Bulldogging Boulders: What a Way to End the Year!

Fact: I love cattle. And people who also love cattle. And stock shows.

The Arizona National Livestock Show is held about the last week of each year. This year (2015), I was able to spend some time with amazing friends, and helped them execute the Livestock Skill-A-Thon contest again. Had a great turn out for that, and the rest of the stock show went well and was full of laughs, good people and great animals.

Wednesday night of that week I was helping my friends get stuff ready for the livestock judging (to be held the following day). I got a phone call that mom had been hurt, pretty seriously, and I needed to get to the hospital the next morning.

Here’s mom’s story and update, exactly as SHE typed it, because no one would be able to say it better than she would!

“For those of you that do not know…Details:

I was hurt at 11:30 am on Dec. 30, on a peak in SW New Mexico called Pratt Peak.

This peak is a tall, rough boulder strewn mountain with rims and rims of bluffs.  A good “cut” for lions and one that we make several times a year…the place I landed was tough to get to…

We were working our way off of the peak when several little things happened all at once and because of the snowy frozen ground, my “wreck” ensued!  A boulder that I had stepped up on to get on the “uphill” side of the mule broke away and rolled into the mule, hitting her legs and spooking her…I was only half way on and could not get off or on…was hung with my right foot in the stirrup and my mule stampeding straight off the mountainside, in the next 30 yards she stepped on my left calf, breaking my leg in two and slamming me to the ground where my right eye socket smacked a boulder fracturing my eye socket.  The mule went on to stop about 30 yards further down the mountain and my body flipped and spun and rolled another 15 yards.  In the flipping I saw that my left leg was facing the wrong way and I knew I could see the sun through a veil of blood.

Dad was there by my side within 15 seconds.  I was beyond panicked and told him my leg was broken…he knew, there was no doubt.

Without any hesitation, Dad knelt down, while our guest Rick cradled my upper body, and his wife, Heather knelt beside Warner, Dad took a hold of my leg and turned it around and set it miraculously to within 1/16 of an inch of perfection.  Both bones were broken in splinter-like shafts. Dad credits God and said it was the hardest thing he has ever done.  The surgeon was amazed and credits Dad with my recovery being drastically shortened.

Warner handed my leg to Heather and went to get a saw off his saddle and some electrician tape out of his saddle bags.  He cut four Sotol stalks approximately 14 inches long and came back and he and Heather proceeded to splint my leg in place.

Warner and Heather left me with Rick still holding me and they climbed to the crest of the ridge to get cell service and the “Animas Ground Crew”.

By 2 pm they had a search and rescue helicopter respond out of El Paso, but due to the rough terrain, they could not safely land and help us, and so they had to leave us.  At this point,  Lordsburg NM Border Patrol Station joined the rescue effort.  We knew we were in for a long haul, so our guest Rick built a fire to try to keep me warm.  Sotol plants burn even when covered with snow…a life saver (twice now)!

1 Waiting for rescue... med-avac had just done a fly-by and denied ability to land and rescue...too steep and rough.

SBPA Gerald “Jed” Hancock became a key player in the ground coordinating, working with the Hidalgo County Sheriff, Warren Walters, ordering any available BP agents to the scene by foot or horseback.

Over the next three hours, 9 of his agents rode and hiked into our location.

BPA Keith A. Zimmerman “Zimm”

BPA Jonathan Miller “Miller”

BPA Christopher S. Hart

BPA Nicholas Barton

BPA Angel Ruiz

BPA Carolyn L. Dwillis “Dawn”

BPA Jonathan L. Stewart

BPA Miguel Rueda

BPA Gamaliel V. Saucedo “Gama”

As they all arrived, each agent added something warm to the effort of keeping me warm…we had a fire but I was shaking uncontrollably from pain, cold and stress.  They were awesome and chatty and we tried to keep up a good sense of humor.  Most of the agents knew me from the years of our family trying to keep the peace and help in border security efforts in our corner of the US.

At almost sundown, a BP Helicopter from El Paso arrived in the area and found a safe landing zone about 175 yards up the mountain on the crest.

