Opinion: ‘Afterbirth Ball’ makes a comeback thanks to Stranathan

Allan Jones remembers the days of the original Afterbirth Ball back in the 1970s.
He doesn’t know for sure when the event stopped, but there’s one thing he is sure about — it was a good time.
“I can’t tell you exactly what year it was started,” said Jones, a retired veterinarian. “Some of us vets decided, after calving season, we needed to have a party to get together all the ranchers. So we did. That’s kind of how it all got started.”
This year Sam Stranathan, who has a small ranch and haying operation on the Mesa, decided it was time to bring back the Afterbirth Ball.
The idea came to him, appropriately, during calving season.
“I was carrying a bucket of afterbirth out of the barn and I thought, you’re not going to go anyplace in the world and find an Afterbirth Ball, except in Meeker. It’s unique enough we should keep it,” he said.
So, Stranathan started making the rounds to drum up support to revive the Afterbirth Ball. Everywhere he went, people got on board.
One of those that immediately signed on was the Meeker Chamber of Commerce.
“We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback,” said Ellene Meece, membership director for the chamber. The chamber is helping to sponsor the event along with energy companies EnCana, Enterprise, Mesa, Whiting and Williams, and the Meeker Lions Club.
Stranathan has been pleased with the overwhelmingly positive response to reviving the Afterbirth Ball.
“They’ve just been totally supportive of this,” said Stranathan, who is quick to deflect any credit.
“I’m just kind of regenerating the event,” he said. “The goal is to direct attention to the ranchers and animal husbandry people. I want to bring attention to agriculture in Rio Blanco County and recognize the accomplishments of the ranchers.”
To Stranathan, the historical importance and economic impact of the agricultural community sometimes is taken for granted.
“The ranchers support almost all of the businesses in Rio Blanco County,” Stranathan said. “I just think it kind of gets overlooked. The ranchers have sort of taken a backseat. This is an opportunity to recognize ranching and the value it has to our county and our society.”
Stranathan, who came to Meeker in 1977 — he is the former manager of the Upper Colorado Environmental Plant Center — attended the last two years of the Afterbirth Ball.
“Before, it was, ‘We’ve finished with calving, let’s go have a party.’ And now it’s more than that,” Stranathan said of the original Afterbirth Balls. “They used to be strictly a dance. All of the ranchers had been out there taking care of cows and doing all the things they do. So, they all needed a break.”
The lineup for the new Afterbirth Ball will include the band Mainline, with Tom Allen, Jim Ayres, David Main and Brett Smithers, as well as cowboy poet Chuck Larsen from Saratoga, Wyo. There will also be an art and photography contest. The contest includes three categories dealing with farm and ranch animals.
The Afterbirth Ball will start at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Fairfield Center in Meeker. There is no admission charge, thanks to the donations of the sponsors.
“It’s open to everybody,” Stranathan said.

Allan Jones, who sold his partnership in The Vet Clinic to Paul Neilson in the late 1980s, is glad the Afterbirth Ball is making a comeback.
“I think it’s great,” he said. “It’s probably been 20 years since we’ve had it. I don’t know why we quit it. I guess most of us were getting older. Hopefully it will catch on with the younger guys. I think it would be good for them, just to get together and have a good time.”
Even though he is retired from The Vet Clinic, Jones is still involved in ranching. He runs a cow-calf operation on the Winslett Ranch, which has been in his wife Jeanne’s family since the mid 1930s.
“I thoroughly enjoy calving season,” Jones said. “There are a lot of long nights and I’m glad when it’s over, but I just love seeing life, seeing those little calves play. I enjoyed it as a veterinarian, too.
“I think you have to be that way, or none of us would be in the business,” Jones said. “I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like calving season. That’s why you’re here. You want to make money, but they (ranchers) enjoy that part of it (calving season). That’s their livelihood.”

