In this series of articles, it’s been my objective to document the stories of those individuals who have contributed in a significant way to the development of the SFTR, and there are few who have given as much of themselves to this end as Michelle Minion.
All who live on the ranch either know of Michelle and her contributions to the Emergency Services and Water Committees, or are good friends and know her as the deeply caring person that she is. Michelle and I came to the SFTR close to the same time, and were, in fact, close neighbors for a short period. Later, I was to choose Michelle as my health care provider, and she has made a pretty good living by just removing stitches from my body every time I have surgery of some sort or other.
Michelle is a Colorado native, born in Delta, CO in September 1953. Her parents lived in Grand Junction and that’s where she grew up. Her father was an elementary school teacher and her mother was a nurse. Michelle was second in line of four girls, Trulie, Betty, (who now has the Novakowski’s house with husband Jerry), and Donna. Michelle says her father was a great one for teaching his daughters all kinds of useful things such as hunting skills and sports. So Michelle grew up with a deep love and respect for the environment and outdoor activities.
Michelle got steered toward the medical profession at an early age. At sixteen, she became a nurse’s aide, and her mom was the one who made her aware of the Physician’s Assistant Program in 1974. She was accepted to a four year program in West Virginia in 1975, and when she finished, she interned in Washington D.C., where she stayed on to form an emergency group with a bunch of young doctors and nurses in the 80’s.
She says she became a real “adrenalin junkie” working lots of fast paced days full of gun shot and knife wound victims. She got to do a lot of medical procedures that many medical professionals will never get to see, such as inserting chest tubes, intubations, and lots and lots of trauma. “Some days”, Michelle says, “my hands would be cramped form long days of stitching up people.”
In the beginning, says Michelle, she had lofty ideas of making a difference in the lives of these inner city people she had come to help. After following the life of one girl from age two to the time this girl came in pregnant at sixteen with a gunshot boy friend, Michelle finally arrived at the realization that she was up against an ailing social system that these people were caught up in, and that all she was going to be able to do was “put a band-aid on the problem.”
Around this time her youngest sister Donna died suddenly in an awful automobile crash. She had been a veterinarian for three years and was just getting started on her career of “saving puppies”, when her young and promising life was snuffed out by a drunk driver. Donna’s death hit Michelle hard and ultimately caused her to reassess her own life and what she wanted.
Two and a half years later, in 1995, Michelle decided it was time to get out of D.C. She answered an ad in medical journal advertising for a Physician’s Assistant in Trinidad. Dr. Robert Carlisle had just sold his practice to Caring Unlimited and they hired Michelle to work as his assistant in the new business. Ironically, just two years later, Michelle and Dr. Carlisle bought back the practice and went into business for themselves. (Since the original publishing of this article, Michelle has severed her business relationship with Dr. Carlisle.)
I asked Michelle if she’d ever been married. She responded, “Luckily, no. I came close a couple of times but each time he sobered up and escaped before I could get him to a Justice.” So how did she end up on the ranch? Like most of us, she had a dream of a log cabin in the mountains. She looked all over Trinidad, but the trees weren’t big enough or enough of them. Her realtor found that John Raye held a listing for a log cabin on the SFTR. It was one of Jerry Reinan’s spec homes, and Michelle says it was everything she imagined except for a river running through it.
Even though Michelle didn’t have to go through the agony of actually building a home on the SFTR, she didn’t escape the grief. Three months after she moved in, the front porch and back deck began to separate from the house. Come to find out, the house had never received a certificate of occupancy. That was only the beginning. She soon found out that the electrical system was all screwed up and the septic system was installed with an illegal cork screw, French drain pipe leach field under the driveway which, not surprisingly, quit working. All is well now, but not until Michelle had a full and complete indoctrination dealing with contractors and the local judicial system.
Michelle had been going to POA board meetings and showing a lot of concern for what was happening on the ranch. Will Potter had just taken over leadership from Ted Novakowski when Tom Stephens suggested to Michelle that she should run for a seat on the board of directors. She figured that since she now had a nine-to-five job, she would be able to donate the time to it.
The accomplishment she’s most proud of during her time on the board is persuading the Water Committee to install the new water/phone system down the roadways rather than destroying the vegetative habitat alongside as was initially being considered. Another major accomplishment was to organize the ranch-wide first aid stations with medical packs containing oxygen where anyone can go to get help for medical emergencies.
Michelle served the POA in the capacity of secretary, taking over for Bev Todd who previously held the position. Michelle, however, was the first to write up our own minutes of POA board meetings, as opposed to having the developer’s secretary do them. Just one quarter short of finishing her three-year term on the board, Michelle decided she needed to resign. She was suffering from terminal frustration trying to get the board to follow the rules governing how and when meetings could be held. It was also frustrating for her to try to work on committees where little or no attempt was made to meet at times when all members could attend. She also feels that communication was and still is a problem with our governing body. Apathy among the membership is another big problem we seem to have, says Michelle.
The reality of this hit when at the annual picnic following her resignation, property owners came up to her asking if she’d be running for a second term. “People seem content to just let a few people ‘take care of things’ on the ranch, and beyond that, they couldn’t care less about what is going on.”
I asked Michelle what advice she might have for other women who are considering serving on the board. She states, ”You have to be strong. You may be facing challenges of stereotyping and just being heard. Be prepared to be ignored and minimized.” She feels that the board is still lacking respect for the individual. Well, things can change, maybe not overnight, but one person at a time can make their mark.
-- by Carol Rawle, April 2000