Drug abuse affects you and me

Soon after I moved to Rio Blanco County, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had done the right thing.
And it had nothing to do with the new job.
phjeffburkheadTwo weeks into things, I received a phone call informing me my son had overdosed and was being taken to the emergency room.
The news was mind-numbing. I felt angry, upset, confused, helpless, scared. All kinds of thoughts went through my head. Why did this happen? Did my move have anything to do with it? Should I stay, or should I go? Most of all, I wondered, would my son be OK?
I was in continual contact with my parents, with my oldest daughter and with my ex-wife, receiving regular updates about my son’s condition. I debated whether I should drive through the night and make the 14-hour trip back to Kansas. His mom was with him. She never left his side. My boss said if I needed to leave that, of course, I should do whatever I needed to do.
The news from the doctor was encouraging. My son was expected to make a full recovery, and my dad assured me he would let me know if there was any kind of change in his condition.
But Clay wasn’t out of the woods yet.
During the night, I slept fitfully. My thoughts kept turning to Clay and wondering how he was doing. Sometime in the early morning hours, my oldest daughter called in a panic. She was in the hospital room when Clay had a seizure, a reaction to the pills. He began to turn blue.
But, thank God, he came out of it. It wasn’t the last seizure he had. However, they became less severe.
A few days later, still groggy from the medication he was on, but sounding more like his old self, my son came home. The following month, my parents brought my son and my two youngest daughters out here for a visit. Hugging my son when I greeted him, I remember thinking, I don’t want to let go.
Last weekend, with the family’s permission, I took photographs at the funeral for Austin Stoner, who died of an overdose. Austin was 18. The same age as my son. Nearly 200 people attended the funeral. It was an emotional, heartbreaking and moving service. My heart went out to Austin’s family. While I can’t begin to know what Austin’s family must be going through, I couldn’t help but think, that could have been me grieving the loss of a son. Every parent’s worst fear is the loss of a child.
Later this month, I will return to Kansas for my son’s graduation from high school. When I see him, I’ll give him a big hug.
And I won’t want to let go.
My 8-month-old dog continues to surprise me. Like last week when she swallowed a rock.
She was in the front yard with me while I was talking on the phone, and I had already taken a piece of wood away from her, because I didn’t want her to get splinters. It was a windy evening, and a piece of Styrofoam blew into the yard. So I had to take that away from her. Then, I noticed she had something else in her mouth. When I bent down to take it away, I saw it was a shiny black rock. Crazy dog, I thought, and I took the rock out of her mouth.
But instead of throwing the rock out of her reach, I left it in the grass, figuring she would leave it alone. Dogs don’t eat rocks, right?
Next thing I knew, I heard this gulp. I looked for the rock, but I didn’t see it. I couldn’t believe it. My dog swallowed the rock.
This was not a small rock, either. It was a pretty good-sized rock.
I called the vet and said, “Please tell me I’m not the first person to call and say a dog swallowed a rock.”
The vet assured me I wasn’t.
Most of the time, the dog will pass the rock, the vet said. But, sometimes, the rock will get lodged in the stomach and has to be surgically removed. My concern for my dog suddenly turned to thoughts of a big vet bill.
I asked the vet if there was anything I should do in the meantime, and he told me things to watch for, like to make sure Layla was still eating, and she wasn’t throwing up, and she wasn’t constipated.
And to check her stools for the rock.
I’ve been checking, doc, and, so far, no rock. So, either it’s still in there, or I missed it. I’m hoping it’s the latter.
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Rumor has it an asparagus patch on land owned by John and Tawny Halandras could’ve belonged to Nathan Meeker and his wife.
“I don’t know how you would confirm that, but lots of people have said she was a big gardener, and it’s right where the homesite was,” Tawny Halandras said.
John and Tawny Halandras bought the land from Sam and Ginny Love in April 2004.
“Sam told us that (story) when we bought the ranch,” Tawny Halandras said. “He said it was Mrs. Meeker’s asparagus patch. Lots of people have said she was a big gardener.”
There’s a lot of history associated with that piece of land, off of Highway 64.
“Basically, where he (Nathan Meeker) was massacred is where the ranch is,” Tawny Halandras said. “There’s a pole down there that marks where the massacre occurred.”
The area is called Powell Park, named for a fur trapper who used to spend the winters here.
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A fundraiser is planned for Toni Simmons of Meeker, 21, who has a rare form of cancer. There will be a bingo benefit from 4-9 p.m. May 17 at the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds.
“All of the proceeds will be going to Toni,” said Kim Gould, one of the organizers.
A meeting will be held at 6:30 tonight at Mountain Valley Bank for anyone interested in helping with the fundraiser, which will include a hog roast and bake sale.
For information, call Gould at 878-4520, or at Mountain Valley Bank, 878-0103.
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County Clerk Nancy Amick reminds residents the FASTER bill — passed by the Legislature — will not only increase vehicle registration fees incrementally during the next three years, but, beginning June 1, vehicle owners will face a new late fee of $25 per month, or up to $100.
“I fear this will catch many citizens unaware,” Amick said. “This year we are seeing the most significant increases in motor vehicle fees since I’ve been in the clerk’s office (1984).”
The increased vehicle registration fee takes effect July 1.
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Both of the county’s high school baseball teams lost one-run games in district play last week in Grand Junction.
However, each team will have at least one player continuing his career next season at Colorado Northwestern Community College, playing for Coach Tom Cassera.
Tyler Matrisciano will follow in his father’s footsteps and play for CNCC. His dad, Meeker Coach Joel Matrisciano, is from Rangely and played baseball for the hometown Spartans. Joel said his son will pitch for CNCC, and maybe play some third base.
Rangely’s Roman Chavez won’t have far to go to play for the hometown Spartans. Chavez said he figures to play second base, shortstop or outfield.
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A friend in Kansas told me the Catholic church there announced that parishioners should avoid contact — such as holding hands or hugging — during the worship service because of concerns about the possible spread of the swine flu.
I understand taking precautions, but that seems pretty extreme.
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Neenan, the general contractor for the new Meeker Elementary School building project, has set up a camera on the north end of Starbuck Stadium. You can follow the progress of the project on the Internet by visiting http://oxblue.com/pro/open/neenan/meekerelementaryschool.
“We hope many will avail themselves of this opportunity,” said School Board President Mary Strang. “It’ll be especially meaningful when there are more visible signs of the new school taking shape.”
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Congratulations to the Rangely Library District on the remodeling of the building’s interior. The project is close to being completed. Members of the library’s board of directors are: Chris Brasfield, Vicki Douglas, Maggie Long, Mike Morgan and Sharon Ross.
And, as far as that overdue library book, thanks to Shery Jacob for returning it for me.
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While attending a recent track meet at Meeker High School, Jack Ball gave me a copy of the program and pointed out his uncle, Harold Ball, still holds the MHS record for the 200 dash with a time of 22.7. The record was set in 1945.
Now, that’s impressive.

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