Q: Mr. Vice President, how is Mr. Whittington?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the good news is he's doing very well today. I talked to him yesterday after they discovered the heart problem, but it appears now to have been pretty well resolved and the reporting today is very good.
Q: How did you feel when you heard about that?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it's a great relief. But I won't be, obviously, totally at ease until he's home. He's going to be in the hospital, apparently, for a few more days, and the problem, obviously, is that there's always the possibility of complications in somebody who is 78-79 years old. But he's a great man, he's in great shape, good friend, and our thoughts and prayers go out to he and his family.
Q: How long have you known him?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I first met him in Vale, Colorado, when I worked for Gerry Ford about 30 years ago, and it was the first time I'd ever hunted with him.
Q: Would you describe him as a close friend, friendly acquaintance, what --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, an acquaintance.
Q: Tell me what happened?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, basically, we were hunting quail late in the day --
Q: Describe the setting.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It's in south Texas, wide-open spaces, a lot of brush cover, fairly shallow. But it's wild quail. It's some of the best quail hunting anyplace in the country. I've gone there, to the Armstrong ranch, for years. The Armstrongs have been friends for over 30 years. And a group of us had hunted all day on Saturday --
Q: How many?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, probably 10 people. We weren't all together, but about 10 guests at the ranch. There were three of us who had gotten out of the vehicle and walked up on a covey of quail that had been pointed by the dogs. Covey is flushed, we've shot, and each of us got a bird. Harry couldn't find his, it had gone down in some deep cover, and so he went off to look for it. The other hunter and I then turned and walked about a hundred yards in another direction --
Q: Away from him?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Away from him -- where another covey had been spotted by an outrider. I was on the far right --
Q: There was just two of you then?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Just two of us at that point. The guide or outrider between us, and of course, there's this entourage behind us, all the cars and so forth that follow me around when I'm out there -- but bird flushed and went to my right, off to the west. I turned and shot at the bird, and at that second, saw Harry standing there. Didn't know he was there --
Q: You had pulled the trigger and you saw him?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I saw him fall, basically. It had happened so fast.
Q: What was he wearing?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: He was dressed in orange, he was dressed properly, but he was also -- there was a little bit of a gully there, so he was down a little ways before land level, although I could see the upper part of his body when -- I didn't see it at the time I shot, until after I'd fired. And the sun was directly behind him -- that affected the vision, too, I'm sure.
But the image of him falling is something I'll never be able to get out of my mind. I fired, and there's Harry falling. And it was, I'd have to say, one of the worst days of my life, at that moment.
Q: Then what?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we went over to him, obviously, right away --
Q: How far away from you was he?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm guessing about 30 yards, which was a good thing. If he'd been closer, obviously, the damage from the shot would have been greater.
Q: Now, is it clear that -- he had caught part of the shot, is that right?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: -- part of the shot. He was struck in the right side of his face, his neck and his upper torso on the right side of his body.
Q: And you -- and I take it, you missed the bird.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I have no idea. I mean, you focused on the bird, but as soon as I fired and saw Harry there, everything else went out of my mind. I don't know whether the bird went down, or didn't.
Q: So did you run over to him or --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Ran over to him and --
Q: And what did you see? He's lying there --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: He was laying there on his back, obviously bleeding. You could see where the shot had struck him. And one of the fortunate things was that I've always got a medical team, in effect, covering me wherever I go. I had a physician's assistant with me that day. Within a minute or two he was on the scene administering first-aid. And --
Q: And Mr. Whittington was conscious, unconscious, what?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: He was conscious --
Q: What did you say?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I said, "Harry, I had no idea you were there." And --
Q: What did he say?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: He didn't respond. He was -- he was breathing, conscious at that point, but he didn't -- he was, I'm sure, stunned, obviously, still trying to figure out what had happened to him. The doc was fantastic --