To The Point

by Caren Cowan

Onward & Upward . . .

Some of us have lived for nearly a year waiting for November 6 and the 2012 General Election to come and go. Many issues hung on the outcome of that election and how we move forward hung in the balance, too. The big day has come and gone. It may not have been what some might have hoped, but there were disappointments enough to go around.

Before those of you who refer to this publication as the “Republican Gazette” slap the book shut, please finish at least this part of the column.

Some have said that you can count the power of agriculture in the Legislature by counting the boots and dividing by two. We are going to be short some boots this year; those ranks have been dwindling for years.

With all due respect to the winners of their respective races, whom we have to develop an excellent working relationship with, we lost some good ‘un in three parties. Tim Jennings, a Democrat, was one of the best friends New Mexico agriculture families have ever had. I will be the first to admit that we didn’t always see eye to eye and I have had my head handed to me more times than I want to think about by Senator Jennings. But when the chips were down, Senator Jennings was ALWAYS there for us.

If you need more clarity on what “handed my head to me” you might check with Phil H. Bidegain. He learned the hard way what I meant. Every now and then the passion in the halls of the Roundhouse spills over and a tongue lashing from a legislator is sometimes just the price of admission. It took me awhile to figure that part out and not take those events personally.

In the House, Andy Nunez became an independent a couple of years ago because he stood up for the courage of his conventions and ran contrary to party lines. It didn’t matter how controversial the issue was or who was asking for help, if Andy believed championing was the right thing to do, he was your man right down to the mat.

Again, and with all due respect to those replacing them, with a tip of the hat we say thank you to these great men. I don’t think it will just be agriculture that misses their cowboy wisdom and institutional memory.

There are many, many folks who have much more experience in the Legislature than I do, but I can tell you that this will be the most interesting Session in my experience. Both the State House and Senate will have a full one-third of their membership as freshmen. This is where the contact you made during the election season will pay off.

While I am sure that these new elected folks are bright and passionate, their learning curve on all kinds of issues is like trying to drink from a fire hose. That will be the case for some time to come. The sheer amount of information that must be consumed is unbelievable. We will need many boots on the ground in Santa Fe, to read bills on line, to make phone calls and to send emails.

If you haven’t already contacted your representative and senator, be they incumbents or newly elected, do it now! Every issue imaginable is open for discussion and they need to know you and your point of view yesterday.

The same is the case for Congress. New Mexico has a freshman senator and representative. Although Heinrich has been in Congress, he now represents the entire state, not just the metropolitan area. We need to keep him and his staff informed of our needs.

Michelle Lujan Grisham may represent the Albuquerque area, but I think she understands the role agriculture and the rural areas play in New Mexico’s health and well-being. We need to stay in constant contact with her as well.

This election will not give us the much hoped for regulatory relief at the federal level. So we have our work cut out for us.

Despite the fact that there have been reports to the contrary for the past several months, in late November, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that it would seek to list the lesser prairie chicken as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. I have difficulty in believing the timing of this announcement right after the election was a coincidence. The same holds true with the City of Albuquerque falling under the investigation the U.S. Justice Department in late November.

At least now we know what the challenges are in the months and years to come and we need to become strong enough to stand up to them.

As for that party thing, I suspect that I was not alone in having a “damn Chuck, I may not be a Republican” moment on the morning of November 7. I learned a long time ago that my leaning is conservative and there are those folks in every party. Those are the people who have gotten my support since I was old enough to vote and they will continue to do so.

Blue Funk

But I am not sure that the malaise I felt on November 7 was entirely due to the election. Losing an hour by “falling back” to standard time threw my body clock off for several days. Perhaps being a native of Arizona I am a bit biased on the subject, but “day light savings” time is a bunch of bunk. There are so many hours of light in the day whether the clock is on standard or daylight time. The rule of thumb is that you work from sunup to sundown; doesn’t really matter what the clock says.

One of the reasons for creating daylight savings time was because it was perceived to be an energy savings — don’t ask me to explain — but studies have debunked that theory.

I have already talked to some legislators about legislation to eliminate the system in New Mexico. The measure has been taken up many times over the past two decades. The last time was in the 1990s and the bill was carried by Senator Manny Aragon. I didn’t pay all that much attention to it because it had gone down in flames so many times.

Turns out that year it lost by only about three votes. That was a lesson in “you can make a difference” for me.

The only argument that I have come across is whether New Mexico stays on Mountain Standard Time (MST) to stay in line with Arizona or if we should moved to Central Daylight to line up with Texas. My opinion on that debate is pretty clear. But honestly it doesn’t really matter what time we get on . . . let’s just get on something that we stay on year-round.

