The attorney general gazed out across the Bosque River Valley, took a deep breath, and raised his Remington 12-gauge shotgun. “Okay,” he called out. “Can I see one?” An orange clay pigeon flashed across the sky before disappearing into a field some forty yards away. He turned and laughed: “Can I see one more?”
It was a bright-blue mid-May afternoon, and Greg Abbott was relaxing with some of his old classmates from Duncanville High School, Billy and Buzzy and Randy and Rickey and Kevin and Joe. If those names sound like they come from Ward Cleaver’s America, that’s because they do. Abbott had a classic small-town upbringing; these are the friends he stayed up late with playing cards and dominoes before drifting off to sleep on backyard trampolines. The men have remained close over the years, happily recalling the times when they first tried chewing tobacco on a football trip to Corsicana or pulled an all-nighter while puzzling over the periodic table. The property, a gorgeous piece of land between Glen Rose and Hico, belongs to Rickey. Each year they try to gather here to swap stories, catch up on their families, and do a little hunting and fishing.
While one of the men adjusted the automatic trap, the 55-year-old sat in his wheelchair on a wide wooden deck and took in the view. He wore hunting boots, casual brown pants, and a gray short-sleeved shirt. “See that ridge over there?” he asked, pointing off into the distance. “Remember when we went out there and shot birds?”
“Well, shot at birds,” Rickey replied.
“That’s right,” Abbott said with a broad, easy smile. “A lot of birds went home happy that day.”
Soon the trap was ready, and the group grew silent. The attorney general raised his shotgun again. “Pull!” he cried.
The clay pigeon took flight at a more leisurely speed, and he squeezed the trigger. Boom! The pigeon sailed on, undisturbed. Boom! The target landed gracefully in the tall grass, fully intact. The group erupted with the kinds of jokes that high school buddies love to make at one another’s expense, even when one of them is the state’s highest-ranking law enforcement official. “Who gave Greg the box of blanks to shoot with?” Randy asked. Buzzy laughed. “This is where we do the Dick Cheney,” he said. “Better run!”
Abbott brushed them off and reloaded. “Pull!” This time, the moment the clay pigeon came into view, it exploded into a shower of orange bits. “Great shot, Greg!” went up the chorus.
He missed a couple, endured some more jeers, and hit a few more. After a while he called for someone to join him, and the games of knockout began. On his first round, he hit the pigeon, and