Sep 30 2017

Loss of a true friend …

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

Pete Domenici was a friend to New Mexico ranchers, farmers and countless others. Even more, he was a friend to me.

Most of you have never been to my office or will likely ever have a need to. But if you were here, you would find the room filled (maybe overfilled) with files and piles, boxes and books. The walls are pretty much covered with photos and other mementos. There is a brand throw from the CowBelles over the chair that doesn’t have a box in it and Mattie Cowan’s Cowbelle dress that was made for parades and other events somewhere between 1939 when The Cowbelles was founded and 1941 when we have the first photos of her in it. And, yes the 18” emasculators still sit on the desk, sometimes covered by paper, but ready when needed for emphasis.

There are eight photos on the walls; six of them have Pete Domenici in them. Five are from various trips to Washington, D.C. over the past 20 years. There was a Wool Growers trip; a in 2002 when several ranchers from northern New Mexico joined Mike Casabonne and me on trip back to demand that the Carson and Santa Fe National Forests be reopened to grazing after an arbitrary and capricious decision attempted to remove all grazing from those forests. (They were.) There is one when we gathered up John and Frank Falen, from Nevada and Wyoming respectively, to navigate Capitol Hill with us. Senator Domenici always called a photographer into his office at the end of a meeting.

There is the last one where the Cattle Growers, the Wool Growers, and the Federal Lands Council gave the Senator a silver-belly hat for his ride into retirement and the future. That picture is especially special because it contains past Wool Growers President Ron Merritt Jr., our dear departed Mary Skeen, then Cattle Growers’ President Alisa Ogden and then Federal Lands Council President Mike Casabonne along with the Senator and his winning smile.

The sixth one is the biggest and has an even longer story behind it. In 1996, after the demise of the Wool Act meant there were no longer funds for the Wool Growers to keep me, I went home to Arizona and ran for the Cochise County Board of Supervisors. Bob Dole and I shared a crying towel the night of that election.

My only nephew, R. W. (Dub), was five years old at the time. He spent his summer helping me with signs, handing out fliers at gatherings and riding in parades to help Auntie get elected. For his troubles he was reprimanded in his kindergarten class on Election Day for jumping up and saying “Vote for Auntie!” when the teacher brought up the subject up.

The day after the election in the winding down process, I was at my sister’s house for dinner. Dub and I were at odds over the television controls. He had had enough of news programs and adult stuff to last him a lifetime. As he was surfing channels he flipped by one where Senator Domenici was being interviewed on the outcome of the election. I asked Dub to go back to that channel because Auntie’s friend was on it. He grumbled “not your friend” as he grudgingly went back to the channel.

After I moved back to New Mexico and went to work for Cattle Growers in mid 1997, one of the first opportunities I had for an important meeting was one with Senator Domenici. His staff wanted to meet at the Cattle Growers just to get him out of his office.

The NMCGA Board Room is a perfect place for all kinds of meetings. One wall is covered entirely with pictures of past presidents back to 1914. I can sit with that wall to my back feeling all the power of those men brought to bear in New Mexico for then nearly a century behind me. I would imagine that the sight might be just a little intimidating. It certainly gives me confidence.

When the meeting finished, I ask the Senator if he had just a moment for a picture of just he and me so I could send it to Dub to prove that Pete Domenici was indeed my friend. He kindly obliged with that wonderful smile. While the photo was being taken, he whispered in my ear that he WAS my friend.

Chuck Stocks, then publisher of the Stockman, was kind enough to take the photo. He then surprised me later with the one and only New Mexico Stockman Hero Award complete with a large, beautifully framed photo of the Senator and I that has held a prominent place in my office ever since.

When we met the Senator in Roswell maybe a decade later, I reminded him of that day. He replied, “And you are still my friend.”

Where’s the Fairness?

Every day I get tons of emails with people demanding their own way despite impacts on others. I can no longer go to a Ringling Brothers Circus because of groups like the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) or the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and their ilk. Portland, Maine (near where Michelle lives) and many other cities are taking up ordinances to prohibit the display of wild animals in any circus.

Ordinances are in place or on the way to outlaw the sale of pets from pet stores. However, it IS okay to get a pet from a “rescue” even if they are in a storefront or shopping mall — and don’t be surprised if there are “fees” with you obtaining a rescue animal.

HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle admits, “I don’t have a hands-on fondness for animals. I did not grow up bonded to any particular nonhuman animal.” Pacelle claims, “If I had my personal view, perhaps that might take hold. In fact, I don’t want to see another dog or cat born.”

So the rest of the world is supposed to give up pets?

