George (HW) gave last week. We've been hanging up on them all day, but would you like to know what happened?"

Of course we said "yes."

"Well," she continued. "You know I write books. It's just something I like to do. My publisher tells me that when it gets close to 500 pages to wrap it up and quit. But now Bill (Clinton) has gone and written this book of over 1000 pages and it's almost to heavy to get to the table. 

"So anyways, when George (HW) was speaking there last week, both our son (the current president) and Bill were sitting in the bleachers behind. The cameras zoomed in when our son George leaned forward and whispered something into Bill's ear while dad was speaking. Bill just nodded, and the two of them went back to listening. So now the press is calling all day and asking us what our son said to him. We won't tell them, but here's what happened. He said,

"Bill, your book is a tome. It's over 1000 pages long. There's so many pages it's heavy, so my dad is reading the first half and I'm reading the second half.'

"Then, while keeping straight faces, they turned and pretended to be listening again."

Always Friendly and Encouraging

Mr. Bush always sent letters of encouragement. In this one he refers to "inundated with requests for concerts." 

For the next fifteen years I played 250 performances every year, all over the country and the world. 

I remain thankful for all the opportunities afforded me, and also for my ability to actually be able to do something that people enjoy.

After I was interviewed by the Library of Congress in 2004, the Library published a collection of all the different interviews plus the concert I played there as well. We sent a copy of the DVDs to Bushes. We received this postcard soon afterwards. 

Always Friendly and Encouraging

Nov. 20:

Dear Bob & Linda,

I am so darn proud of you! Thanks for sending me "Bob Milne at the Library of Congress." Another "First" for you. Love to Linda


Note the return address. Also note the "stamp." 

The post office people in our town told us that if "no one knew how to return to sender on this one" they'd probably be told to get a new post office. 

An Unforgettable Email

Linda and I were heading up the interstate into Maine, so sent this email to him.