What Scares Old People

Sam Sr. and Marguerite Henderson Family 1994

I know a man here in Colorado who used to have a good life. Then as he aged past sixty, and like the rest of us past sixty, became a little forgetful. Especially at the end of the day. But only once in awhile. He got confused about people’s names when he was tired, could not remember names right off. Had to stop and think a minute. Very frustrating. The bumbling cost him. He lost his freedom. Not overnight, but bit by bit.

Living at high altitude and having an aging brain is no fun. I know. I am over sixty and live at seven-thousand three-hundred feet. I have to stop and think to remember, and sometimes can’t. Lack of sufficient oxygen at high altitude causes the brain to not function as quickly and sharply as it does at sea level, where the oxygen is ample. In my Marine Corps days, I went through high altitude training, spent time in a hypobaric chamber experiencing the effects of hypoxia. Even an in-shape Marine starts forgetting and getting confused. So an old brain at seven-thousand plus feet altitude at the end of the day is not real sharp. And that is normal. Doesn’t make us crazy or inept, or require us to have the State of Colorado declare us diminished and take all we own and put us in a home. But that is what happens to some of us, if we don’t keep our guards up.

This fellow I mention who lost his freedom, and is today fighting for it back, made a few other mistakes. Just dumb decisions. He met a younger woman and had a baby with her, and then gave her about $70-thousand dollars. I would think that a man taking responsibility for a baby is the right thing to do, but that act was a strike against him. Next mistake: he filed his own taxes. He owned a lot of rental properties and other real estate investments, and his taxes were a complex issue. I file my own taxes too, but mine are much simpler. Yet, even the simple matter of filing a 1040 with Schedule C and Schedule F is really not recommended for the unschooled and inexperienced. I am pretty savvy of tax laws and processes, and still, I hire a CPA to review everything, just to keep me out of the jug. Audits are no problem for me, and I have solid, easy to follow records. However, this man I know did not. The Internal Revenue Service audited him and discovered a chain of mistakes that cost a good deal of money in back taxes owed, and penalties. IRS penalties are horrible, but what can you do?

The money to the girlfriend with the baby and the tax mistakes, nothing criminal just honest errors, were strike two and strike three.

Because this fellow had a now shaky hand when he signed a check, and because he forgot names or confused people’s names, and because of the girlfriend with the baby and the tax errors, the man’s family went to the Department of Human Services and told the Adult Abuse and Neglect case workers that this fellow over sixty was not capable any longer of taking care of himself, and needed an Elder Guardian assigned to him. For his own good.

Now, I have talked to this man, and I know him. He is about as sharp as I am, and on par with all my friends who are older than sixty years of age too.

So, the El Paso County Department of Human Services steps in and takes over the man’s life. They assign the man’s sibling as his guardian. This sibling has money, but no rich person ever has enough. Right? They close all of his rental properties and put them on the market for sale. They sell the properties at bargain prices, well under fair market value. They need to unload, and the Elder Care Unit of DHS does not have time to pussyfoot around. They even put the man’s own home on the market.

This fellow tries to fight back. He hires a lawyer, but cannot pay him. All his money has dried up and has been taken from him by DHS and the family.

They run him through the DHS Family Court, a judge that sits on all the DHS elder welfare cases and knows the case workers by first name. Very casual, and I regard very problematic. The fox is in the hen house, and nobody is really on the old guy’s side, except for a lawyer who isn’t getting paid unless he wins back the man’s freedom and rights to own and control his own life.

What is this old guy’s future? At best case, Assisted Living, paid for by his Social Security benefits and the proceeds of what he has built for himself in his lifetime. When that is used up, then he gets what the state will give him based on what Social Security benefits he warrants. Freedom lost.

So, what has happened to this man’s Constitutional Freedom? Well, he’s old. Due process of law and all the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights we as citizens are guaranteed by the US Constitution do not matter. He’s old. Declared by a Kangaroo Judge working in the DHS wing that he is not able to care for himself.

What scares me and should scare every person over sixty years of age is this: Some bureaucrat working in the Department of Human Services can one day simply decide that I am too feeble and too mentally unstable to be on my own. The state takes all that I own, sells it and puts me in a home. Incarcerates me against my will, defies my Rights to Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness. And my Crime is that I am old.

Due process is shot out the window because I have had all my money taken from me, and I cannot pay a lawyer. I am at the will of a judge that works for DHS full time. Yes, one sided.

This scares me to no end.

