• George’s soft side comes out for his two dogs, Piglet and Beagley. He’s always had canine companions, and these two elderly Beagles are his current friends.
George’s most beloved Beagle, Big Dog, passed away a few years ago, but he was responsible for both Beagley and Piglet’s presence in his life. At one point, Big Dog ran away, and someone brought a stray to George, thinking he was Big Dog. George kept the wayward Beagle and named him Beagley, and he joined Big Dog when he returned. Piglet is the offspring of Big Dog and another of George’s former Beagles, Peanut.
Big Dog’s ashes sit on George’s desk in his bedroom along with a photo of George holding him.
• George attended the University of Virginia in 1956; one of his best friends there was Walter “Jimmy” Lee. But he wasn’t much of a scholar. “I studied drinking. I got very poor marks because riding and partying was about all I studied. And I don’t know in which order!” he recalls.
• In 1958, ’59 and ’60, George spent four summer months on tour with the USET. “My father would give me $500 for four months in Europe as beer money. That was my spending money, and it covered it,” he remembers.
• Seeing “the spot” at a jump didn’t come naturally to George in his early riding days. “I wish I knew then what I know now about how to find a distance. It was mysterious to me. The distance god was either shining or he wasn’t; there was no controlling it for me then,” he says.
In the ’60s, Carl Knee gave George some simple advice about distances. “A light came on, and I then had a predictable technique to find a jump,” he says. “Up until then, I must have found a lot of jumps because I had great success, but I didn’t have a clue how I was doing it. And when things went badly, I didn’t have a clue how to fix it.”
• George is not a linguist. “I learned French in school, but I’ve forgotten most of it now,” he says. “At some point in the ’80s, I was able to give a clinic in French. But now I’m very rusty.”
• George’s libation of choice? “I love beer; I don’t drink it as much anymore as I’d like, but I do like it,” he says.