Jun 05 2018

Counting my blessings…

by Caren Cowan, Executive Director,
New Mexico Cattle Grower’s Association
Read this article & more in New Mexico Stockman Magazine


uring the Legislature when the conversation turned to joint replacements, I missed another good opportunity to keep my mouth shut. Instead I said, “I plan on going to the grave with my original parts.”

Apparently my body decided to bring me down a peg.

Since the end of Legislature, I had been working slowly on my total gym. In mid April I thought I had pulled a muscle in my chest. I was having some pain, but gee whiz it was quite a ways from my heart and there was no blood. According to the Cowan philosophy of life, just keep plugging. It will get better. Besides, I was busy.

The pain got worse over the next several days, but it was manageable. I attended the Binational Meeting in Las Cruces where the wind blew like a son of a gun and it was cold the day we were outside. A little pain is no big deal.

I came home and a few days later we went to Florida for some training. Things got worse, but who wants to go to an ER or Urgent Care so far from home?

I was home for less than 24 hours and headed southwest to the Spur Ranch near Luna, New Mexico to prepare with several members for a wolf meeting called by Arizona Department of Agriculture Mark Killian. He was kind enough to include New Mexico in the meeting. He had initially requested a meeting with Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, who delegated the event to U.S. Forest Service Region 3 Supervisor Cal Joyner and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Southwest Regional Director Amy Lueders. Both of those regions include both Arizona and New Mexico.

I was still having some pain, but no pain no gain, right? However, once the meeting started, the pain began getting worse… a lot worse. I ended up pacing the room during most of the meeting.

The meeting was at least the start of a success with both Regional Directors hearing stories they had never heard before. Ranchers in the room have and are losing $100,000s of thousands of dollars either in wolf losses or expenses directly related to the wolves, including transportation to move away from the wolves, additional leased land costs, wear and tear on the animals like decreases in weight, lower calving or lambing rates, not to mention the time and money spent in documenting wolf kills and working with the federal agencies in trying to get at least some compensation for their losses.

We were to continue to work with the Directors, including Ms. Lueders, Mr. Joyner, Mr. Killian and New Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte to see if we could accomplish something meaningful to ranchers. My hopes are dimming however, it has been well over a month and we haven’t heard a word from the feds.

I had a get well card from a friend in Arizona who said that I had set a whole new meaning for the illness felt after wolf meetings. I was the first he had heard of requiring surgery after such a meeting.

But I digress. Meanwhile back at the Spur Ranch my pain was getting worse. I skipped dinner and by the next morning it was clear that I wasn’t in any shape to attend Margie McKeen’s Ranch Days, which I have been promising to attend for years.

In addition to hosting New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association members, Tom and John Paterson were taking care of their father Alex, who was on his last legs. He wanted to spend some time at the ranch before the end. Tom and John hosted 35 people during the weeks that Alex was at the ranch.

April 24 was the day that Alex was going back to Silver City. Given that I wasn’t able to drive myself, it made sense to ride to Silver City and seek medical attention there.

The ER made a fairly quick diagnosis that it was gall bladder. They wanted to admit me and do surgery the next day. While I am certain that the medical facilities were more than adequate, I just couldn’t make myself stay in a hospital so far away from family.

Thank God for the Roland Sanchez Family. In about nothing flat they had me lined up with a surgeon in Albuquerque. Although I had plenty of folks ready to drive me back to Albuquerque, Randy found a flight that would get me there with less than an hour of airtime… and it only cost $59.

The flight was delayed so I was later getting away than scheduled, but we finally got in the air. It was a small plane and there was a doctor on the flight for his own reasons, so what could go wrong?

Wind shear in Albuquerque. Given the cockpit was open, the drama of the attempted landing was there in full view, complete with flashing danger lights. At that point I was like that southern comedian who told the story about being caught in a tree with a bear or a lion (I cannot remember which). He yelled to his friend, “Just shoot up in here… somebody will get some relief.” I just wanted on the ground one way or another.

After a couple more laps over Albuquerque we made it to the ground. I had an appointment the next morning with Dr. Joseph Lopez, a renowned New Mexico transplant surgeon who hails from Las Vegas, New Mexico. There wasn’t a surgery opening until the next morning so home we went for another 24 hours.

I knew going in that they might not be able to take the gall bladder out laparoscopically, but I wasn’t fully prepared for how long the recovery process might be for a full surgery. The surgery took a while and once inside, the gall bladder had ruptured and was gangrenous. Things went well but the next day things were not quite as they should be. There began to be talk of an ectopic procedure to address what appeared to be the problem. As you might imagine, I wasn’t wild about that thought… I wanted to go home.

