Cowboy Counselor also struggles with loss of friend

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phjeffburkheadIn his line of work, Paul “Buckshot” Sheridan is accustomed to dealing with crisis situations.
But when Buckshot, a local psychotherapist, heard about longtime family friend Bren Sullivan, he found it difficult to separate the personal from the professional.
“It was probably the worst (case), just from a professional standpoint, because I couldn’t hold it together,” Buckshot said.
It was the Fourth of July, and Meeker’s annual Range Call celebration was in full swing. Bren spent the holiday morning at the parade with his classmates from the 1977 Meeker High School graduating class. Later that day he shot and killed himself, sending shock waves throughout the community. Family and friends packed Saint James Episcopal Church last Wednesday for his memorial service.
Buckshot remembers where he was when he heard the news.
“It was one of those JFK things, I’ll never forget where I was,” Buckshot said. “I was watching the rodeo (at the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds), I was off doing something by the chutes.”
Even though he is a licensed professional counselor, Buckshot is not the coat-and-tie type. As a rancher, he’s known as the Cowboy Counselor. He fits in with the western culture of the area.
But when he was asked to meet with the Sullivan family on the night of the Fourth and then a few days later with members of Meeker Fire and Rescue, Buckshot had a hard time controlling his emotions.
“That was really tough,” Buckshot said of meeting with the family. “I fell apart as much as they did. I just broke down.”
At the request of the fire and rescue’s board of directors, Buckshot was also asked to meet with town’s fire and emergency medical services personnel. Bren was one of their own, having been a fire and emergency medical services volunteer for many years.
“The board asked me to talk with his comrades at the fire department,” Buckshot said. “One of the new volunteers, his first call was with Bren and his second was for Bren. I was just a blubbering idiot.”
However, Buckshot’s show of emotions helped others to express their feelings.
“People out here sometimes have a hard time (displaying emotion),” Buckshot said. “Kris (Borchard, emergency medical services director), said I basically showed them how, by seeing this rough tough ex-wrestler and farmer who tends to fall apart at things like that. I guess I just led by example. I was one of ’em, you might say. It ended up being pretty powerful.”
Buckshot said many people in the West, especially men, have an independent streak and a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps mentality that can prevent them from reaching out and asking for help.
“It’s kind of an unspoken code, you don’t show your feelings,” Buckshot said. “It’s difficult for people (to ask for help). You make your own way. But I said, don’t be a Bren. Don’t not ask for help. It’s not necessarily a sign of weakness.”
Buckshot still has a hard time believing his friend is gone.
“Bren was really private,” Buckshot said. “Socialization was not his thing. He was very giving, maybe overly so. He seemed like one of the rocks, one of the tough ones in the community. But he had a hard time reaching out for his own needs. If he had just spoken up and said, ‘I need some help here.’ Knowing what I know now, I wish I had kept better tabs on him. Gosh, if we’d only known.”
A benefit spaghetti dinner for Shayne and Jennifer Armstrong will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at Saint Ignatius Parish Center, 109 S. Stanolind in Rangely.
Shayne, who was a delivery driver for the Herald Times and other newspapers, was seriously injured in a one-vehicle accident early in the morning of June 7 when he swerved to avoid hitting an elk on Highway 64. He was on his way to pick up newspapers.
“It’s a fundraiser for Shayne and Jolene,” said Jackie Fortunato of Rangely, one of the event’s organizers. “They don’t have any kind of insurance, so it’s been really hard on them.”
Shayne underwent surgeries in a Denver hospital for a dislocated ankle and dislocated hip. He returned home to Rangely about two weeks later.
“He’s doing great,” Jackie said. “I’m so excited he’s doing well. But it will be a good four to six months before he has good movement.
“Shayne got out of the house for the first time (Sunday), except for one time to go to the doctor,” Jackie said. “They stopped by our house. He’s got a walker. I think the hardest thing for him will be staying home all day, because he’s a go-getter. He’s having a little trouble sleeping at night, because he was used to being up in the middle of the night working, so he’s having to readjust his sleep patterns.”
There is no cost to attend the spaghetti dinner. Donations will be accepted.
“We just want everybody to put what they can in the kitty,” Jackie said.
A benefit motorcycle poker run was held Saturday for Toni Carroll Simmons of Meeker to help with her medical expenses. She is undergoing treatment for a rare form of hip cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma.
About 85 bikers participated in the poker run, with many of them buying multiple poker hands. The poker run started in Meeker and included stops in Rangely, Dinosaur, Maybell and Craig, before returning to Meeker and a cookout at the fairgrounds.
“I can’t believe it, the turnout of the sponsors. We couldn’t have done it without them,” said Kevyn Mack, one of the organizers. “The town just came together. For a small town, this is great. And for a girl who is so sweet. Her initials are TLC (Toni Lynn Carroll), for goodness’ sake.”
“Her dad did that on purpose,” said Toni’s mom, Lynn Carroll. “Tender loving care, that’s what he said.”
Toni left Monday for Denver, where she started radiation treatments.
