Jeff Rector is recovering from rock-crawling accident

Jeff Rector is a hard man to keep down.
That’s why his wife, Rebecca, had to take matters into her own hands.
Or, more specifically, lock Jeff out of his truck.
“She hid the keys to my pickup,” Jeff said. “I’m not much of a sit-around guy, but she did it in my best interest.”
Jeff was seriously injured in an accident June 24 at the rock crawling park in Rangely. After being taken to Rangely District Hospital, he was airlifted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction with numerous injuries. A 10-year-old boy, who was a passenger in the rock-crawling buggy, was unharmed. The boy was wearing a seat belt. Jeff was not.
“It was just one of those goofy things. We weren’t pushing the envelope or anything. It wasn’t particularly steep. We were turning around to come back and put (the buggy) on the trailer. We don’t know what happened,” Jeff said. “I should have had my seat belt on. The young man I had with me, I had made him put his on. It was just about dark, and we were fixin’ to leave. It flipped over backward is what happened. When the thing started coming over, I reached across (the boy’s) seat and bear hugged him, so he wouldn’t fall out and get hurt. My main concern was to protect him. He didn’t get a scratch on him.”
Jeff, on the other hand, suffered multiple injuries. They included broken bones in his face, his sinuses shoved up into his skull, a broken collarbone, broken shoulder blade, broken shoulder, three cracked bones in his neck and four in his lower back, and head injuries.
Fortunately, several people, including Jeff’s son Brian, were close by when the accident occurred.
“When it rolled over on its side, that’s when it squished me. I lost consciousness for a few minutes,” Jeff said. “They picked the thing off my head and I regained consciousness and crawled out from underneath. Brian, Ron Urie, Erik Striegel, Shane Key, Alex Urie … if they hadn’t been there, it would have killed me for sure. My boy saved my life.”
The accident has curbed Brian’s enthusiasm for rock crawling, for now anyway.
“He still doesn’t want to leave his dad’s side, to this day,” Rebecca said of Brian. “But he doesn’t want to get in a rock crawler.”
“I’m not so sure we’ll get him back in a buggy for a while,” Jeff said. “He’s pretty much lost interest.”
Not Jeff, though.
“Oh, no. I will continue to be as active in it as I always was,” he said. “It won’t slow me down a bit.”
Ironically, Jeff’s father, Carl, had just returned home from the hospital the same day as the accident, after having a pacemaker procedure done the day before.
“So they turned around and went back to Junction,” Rebecca said.
Rebecca was working late that night at the Rangely District Hospital Pharmacy, doing inventory, when she found out about the accident.
“Erik Striegel called me and told me there had been a little accident, that Jeff had a rollover and was kind of smooshed,” Rebecca said. “I said, ‘Are there any bones sticking out? But he said no. He’s just a little banged up.’”
The Rangely fire and ambulance departments responded to the accident. Jeff’s friend and the town fire chief, Andy Shaffer, had to convince his friend to go to the hospital.
“I got tickled at ol’ Andy Shaffer. He said I’ve always listened to you and you kept telling me, ‘Shaf, take me home. I’ll be all right.’ He said, ‘You’re going to listen to me for once. We’re going to take you up to the hospital.’ So he overruled me.”
Good thing, too.
“I had a punctured lung, so, yeah, the best place for me to go wouldn’t have been home, I imagine,” Jeff admitted.
After spending four days in the hospital in Grand Junction, Jeff was anxious to go home.
“I was ready to come home the second day,” Jeff said. “I don’t make a very good patient. Those people at St. Mary’s did a really good job and they’re awful nice people, but I’d just as soon go home and take care of myself.”
After Jeff was discharged from the hospital, his wife knew it would be hard to keep him at home, resting.
“That night (before), I went out and took all the keys out, because I knew he would try to go,” Rebecca said. “Sure enough, I see he’s walking to the truck. I said, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘Going to work.’ I watched him get in the truck, but there were no keys. He sat there for about 15 minutes and then went back into the house.
“It wiped him out, just going to the truck that first day (home from the hospital). It was too much,” Rebecca said.
Jeff stayed home from work “about a week or 10 days, I guess,” he said.
He’s improving every day, he said, but his injuries were numerous and will take time to heal.
“It broke me up so bad I have to go back to see the doctors this week (Friday) and they’re going to decide what they are going to do with me then,” he said. “I was tore up so bad, they didn’t know where to start.”
But Jeff is expected to make a full recovery.
“They said everything should heal, but it will just take time,” Rebecca said. “He’s very fortunate. Thank the good Lord he’s OK.”
Even though Jeff is on the mend, there will be more trips to see the doctor.
“They’re probably going to end up doing some work on my left arm,” Jeff said. “My left arm goes numb from the shoulder to my fingers, my right ear is deaf and the vision in my left eye is pretty poor. But most of my head injury stuff is coming back pretty good. My memory and speech are getting better, but with head injury stuff, they don’t know. The ribs and back injuries are coming back pretty good. God has always blessed me pretty good to heal.”
Jeff has another thing going for him.
“I’m a little stubborn and hard-headed, I guess,” he said.
Taking a moment to think about what he just said, Jeff added, “I guess it’s a good thing I’m a little hard-headed.”
