Paying It Forward
There is a natural seasonal influence on veterinary medicine in Colorado. As the temperature drops in the fall and winter, and the Christmas ornaments are brought out of storage and then put back, there is a normal slowing of veterinary activity. Equestrians have their minds diverted to family activities, and the falling temperatures furlough all but the hardiest outdoor riders. Horse emergencies continue to occur as colics increase when more horses are confined and exercise is limited. We also see injuries resulting from social interactions of horses as they are housed in tighter confinement. Routine work slows down.
Hall Of Education
The new year does bring increased activity from one source, the National Western Stock Show.
During the sixteen days of the Stock Show, LEQMC staff members are on call for equine emergencies at the show grounds. During any competitions involving horses, a LEQMC staff veterinarian must be present in the arena. All sanctioned rodeos are required to have a veterinarian in the arena before the rodeo can begin. Kathi and I participate in staffing the Stock Show primarily by attending rodeos.
Our normal routine for rodeo coverage is to arrive at the facility a safe time before the performance. We frequently stroll through the isles of the Hall of Education checking out what is new or different. The second floor is where the selling and buying occurs. Oh, did I mention the second floor is the best location for people-watching in Colorado? For an aging veterinarian from Oklahoma like me, this is truly the hall of education!
Checking out all the objects for sale can create sensory overload for me. Tractors, cattle handling equipment; tack for all species of farm animals, working clothes for cowboys and farmers, barns, stalls, gate openers, tools, boots for cowboys and farmers. Many of those items are familiar to me; I can rub my hands across the leather, wood , or metal and be immediately transported back to my family’s farm and my childhood. I wonder what life would have been like if we had some of these modern tools. That was the reason the great tradition of the Stock Show was started, for folks like my family in the agriculture business to gather to admire superior animals, check new advancements in equipment and techniques, and to go home and improve their operations and thereby improve their lives.
Today’s National Western Stock Show still has as its primary goal to promote and improve the agriculture lifestyle. However, the Stock Show can’t ignore the obvious large urban area surrounding the Complex. Providing entertainment to the city folks, good country entertainment, is an important part of the mission to educate people about agriculture. Modern farmers and ranchers find themselves walking along crowded isles filled with city dwellers, and those from agricultural America are obviously learning things too.
In the Hall of Education you can buy lots of things to make you feel better, like vapors to sooth you, creams to soften your skin, electronic devices to electrically stimulate your muscles, vibrating easy chairs to relax those same muscles. You can buy a one-of-a-kind forty-acre mountain lot, buy a house to build on it, a barn for your horse, a fence around your forty acres of mountain majesty, and an automatic gate to install in the fence to keep others out and let you in.
At the Stock Show you can buy any sort of clothing. Most is western, boots and hats shaped just like you want them; and bling, lots of bling. There must be enough bling belts to string end to end around your forty-acre mountain lot that you just bought. Many of the urban attendees try to dress as cowboys to fit in. I have news for the guy with the dragon tattooed on his chest, exposed by an opened lycra shirt unbuttoned down to his belt loops, wearing banana-yellow sport shoes and tight legged jeans: The Toby Keith cowboy hat won’t convince anyone you are a cowboy. For you , the old saying “All hat and no cow” should be “No cow, no time.”
The most interesting sales technique on display in the Hall of Education is practiced by the folks attempting to get your attention by making eye contact in an effort to inspire you to purchase their products. My dad called those sales people “talkers”. In the Hall of Education, these skilled folks often sell household products like cookware, irons, floor cleaning devices, common household items that don’t have the “wow” appeal of revolutionary new inventions. They have sound systems capable of amplifying what appear to be soft spoken, thoughtful voices of people who have your best interest as their primary goal. The booths also have chairs for people to sit down, a luxury in a sit-down-deficient area. People seem to sit down in a chair for a rest and soon are mesmerized by a soft voice describing how their lives will be better with a new skillet or a special iron. Quite a few rested souls leave those chairs with the world’s best skillet or a miracle iron under their arm.
Stock Show food should be part of one’s annual experience. Of course, there are many available brewed beverages. Our urban friends can also get a smoothie machine to make green smoothies from avocado and spinach and other combinations not listed in my Okie red-neck cookbook. You can get bacon-on-a-stick dipped in chocolate, nuts, chip dip containing all known species of peppers, giant sausages, burritos, kettle corn, and Kathi’s favorite, funnel cakes. Fried oreos are on sale, but I can’t imagine how hot grease could improve an oreo. I’m not willing to pay five dollars to find out. There are roasted turkey legs on sale for eleven dollars. Those legs make you salivate just watching the guys roasting them. I tried one once. It took no time at all to consume the quarter pound of tastey turkey meat present on the leg. I was then left with three pounds of turkey bone, tendons, and ligament. I carried the remains around just like I did a cocklebur when, as a kid, a buddy convinced me a cocklebur was a porcupine egg. I waited until I thought nobody was watching and tossed the remains into the trash. Now when I pass someone holding a turkey leg, I give them a thumbs up. They probably think I’m congratulating them for a wise choice of food. I’m actually congratulating them for getting the need to buy a roasted turkey leg out of their system for their lifetime.
Be An Advocate
As a child who grew up on a farm and became a veterinarian, I consider the world of horses and all farm animals as my world. When at the modern-day Stock Show, I have felt like my world is being denigrated by the urban attendants and their complete lack of understanding of what goes on in the agriculture world. But I must remember eighty percent of America’s population today live in urban settings. if you would like your grandkids’ kids to be able to love their animals in a manner similar to that we have enjoyed, then how eighty percent of the population sees our world and how they appreciate the value of that world may be the most important factor in my great-grandkids animal-futures. I have come to realize the importance of enlightening a well-meaning large group of “town folks”. In an age of cow flatulence being blamed as a huge problem causing hurricanes, heat waves, and snow storms, those urban dwellers need to recognize the value of the cattle industry. They need to recognize the relationship of a young lady and a horse as the two of them complete a jumping course as a beautiful relationship important to both, not an example of animal abuse.
It truly is an important time for my world, my way of life. It is time for me to step forward and become an advocate for the way of life with animals that has been given me by those going before. Just like the “talkers” selling cookware in the Hall of Education, I need to learn to make the uneducated comfortable, speaking in a soft voice, telling them of my love for animals. Even if animals do not become an important part of their lives, maybe they will become aware of the importance of animals to others. I need to become an advocate, to pay it forward; and the time to do so is now.