The two agents in the Helicopter were:

Air Interdiction Agent Marco A. Rodriguez (Pilot)

BPA Sean M. Coffey (Supplemental Aircrew Member-Observer)

They hiked down to the scene and arrived about the same time that Dad, who had ridden his mule to the valley floor (about a mile) to retrieve a mesh stretcher from Billy Darnell and Edward Elbrock, arrived back at the scene with the stretcher across the saddle in front of him on his mule!!

2 Warner arriving at sundown with a stretcher he had ridden a mile to get from Billy Darnell..JPG

They all went to work.  I had not had any pain meds at this point and would not for another hour or so.  The guys loaded me on the stretcher and strapped me down and keeping me bundled up, they proceeded to take turns hefting me up the slick, icy, snowy, boulder covered mountain in the dark.

Not one of them slipped or weakened and they all kept a close vigil on how I was doing.

Once we arrived at the helicopter the process of strapping the stretcher in behind the pilot seats and a continued concern for my comfort by all the agents and the two pilots was greatly appreciated.

Everyone cleared for take off and away we flew….15 minutes to Animas NM.


On the mountain…Dad, our guests, our six hounds and the mules, and the nine BP ground force rescuers started a long trek off the mountain in the dark, which for the horse patrol agents and Dad and our guests ended up being about a four mile ride.  BP and rancher vehicles picked up the foot soldiers about a mile off the mountain at the end of a little 4×4 jeep trail/road from the past.

5 The long ride out.  Warner, wearing my hat on his head, leading my mule and his tired hounds.  Tough man. Tough day.
Warner and the hounds at the base of the mountain, almost to the truck! Note that Warner is wearing Kelly’s hat on top of his own.

On the ground in Animas,

Air and Marine Pilot Marco Rodriguez and BPA Sean Coffey helped offload me to an ambulance, where I got some welcome meds and was prepped for a ride to UMC Banner Hospital at Tucson on Native Air.  The Native Air Crew were wonderful, professional and the flight was warm and smooth.

The next three days at UMC were the best…two great surgeons, Dr. Wild and Dr. Hurst, and a great trauma team and nursing staff.

Since then I have been at home with Kerry and Mackenzie and they have been great in the rehabilitation mode.


Thank God I was not hurt worse and an unsuspecting group of people came together to help Dad rescue me.  Dad turned 80 on January 10th.

The two guests Rick and Heather Knight are dear friends that were just along for the ride, he was a Marine in Vietnam, embedded in a tough place…and his wife is a petite rugged Australian.  They live in Colorado, he is a professor and she works for the Nature’s Conservancy.  They were undaunted that day.

Thanks to “The Animas Ground Crew”…Trisha and Edward Elbrock, Billy Darnell, Mary Moore and Ken Edington and Warren Walters for rescue and ground coordination efforts.

Thanks to Lordsburg NM Border Patrol Station for joining the rescue effort.

So with that recap and a heartfelt thank you for all the prayers, cards, flowers and well wishes, here’s where we stand: The surgeries went well and I am recovering at an awesome rate.  Face is great and learning to walk on my bionic leg.

Will say right up front that I will be riding that mule again.  It was a set of terrain circumstances that fell into place and no fault of the mules or mine.

So, here are several pictures of the afternoon and evening and now we all know the “rest of the story” is going to be a good ending.

Love and Thanks for everything!  Kelly”


Mackenzie here again… Whew! That was a close one! Thanks again to everyone for the well wishes, thoughts and prayers! We love ya.

Here’s to a safe, healthy, adventurous and fun 2016!

And, as always, here’s to good rains, great food, and healthy cattle,


2 Comments Add yours

  1. WOW….Thems some tough ranch people! Warner on his mule with that stretcher is a photo for the archives. Glad is turned out aok for mom. Best wishes to all of you.


  2. Donna Riley says:

    Thx so much for this update. I knew something was wrong when I saw Kelly having eye surgery on New Years! You are all wonderful people and I treasure the memory of Kelly taking me on a tour of Seths ranch before moving to MO. (Now on OK). I am blessed to know you. And Mackenzie you have grown into a beautiful young woman! Hugs and love to all. Donna Riley


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