50 Bites

This is another “I hope those involved get my humor stories.” If someone told you that you needed to eat 50 bites of food, it really doesn’t sound like a lot, does it?

Last summer I was honored to be asked to be a judge at the first Peterson Memorial Ranch Rodeo & Dutch Oven Cook-off near Winston (see story and photo on pages 94 and 95). I had never judged anything like, but how hard could it be? Just eating great food, right? Besides, even if it is dry, it is a treat to spend a day in the country.

When the appointed day arrived, I stopped by in Cuchillo and picked up my long time savior Jack Porch. We told Dena and Justy that we’d be back when the cook-off was over. Like many of my trips, I took off without knowing exactly what time I was needed to be there and I wanted to be early so I could visit with folks.

We arrived at the Peterson Arena close to 1:00 p.m. It is worth noting at this point that there is no cell service at the Peterson Ranch.

Sure enough, there were plenty of great people to visit with and I was ahead of time. Of course when you talk about food judging, I was envisioning something off the Food Channel where people bring you plates of food to sample.

The weekend was kicking off with the cook-off, cooking to start at 3:00 p.m., dinner at the wagons, homegrown musicians who brought their guitars and fiddles for the camp fire to be followed by a ranch rodeo the next day. To participate in the event, contestants had to be in the cook-off and compete in the ranch rodeo.

Like most everything in New Mexico, the attendance was diverse including bikers, fire fighters, cowboys and more who had gathered to honor the memory of Marine LCPL Adam D. Peterson who survived a tour in Afghanistan where he valiantly saved fellow Marines only to lose his life in a truck accident soon after he got home. We must always remember that God has a plan even we cannot begin to understand it.

The day was hot, but there was just enough breeze to make things bearable. A few clouds floated by to tease at a rain shower, but by mid-afternoon they were gone.

It wasn’t long before delicious smells began floating in the breeze. When the other four judges and I got our marching orders, I learned that I was going to have to work a bit for my supper. The ten competitors (11 were entered, but only ten cooked) in the cook-off were camped around a pretty good sized area so that everyone had enough elbow room and no one could spike on another’s secret ingredient. Although each team had been assigned a number, they camped in random order, so we walked from one end of the camp ground to the other several times.

Each group was to be judged on five dishes — a main dish, side dish, bread, chile and desert. Each dish was judged, the meal overall, team participation and overall appearance. It was determined that we would visit each camp and taste one category at a time.

Things went pretty well through the main and side dishes. There was a lot of good food and the hardest part was picking a favorite. Then we moved on to the bread. Bread is one of my favorite dishes in life — but when you eat ten bites of bread, all by itself on a hiking trip it isn’t long before it begins to start sticking to the roof of your mouth.

Then we moved on to the chile. I am here to admit that I am a wuss when it comes to spicy hot foods, thus I am not a big fan of chile, especially on what is becoming a full stomach. I will also admit that the homemade wine that one of the teams was slipping was probably not the best choice of the afternoon.

I was beginning to sweat (for a variety of reasons) and fatigue was beginning to set in. Thank goodness I had the good sense to take a cap and ware comfortable shoes.

By mid-way of the chile round I was down to just sticking my spoon in the sauce, not taking a real bite. That garnered me some not too kind looks from a couple of the cooks. I completely bailed on the tenth team and staggered to the Peterson camp where I could see the closest place to sit down.

I honestly thought I was going to lose it all in the most literal sense — and there wasn’t any place that I could see to do that, ceremoniously or otherwise. As I continued to swallow hard and see stars, the Peterson crew was kind enough to bring me two bottles of water, one to sip on and another to hold on my overheated neck. They kept asking if I was alright. Of course I was . . . really.

All I could think of was the horror of “losing my cookies” in front of all these friends and members. It would have been a shame I could have never lived down. Eventually my focus returned, my breathing came back to something near normal and my stomach ceased to roll.

With as much dignity as I could muster, I caught up the rest of the judging team and tasted the last few deserts. All but a couple of them were peach cobblers and in the shape I was in, it really didn’t matter how they tasted.

We then gathered to turn in our score sheets. I was relieved, sort of, when another of the judges mentioned that his stomach wasn’t exactly settled.

At any rate it was nearly dark and neither Jack nor I had been able to let the home folks know that we would be late. We arrived back in Cuchillo to meet Dena and Justy waiting for us in the drive none too happy that we hadn’t check in all day — after all we could have driven back into Winston to get service. Then I had to call Randy and explain my disappearance.

All in all it was a great day… and I hope that I get invited back!