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Astros owner recalls no-frills hunting with Sam Walton
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Astros owner recalls no-frills hunting with Sam Walton

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SEYMOUR, Texas -- Drayton McLane is a rangy 74-year-old Temple, Texas, businessman who hasn't hunted quail often since the death of one of his closest friends.

The friend was Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. McLane, who owns the Houston Astros, used to meet the colorful Arkansas retailing tycoon at the Falfurrias airport.

"There would all these private jets lined up and Sam would land in an old piston plane that he flew himself," recalled McLane. "He would taxi up there and open the door and you could hear the bird dogs barking from the plane.

"The other people waiting around the airport looked at Sam like he was a yahoo and never even realized that he was, at that time, the richest man in the world."

McLane said Walton's personal aircraft looked even worse on the inside than the outside, since he just let the dogs roam around loose in the plane.

His plane may not have been fancy, but his hunting camp was even worse.

"He had a couple of old beat-up trailers out there in the brush," said McLane. "The trailers smelled so bad, you hated to spend the night there. Sam wasn't much for living fancy. We ate peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast, lunch and dinner."

What he lacked in facilities, Walton made up for with the quality of his hunting lease. He leased one of the top quail ranches in Jim Hogg County, 60,000 acres of open grasslands interspersed by dense clumps of cactus and mesquite.

There were plenty of quail in those days, said McLane, and Walton loved to walk behind his dogs. In fact, he shunned the more leisurely style of hunting from a vehicle.

"We were down there one time and we got invited to a neighboring ranch where some of Sam's friends were hunting," McLane recalled. "I figured we might have an easy hunt for a change. The guys were all dividing up in trucks to go out hunting and Sam declared that he and I would walk. We set off from the camp with a couple of dogs and just walked in a big circle until 1:30 p.m., when we met for lunch. At least the food was better, but then we took off walking again. I was exhausted at the end of the day."

McLane still jogs four to six miles about four times a week. His last hunt with Walton was in 1992, just before Walton died of cancer.

Did Sam Walton really have a dog named Ol' Roy, the name and likeness he put on the Wal-Mart dog food brand?

"Oh, yeah," said McLane. "In fact, he had several dogs named Ol' Roy. When one Ol' Roy would die, he'd name another dog Ol' Roy. Sam loved quail hunting and we had some great hunts in south Texas but his dogs weren't any more pampered than he was."

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