In Washington state a “habitat conservation plan” for a supposedly endangered pocket gopher has been proposed that would require anyone wanting to build a house on an acre of land, to purchase an acre of “mitigation.” Current price per acre of mitigation is $17,803 and the county is looking at a 30-year plan requiring them to purchase 120 acres per year (roughly 120 credits) to stay on track with projected growth. The 30-year cost would be $64 million.

With the absurdity all of this in mind, I have a demand of my own. I demand a change in the National Football League (NFL) — it is only fair that I get what I want or need no matter the cost or impact to anyone else, right?

There are 32 professional football teams organized into two leagues under the NFL — I figured out in college that if you wanted to find conversation with almost any guy, including my father, all you had to do was bring up football. I developed at least a working knowledge of the sport and key players.

Back to the 32 teams, it is clear that one cannot be assigned to each of the 50 states under the current scheme of things. There needs to be an expansion of 18 more teams. It doesn’t really matter that many states don’t have the population to support a team. Make folks travel to games everywhere.

Expansion could take awhile. Additionally at least one faith finds football to be a tool of the devil because it is on television on Sunday afternoon and Monday night interfering with religious activities. I haven’t checked the stance on the Thursday and Friday night games since the television expansion.

In the short term however, one only needs to look at the distribution of current NFL teams to see that there is an equity problem. California has FOUR teams while Florida has three teams. Texas, Maryland, Ohio and Pennsylvania each have two. On the face of it, New Jersey has two. But New Jersey is deceiving. Both of those teams are named New York … And there are the Buffalo Bills, so really New York has three teams and New Jersey has none.

Seven states have over half of the NFL teams in the country — a total of 18. Where is the fairness in that?

Like most things, it is the 11 Western states that get the shortest end of the stick. Seven of the 11 states are NFL team-less. These are some of the least populated states in the nation and among those who suffer the most from forest fires.

Keep in mind that each of these teams is a HUGE economic generator. Stadiums, domes and other venues with seating in the tens of thousands sell out weekly. If you only get a $100 ticket, and most tickets cost much more even into the thousands, the smallest stadium brings in well over $5 million in ticket sales alone. The largest brings in more than $9 million.

That’s before you buy any food, beverage or jerseys. The average cost of a small draft beer is $7.42, with highs going to nearly $10. Some have a small, small draft for $5.

But the real money comes from television contracts. The single most popular team in the states without their own NFL team is the Denver Broncos hands down. The highest earning team with an income of $700 million is the Dallas Cowboys.

But the money goes out the door pretty fast too. The effect salary for an NFL quarterback is between $9 and $12 million a year, with the highest paid guy getting $27,000,000. This is a contract that was signed in very recently, so it probably throws off the numbers mentioned above.

Highly skilled non quarterback players earn around $16 million a year. Rookies can expect around $365,000 for their first year. The overall average salary per player is $1.9 million a year. All those salaries don’t count endorsement or commercial deals that could add millions to their income.

Can you imagine how much money a 53-member team roster would bring into New Mexico? Then you add in the coaches. Head coach salaries range from $3.5 million to $8 million based on the information that is available.

There are countless employees to maintain a stadium regularly and to host home games. Even a minimum wage of $10 an hour would help New Mexico families more than most could fathom.

It is the cheerleaders who get the short end of the stick everywhere. NFL cheerleaders make from $9 to $15 an hour for the elite (head), while the amateurs make $9 per hour. Several teams have recently determined that they would pay their cheerleaders whatever the minimum wage is for the state they are in.

A boost in visitors to New Mexico and the dollars they spend on housing and food would also be a big benefit. We have heard for years that tourism is the future economy of New Mexico. The problem with the theory for me is how much trouble you would get in for eating a tourist when you get hungry.

So, how would we divide those NFL teams up to get one per state until the league can expand to 48 teams? I am not sure that we can mandate teams for Alaska or Hawaii at this point.

Here’s my plan: California moves three of their teams to the nearby states of Idaho, Nevada and Oregon. It is way too confusing to have three teams named “LA something” anyway. Texas should give New Mexico one. The Cowboys makes the most sense because it would seem silly to have the New Mexico Texans.

Utah should get a team from Florida, probably the Dolphins, because the name wouldn’t have to change from Jacksonville or Tampa. And, Utah has taken a pro basketball team from the Southeast with some success. Montana and Wyoming could setup a task force or working group to determine if they wanted a New York, Florida or Ohio team.

That would take care of the West. Georgia should get a Florida team and Maine should get a New York/New Jersey team. Any states left over not getting a team should go into a lottery to determine which of the remaining teams they would get. Sadly, there will still be 18 states without a team.

Honestly, after working this through, I think I could take just about any government organizer job and be a hit.

To the popular media…

Get a grip — are you going to cover DACA or the First Lady’s Shoes?      

Source: New Mexico Stockman, October 2017