Several years ago, I sat with my brother at my mother’s doctor’s office, sitting at a conference table. They had ushered my mother to the waiting room, because this was a matter in which she had no say. The doctor meant well, he had his Elder Care nurse and a psychologist there. Also sitting at the table was the Case Worker from the El Paso County Department of Human Services. What they told my brother and me was that we had no choice. My mother had to go live, against her will, in an Assisted Living group home. In their opinions she required full time professional watching, because my brother and I nor any of our siblings were, in their opinions, capable of taking care of her.

My mother was old. She had no say in it.

Yes, she needed care and assistance. But that choice should have been her choice, not mine or my brother’s. Certainly not the State’s choice. However, it did not matter what I or my brother wanted, and certainly not what my mother wanted. The State made its decision and took over my mother’s life.

When my mother died, I stood at the foot of her bed. She struggled to breathe, and the doctor sedated her heavily. We watched her finally die, taking that last gasp. She was finally free. Able to be with my dad and my sister and others of our family. Her soul was now with God.

I thought of the several years she lived in that “home.” How she hated it. How she missed being surrounded by her family. We stood in prayer around her, and I thanked God for finally letting her again be free.

I told the attending physician that I would not die like that. No hoses or tubes or hospital incarceration for me. No sir! I told him that I intended to finish my life like Moses. I would take a walk with God, over the mountain, into a valley and God could take me home. I want to end my life standing up. Walking under my own power!

I got a warning about talking like that. The State, the El Paso County Department of Human Services would send an Elder Care case worker to get me. They just might decide that with me saying that I will end my life my own way, walking over the mountain with the Holy Spirit by my side, demonstrated that I suffered diminished capacity and required a guardian. To ensure I do not hurt myself, or take any walks over a cliff. After all, I am over sixty years of age, and today that is a crime.

I spent much of my adulthood putting my life at risk for America, supporting and defending the US Constitution against all enemies. The whole underpinning of the US Constitution is Freedom. Liberty!

Yet today, if you are old, you just may not have a say about your freedom. Your liberty is in the hands of a welfare case worker and his pal, the DHS judge.

Yes, that does scare me. That’s why I pack heat.

Oh, I probably should not have said that last part. Packing a gun and being old is definitely something that can get me locked up. Just for being over sixty and wanting to live on my own, a free man.

Killing Our Horses and Ourselves

I was lamenting the high cost of feeding and keeping horses this morning. Looking to sell some mares. Bring down my hay bill. With no rain for so long here in eastern El Paso County, Colorado, the pastures all but went dead. Might as well be the middle of winter. Nothing green. Everything dry and brick hard. Ugly. Then after half the world burned down in Colorado Springs, and all the land here turned brown and yellow, we finally have some rain. The rain may or may not bring back grass this summer. We wil keep praying.

So with hay here on the Colorado Front Range now at $0.18 cents a pound and rising, despite the harvest of new grass now coming in, (yes that is $360.00 per ton for hay that should be $90.00 per ton, or less than a nickel a pound), we have to cut the herd. We already cut our own groceries to allow for money to buy hay. We cannot live on air, and neither can the horses.

I called Doug Johnson, the man who trains, rides and competes in the PRCA on my AQHA registered tie-down calf roping stallion, Explosive Doc King, talking to him about selling some of these horses, and giving him first bid on the best ones. And that’s when Doug told me something that made me choke up and fill my eyes with tears. My heart is still aching. I know exactly how this man feels. I know his anguish. I know his love for his horses. I know his desperation too.

Here in El Paso County Colorado, the sheriff’s department cruises around the places where people own horses and look for thin and underfed horses. When they find some showing ribs, they warn the owners that they will be fined if they do not fatten up the horses. That’s why we, like many other horse ranchers, feed our horses while we, ourselves, will go hungry to do it.

A horse rancher, a good, God-fearing man and his wife, have done all they can to survive nearly 10 years of severe depression in the horse business. It used to be a good business, raising and selling high quality horses. But today, you can’t give away a lot of horses. In fact, my pastor, Dave Shumpert, at Cowboy Church of Peyton, had a man stop him in Falcon, while fueling the church carry-all van, and ask if he knew anyone who wanted horses, for free. The man was trying to give his herd away, and had no luck even giving away good horses.