“We’ll be in Denver for six weeks,” her mom Lynn said. “Toni and (husband) Brandon are going to put a camper at an RV park, so they have a home away from home.”
Toni has undergone several rounds of chemotherapy already.
“She has just finished seven rounds of chemo, I think. I lose track,” Lynn said. “She will be done (with treatments) in October or November.”
Lynn said her daughter recently received a good report from the doctor.
“She had a very good checkup,” Lynn said. “Her tumor (on her hip) shrunk about 65 percent, and the spots on her lung are gone. The chemo is nasty, just the side effects, but, you know, she’s doing pretty good.”
Andrea Harmon, vice president of the Range Call Committee, missed this year’s event because she was in the hospital. A public announcement wishing Andrea a speedy recovery was made prior to the start of the Fourth of July parade.
“That was the first one in 20 some years I’ve missed,” she said.
Andrea was transferred by helicopter to a hospital in Denver on July 1 because of an abscess.
“I always wanted a helicopter ride, but not like that,” said Andrea, who was in intensive care for two days. “(The infection) was in my blood. It was very scary. They did surgery to drain the abscess. I had to be on the high-powered IV. I’m still dealing with a lot of pain and drainage.”
While Andrea hated to miss the Range Call event, she’s grateful to everyone who covered for her in her absence.
“God bless Bob Ruckman, who came over and gave my dog her insulin shot every day,” Andrea said. “And Dave Cole from the chamber came over and watered all of my outside plants and grass. Kim Ekstrom and Debbie Jordan took over for me running the kitchen on the Fourth, as did the Lions Club. And everybody at social services (where Andrea works) is covering for me.”
Andrea has been touched by people’s kindness, but she’s anxious to go back to work.
“My dining room table looks like a florist’s shop,” she said. “But daytime TV is terrible. I’m still having some issues, but I’ll probably return to work next week.”
Jeff Madison, Rio Blanco County planning director, said the county’s master plan process is moving forward. The master plan will serve as a blueprint for county growth for the next 10 years and beyond.
“The consultants are in the process of doing the existing conditions background work and compiling the input from the various stakeholder meetings,” Jeff said. “Our office is updating the zoning maps to GIS format and refining the parcel maps.
“The next step for the public and the TAG (Technical Advisory Group) is visioning sessions, where the group looks at existing conditions and makes suggestions on what they would like the county to look like in the future,” Jeff said. “These are tentatively scheduled for July 31 and Aug. 1 in Rangely and for Aug. 21 and 22 in Meeker. More on these soon, as they are working on the official notices.”
There will be a free public screening of the movie “We Shall Remain — the Ute” at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 23 at the community room at the Meeker Recreation Center. The 28-minute film is a documentary produced by Utah Public Television, and part of it was filmed at last year’s first-ever Smoking River Pow Wow in Meeker.
“Many Meeker locals appear in the film,” said Lynn Lockwood of the powwow committee.
By the end of the year, Rio Blanco County administrative offices may well have a new home.
County offices will be relocated from the current administration building — east of Watt’s Ranch Market — to the Fairfield Center on the corner of Third and Main streets.
“The plan is that all of the offices in this building — the commissioners, myself, the county attorney, human resources, the planning department and building and zoning — will move into the Fairfield,” said County Administrator Pat Hooker.
The county owns the Fairfield Center, and room became available when the Meeker Public Library, which had been leasing space in the Fairfield, moved last year into the building next to the Fay Action Park.
The county received five bids Monday to remodel space at the Fairfield for office use.
“We hope to award a bid by the end of the month,” Hooker said, adding the county has $400,000 budgeted for the remodeling project. “As soon as we can award (the bid), then the architect can go through the final design, which would take four to six weeks, maximum. Then we’ll start construction right after that. Some of the site demolition (at the Fairfield) can start as soon as the bid is awarded.
“We hope to have the project completed by the end of the year,” Hooker said. “Our lease is up in March or April.”
Jerry Belland owns the building where county administrative offices have been located.
“It’s about the same amount of space, but we’ll be able to better utilize the space,” Hooker said. “Plus, we’ll be saving about $4,000 a month, since the county owns the building. That’s part of the objective.”
Talk about the cat is in the bag.
There have been reports of people live-trapping cats in Meeker and then releasing them upriver.
“I have heard something about that, and I’m not too happy about that,” said Lanita Parker, who along with Irene Kilbane, operates the Cat Coalition. “It’s sad. These cats are not wild. You can’t do that to people’s cats.”
Lanita said the Cat Coalition will help people trap cats and then have them spayed or neutered.
“What we do is trap ’em, we fix ’em, and then we release ’em back, but we fix ’em so they can’t produce more kittens,” Lanita said. “The cats we trap are wild. Or a lot of times somebody will have a cat and can’t afford to fix ’em, so we help ’em out.”
The Cat Coalition accepts donations through the Meeker Vet Clinic.
“Anything people want to donate, cash or food or whatever, we prefer they donate to the clinic and it goes right to our account,” Parker said.

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