The following Tuesday morning the doctors decided that there was a blockage in the bile duct and off we went again. The procedure was ectopic. They found a gall stone blocking the duct. They removed that and put in a stint. That stint will have to come out in another procedure scheduled for late June. Hopefully that will be a day thing.

Early the next morning the doctors came in and said I could go home! And, have food for the first time in over a week. I have another couple of weeks of recovery, but I am getting stronger every day and hope to be at the Mid-Year Convention in Ruidoso. I may have a shock collar on so Michelle can sit me down when she thinks I might be over doing…

Now for the thanks!

I don’t even know where to begin with the thanks for all the prayers I have received since this odyssey began. Thank you for the cards and flowers, the texts and emails, calls, a visit or two and the space to heal. My care team has been Johnnie on the spot for weeks. There will never be enough thanks for Randy, Marguerite, Connie and Michelle. There have been lots of sleepless nights for them and waiting on me hand and foot can’t be all that much fun. Although ordering me around may have it’s jollies.

The New Mexico Stockman staff in the form of Kristy Hinds, Carol Pendleton, Marguerite and even Publication Printers went well beyond over and above in getting out the May issue while I was in a drug-induced haze. I didn’t get a column done, but clearly we didn’t need it.

I cannot fail to leave out Tom and John Paterson. Things could have been a lot worse had it not been for them. I can’t even imagine the problems associated with a house guest who falls serious ill. They took it in stride and provided the best of care. Tom even drove my brand new convertible back to Albuquerque after I flew back. I am sorry I didn’t show him how to put the top down!

Thank you to all!

Just when you thought…   

As a resident of Albuquerque for more than 20 years, I have always hated to hear folks talk about how bad Albuquerque is. Yes, there is more crime than there should be and the police department gets a bad rap, which may or may not be deserved depending on the instance. But I support the men and women in blue… now changed to at least most of the time.

You all know about my beloved dogs Abby (now 13 years old and even more protective of me), and Bullet (our half Minnie Aussie, half Minnie Corgi). One of the highlights of their day is getting to ride with us in the truck. As I have recovered, we have taken a few short trips to the store. It seems to be easier to get the steps in while shopping.

On a trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond, one of my first trips, the day was overcast and the heat wasn’t bad. There was a breeze blowing and with all the windows more than half way down, the dogs were quite comfortable.

After I gave out, which wasn’t very long, I went back to the truck and Randy went to get me something to drink. You can imagine my surprise when the flashing lights of a cop car pulled up, blocking the truck. About that time a woman walked by my door and said, “She wasn’t in there when I called you.”

The cop came to the other door with a flashlight in broad daylight, drawing the ire of both dogs, and told me to get out of the truck. I walked behind the truck and he began lecturing in a not too kind of a tone about the Albuquerque law that requires that no dogs be left alone in a vehicle no matter what the temperature.

I explained to him that I had been in the store for a few minutes but was back in the truck because I wasn’t feeling well. He then told me that ignorance of the law was no defense and started the lecture all over again. In the meantime a dog catcher arrived on the scene.

During the second lecture the cop did add that, oh by the way, you cannot leave children in the car either. I made the mistake of telling him that I didn’t have children. That really made him mad. He then explained that he was offering me a courtesy and started the lecture a third time.

I guess I must have gotten pale somewhere during the process because finally the cop asked if I was in need of medical assistance. What a thoughtful guy. I didn’t need medical assistance if I could only sit down.

I haven’t had the energy to look up the ordinance supporting this cop, but I don’t have a lot of doubt that it isn’t there. What I did think about then was the fact that there had been two shootings, one deadly in Albuquerque late the night before and we saw two auto accidents with no police on the scene while we were out that day.

Aside from watching the evening news, you don’t have to search very far to find that Albuquerque is the worst in the nation for property crime according to a report issued in September 2017. The report goes on to say that “Much of New Mexico’s reported crime is driven by Albuquerque, the state’s largest city. About 27 percent of the population calls Albuquerque home, but the city was home to 42.7 percent of violent crime and 47 percent of property crime in New Mexico.

More than 65 percent of stolen vehicles were reported stolen from Albuquerque in 2016, which had an increase of 49 percent over 2015.

A January 2018 news story in the Albuquerque Journal stated “For the third year in a row, the city has seen a significant increase in the number of killings, ending 2017 with a preliminary total of 75 – the highest number of homicides in recent history.”

Yet the police department spends it’s time chasing down terrible criminals like me, who love their dogs enough to keep them by our sides.

Get real people! And, oh by the way, since the cop didn’t find the dogs by themselves, I don’t think he could have seized them anyway.

I hope to see you at convention and I promise not to be so self-centered next month.      

Source: New Mexico Stockman, June 2018