Mary Strang, who has continued the Hereford and Black Angus purebred operation she used to run with her late husband, Bart, also likes the idea of the Afterbirth Ball.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “I hope it gets off the ground.”
Strang remembers the early days of the event.
“The vets and some of us, that’s how it all got started,” she said. “I just remember we had some good times. Everyone was tired after calving or lambing season, and it was a good excuse to get together and enjoy one another. We used to have a big supper out at our house beforehand. There was no fanfare. Anybody and everybody was welcome.”
The event was a way to celebrate what is one of the most important periods in the cycle of ranching.
“We’d all gotten through the season, so it was like let’s kick up our heels and have a good time,” Strang said.
Like Allan Jones, Strang said there’s something almost sacred about calving season.
“It’s the whole cycle of life, it’s a miracle,” she said. “That’s our instinct, to keep things alive. It can all be depressing, if things go wrong. But you come through it and you go on. It’s just the nature of the business. We’re proverbial optimists. We hope the sun will warm things up and the green grass will come and we’ll be happy.”

The Afterbirth Ball wasn’t the only local event with a unique name. Allan Jones said there used to be a golf tournament called the Malpractice Open.
“That had all the doctors, dentists, vets, lawyers. We all got together and played golf,” Jones said.
There was also another unique name associated with the Afterbirth Ball.
“I can remember we even started the dance with what we called the Placenta Polka,” Jones said.

Dottie Stoner, who talked at an assembly April 20 at Rangely Junior/Senior High School about the death of her step-son Austin Stoner, knows her message doesn’t win her any friends in some circles.
“I know there are some parents out there who are popular, because they are willing to buy them alcohol and give them prescription pills, but they don’t care what happens to them,” Dottie said.
Austin Stoner was 18 when he died April 19, 2009, from an overdose of alcohol and morphine.
“I’m almost positive he got those prescriptions from an adult, but I can’t prove that,” Dottie Stoner said.
Talking about Austin’s death, even a year later, was an emotional experience, Dottie said.
“It was difficult to go to school that day, but someone needs to keep talking about it,” Dottie said. “Some people are like, why waste time on a kid who wasted his life? But hopefully something good will come out of it, to warn other kids what can happen.”
Dottie Stoner said it is still hard to believe Austin is gone.
“Each day, I think he will call and really be alive,” Dottie said. “That sounds crazy, but I want to believe he secretly is alive somewhere and the phone will ring any minute with his voice on the other end.”

Rosalind Dillon, an alumna of Rangely High School, leaves Friday for a two-month mission to help some villages in Nepal with a water project. She has also spent time in Guatemala building orphanages.
Roz was the Rangely High School valedictorian her senior year. She is a now a pre-med student at Colorado University. Her education has been funded, in part, through local scholarships.
“I thought perhaps the local folks would like to hear how much their help meant to her success,” said her father, Jim Dillon.

Kari Jo Stevens, dance instructor for the Meeker Recreation District, celebrated 10 years of “Encore” performances on May 9.
“Kari Jo is one of those people that lights up the room when she enters it,” said Scott Pierson, director of the recreation district. “People of all ages just love her bright smile and cheery personality. She is definitely a wonderful instructor and makes the dance program a tremendous success.”

Kurt and Jackie Pozorski returned last Sunday night with their daughter Kacey, 4, after spending six days at Disney World as part of a Make a Wish Foundation trip.
Kacey has a rare brain tumor that is inoperable.
“It was a lot of fun,” Jackie Pozorski said.
The Pozorskis stayed at the Give the Kids the World resort.
“It’s like a village. It was an amazing place … there’s an ice cream parlor, an arcade, a carousel and it was all free to all of the families staying there,” Jackie said.
Kacey was also able to dress up as a Disney character for a photo shoot. She chose to be Snow White.
“She had a blast … some of the looks on her face were so priceless,” Jackie said.

Kris Borchard, director of Meeker’s Emergency Medical Services, recently underwent her first round of chemotherapy treatments for pancreatic cancer in Denver.
“She’s feeling fatigued, but other than that she’s doing well,” said Kris’ husband, Kent, who is the attorney for Rio Blanco County.
The Borchards left Meeker on Monday to drive to Houston.
“We going to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center,” Ken said. “They’ll review all of the studies that have been done (on Kris) and tell us whether we should keep doing what we’re doing, or do something different.”
Kris is scheduled to return to Denver for her next round of treatments May 28.
“That’s when she’s currently scheduled to go back, but that may change, depending on what they determine (at the Anderso­­n Cancer Center) is best.”
Steve Allen, Meeker fire chief, who works closely with Kris Borchard, said she has spent time in the office and will continue to work around her treatments.
“At this point, she’s going to try to keep up on the major stuff,” Allen said. “She’s been there off and on. They’re leaving it up to her. It would be tough to replace her.”