• • • • •
A week from today and the Rio Blanco County Fair will be in full swing. This will be my third year covering the fair, and I must say, it has quickly become one of my favorite events.
The fair — always a highlight of the summer — is the last big event before the start of school. It is also the one true countywide event, bringing people together from both ends of the county.
With the fair getting ready to kick off, I decided to ask people who have been around the area a lot longer than me what they like most about this popular event.
Roxie Leischer: “When I was a kid, and even now, my favorite thing about the county fair is getting to reconnect with all of my old friends from Meeker. It’s like one giant county reunion.”
Dessa Watson: “The excitement that radiates off the kids and their families, the beautiful quilts, the tasty pies, getting a glimpse into the lives of our fellow Rio Blanco County members through their photographs and art, the amazing flowers and vegetables, the smiles on everyone’s faces, the kids as they turn in their general projects and show their livestock animals, and the smell of the barn, can’t beat that. The Saturday night tears on our 4-H’ers faces is pretty hard, but its part of the process and it’s great to get to watch them grow.”
J.H. Sheridan: “I really enjoy viewing the exhibits, both indoor and outdoor, from the residents of our county. There is so much talent in our county and it really is on display at the fair. The hard work, dedication, and effort that is put into these exhibits is truly amazing.
“The 4-H and FFA programs of this county are second to none and the projects/exhibits that are produced from these programs are first class. The knowledge that the participants gain from these programs is extremely beneficial.”
Renae Neilson: “Visiting with people, watching the youth show their animals that they have worked so very hard with, and looking at all the creative indoor entries.”
Kai Turner: “I was so impressed with my sister Hallie’s prize-winning chicken egg collection a few years ago. And the little kids trying to keep up with their pigs in the ring.”
Clint and Tera Shults: “We enjoy the livestock shows and the indoor exhibit competitions. The older girls have entered livestock projects since 2004, but they have cleaned house with their indoor entries since 1999, with Grandma Redd’s help, of course.”
Bonnie Long: “As far as my favorite thing about the fair, seeing friends and visiting, whether it’s Meeker friends you don’t see often or 4-H alumni kids who always find their way back to the arena. Hanging out with family and the sense of accomplishment you feel when it’s over or the excitement of the upcoming year. I hate change and losing graduating seniors is probably the hardest every year.”
Michelle Burke: “When it’s over? Ha! Kidding. I love the horse show, of course. It is so well run and organized. The volunteers really put a lot of time and effort into it and the kids do great and look like they’re having a wonderful time.”
• • • • •
Ballots for the Aug. 10 primary election were mailed July 19.
“As of Monday afternoon, we have 609 ballots returned (21.5 percent),” said Nancy Amick, county clerk. “We have issued approximately 2,840 (ballots) with the initial mailing and then some unaffiliated people have come in, affiliated, and requested a ballot.
“I would hope that we would receive at least 50-60 percent back … There is significant interest in this election, so that percentage should be a conservative figure.”
• • • • •
At a meeting last Thursday, the Rangely School Board approved hiring Berry Swenson as the new principal at Rangely Junior/Senior High, replacing Rob Winn, whose contract was not renewed after one year.
Also, the board last week approved Eric Hejl as the high school boys’ basketball coach, replacing Mark Skelton, who resigned but will continue as the athletic director, and approved Derek Stolworthy as the wrestling coach, replacing Jeff LeBleu, who retired from coaching.
• • • • •
Barry Williams, Rangely school superintendent, said there will be a forum at 7 p.m. Aug. 9 at the Rangely Junior/Senior High auditorium to offer more information to parents, teachers and anyone interested in the change to a four-day school week.
• • • • •
Tim Schultz, who was a Rio Blanco County commissioner in the early 1980s, has been elected as board chair of the Colorado Association of Funders (CAF), a statewide group representing a broad range of foundations, corporate giving programs and other groups that support nonprofit causes. Schultz was unanimously elected by the CAF board to succeed Irene Ibarra, effective Aug. 1.
Schultz has been president and executive director of the Boettcher Foundation, a foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life for Coloradans by investing in education, community services, health, and arts and culture. Schultz is also a former commissioner of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, former executive director of the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, the first chairman of the Colorado Economic Development Commission, and former president and chairman of the nonprofit Colorado Open Lands.
“The association has worked to establish itself as the voice of philanthropy in Colorado and I look forward to helping ensure that it can continue its good work,” said Schultz of his new role, which was announced July 21.
• • • • •
I attended last Friday’s summer entertainment series concert on the courthouse lawn in Meeker. The Methodist women were there auctioning off pies as a fundraiser for the church’s building fund. I bought an apple pie for $25 that had been baked by Bonnie Carden.
Oh, mama, it was worth every penny. That was just about the best apple pie I’ve ever had.
• • • • •
Walking in downtown Meeker on Monday, I ran into Dessa Watson and she asked me if I was walking with a limp.
“No, I don’t think so,” I said. “Unless I’m limping and I don’t even realize it. I have had this sciatic nerve problem and maybe I’m over compensating.”
“Or,” she said, “maybe it’s your swagger.”
I like that, I told Dessa. Having a swagger sounds a whole lot better than walking a limp.

Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may e-mail him at jeff@theheraldtimes.com.