So, this rancher and his wife are hanging on by their fingernails, unable to pay the astronomically high hay and feed prices, and are literally stuck with about 30 head of hungry horses to keep fed. Hay prices went up with the drouths, and the high cost of diesel, and the sale of hay and small grains to China, and the government dictating ethanol as a fuel. High prices for feed and hay are here to stay. With the bad economy, most people who used to buy horses quit buying them. Restrictive federal and state laws then drove the final nails in the coffin of the horse industry. So, today, only rich people and fools have horses. I’m a fool, hardly rich. And times have got awfully hard with a feed bill well over $1,000.00 per month.

This horse rancher I’m telling about has three times more horses than I do, so his feed bill is at least $3,000.00 per month. That’s just feed, not veterinary costs or the other expenses that also make keeping horses foolishly high.

The El Paso County Sheriff’s deputy in this horse rancher’s corner of eastern El Paso County stopped by their place and warned them that their horses are too thin. If they didn’t get the horses fattened up they will have to start paying fines. They could even be criminally charged for animal abuse. People who live in Colorado Springs and drive in the country now and then are upset at seeing a thin horse on a barren pasture. With no rain, pastures are barren and horses are thin. But that does not register. What does register in the well-meaning minds of the city people is that what they see appears to be animal abuse. They want that bum who committed this crime put in jail.

This horse rancher and his wife had raised most of their herd of thirty-odd horses from babies, born on their ranch. They hand raised the colts and trained them to ride. It used to be a good business until the federal laws were passed that killed the horse business in the USA. Now, horse ranchers struggle to survive. You can’t feed them and you can’t sell them unless you spend $2,000.00 training the horse that you end up selling for $750.00 to $1,000.00, if it is a good one. Many ranchers like this man have gone under.

This rancher and his wife, like most people who raise horses, love them a little too much. Horses have strong personalities, much like a pet dog, and are very smart animals, aware of who they are and who the people are. And like an elephant, a horse never forgets. They are very easy to love. And that is a problem.

That’s why this story is so heartbreaking. Unable to sell any horses, and unable to feed their horses because of high hay prices and no pastures because of the severe lack of rain we have had: Horses that they raised from babies. Horses that they fed what they could afford, and the people themselves did without food on their own table. Horses that these people sacrificed for, raised and loved. And facing fines and possible criminal charges. And they can’t even give away the horses. The man and his wife were left with only one option. They had to put down these animals that they love. At this point of final desperation, they have to kill their horses.

The rancher called Doug and asked him to dig a couple of trenches, deep enough to bury the horses. Doug took his heavy earth-moving equipment over to the man’s ranch and dug the long pits. Then while the good rancher went to work, Doug had to turn his back to it. He couldn’t watch. Nobody could. It’s just too hard to see.

First day the man managed to kill nine of his herd. Shot them in the head and Doug buried them. Next day, the man had eleven more lined up, ready to shoot between the eyes, one at a time. He shot the mother mare first. Then he shot the filly standing by her. Next, the three year old gelding that he had raised on a bottle and trained by hand. That’s when the man fell to his knees, unable to continue. Emotionally crushed. He could not do any more. The heartbreak was just too much.

Anyone who has horses should feel like crying too. It breaks my heart to think of it. It breaks my heart for the man and his wife.

People who live in the city and pass judgment on the horse world, making their couch-side demands while watching the PETA stories on TV, need to know the reality that today overwhelms most of us who raise and keep horses.

We who love and breed and raise and keep and train horses, hoping to sell some good ones for at least a reasonable price, maybe come close to break-even, regard these animals as among the most noble of all of God’s creatures. In the Book of Revelation in The New Testament of the Holy Bible, the Apostile John describes Jesus mounted on a white horse, and His Angels mounted on horses too. Yes, according to the Holy Bible, God’s Holy Word, horses are in Heaven.

Horses deserve our best. They give us their best. It is a terrible sin to mistreat them, or abuse them. Thus, in keeping with God’s ethic of the Good Shepherd, we give our horses our best. And sometimes it’s just not enough. So we are forced to do the most horrible thing we can imagine, and we kill our horses. Because we love them, and the laws and unknowing people who live in the city have no mercy for us.

Also deserving our best are the poor struggling horse ranchers who love their horses and find themselves forced into shooting them in the head. These people who love their horses also deserve our love too. They need our help! They do not want to kill the horses, but what else can they do? The law is the law, and people watching the TV news must feel satisfied. Meantime, the emotional damage the horse ranchers suffer from it will scar their souls for the rest of their lives.

We all love horses, but we also need to love the people tied to them too.