Cow Chips 2022: Time to unveil the odds and ends of the past year’s interesting occurrences - Albuquerque Journal

Cow Chips 2022: Time to unveil the odds and ends of the past year’s interesting occurrences

Cathryn Cunningham/Albuquerque Journal

There were shouts, screams, tears, twinges of trepidation as the clock ticked from 2021 into 2022.

But that just might have been on the Sandia Peak Tram.

Like two Times Square balls that didn’t drop, a couple of tram cars carrying 21 people were left dangling over the Sandias for 15 hours after the cables tangled in a strong storm late New Year’s Eve night.

“There was a time when I thought I was going to die on the tram, which is a nightmare in itself,” recounted a passenger, one of the workers from the restaurant atop the crest.

Fear not, for first responders responded, rappelling the people to safety.

Was it a foreshadowing of what was in store for 2022?

Let’s find out, with the unveiling of the odds and ends of interesting occurrences that are the 2022 Cowchip Awards.

Mad Vax: Fury Road

A Rio Rancho woman was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after being accused of accosting another driver over his bumper sticker that read: “vaccinated.”

The man told police he was on a February drive when the woman started to honk at him and “yell obscenities regarding a bumper sticker he had.” He tried to wave her around, she followed him to a red light and threw a water bottle at his vehicle. Frightened, he said he accidentally backed into her and when he pulled into a parking lot to exchange insurance information she pulled a gun.

The woman told police she was scared — but not of catching COVID it would seem.

The charges were later dropped, and the woman sued the city of Albuquerque and two officers over the arrest, alleging police used false information to charge her.

Holy cow!

U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell showed a soft spot for some youngsters roaming southern New Mexico who may have been separated from their parents by the federal government.


The Republican congresswoman was actually sounding off on the U.S. Forest Service’s plans to pick off feral cows via helicopter in the Gila Wilderness, risking the possibility of leaving orphaned calves behind.

Is that a roll of bologna in your pants or are you happy to be crossing the border?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has a beef with people smuggling Mexican bologna into the U.S. — it’s apparently a big thing — but there’s more to the meat than meets the eye, potentially transferring diseases and all.

After an uptick of attempts in late February, the agency declared: “People will sometimes make light of these seizures but there is nothing funny about these failed smuggling attempts.”

‘I can’t poop in strange places

‘I can only poop in my home

‘It’s as though I’m watched by strange faces

‘It’s why I never roam’

A city of Albuquerque Senior Affairs Department worker whose duty it was to deliver pot pies to the home-bound was facing a disciplinary hearing after being spotted taking Christmas decorations from someone’s residence.

“(The employee) admitted to taking the decoration, figuring that it was ‘the season’ and put it in the city vehicle,” the Office of Inspector General report said of the December 2021 incident.

The employee then stopped at home for a bathroom break, because that’s where the worker goes for bathroom breaks: home.

Theater in the Round … house

New Mexico legislators packed a lot into 2022’s 30-day session — a lot of drama, that is.

Day 1: A proposal to keep the Senate’s pandemic mask mandate touched off the first tiff, with Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, among others, noting on Twitter the absence of universal masking.

“I guess this legislative session is starting like the last one — with a lack of respect,” said Republican Mark Moores of Albuquerque. “If we want to work together, stop being a teenage girl on Twitter.”

Day 30: Sen. William Sharer of Farmington ran out the final few hours of the session and killed Democrats’ voting legislation by droning on about such topics as San Juan River fly-fishing, baseball rules, Navajo Code Talkers and the celestial alignment of the sun and moon in a Senate floor speech.

House Speaker Brian Egolf, a Santa Fe Democrat, said the Republican made a mockery of the process.

“It’s a joke,” he said. “It’s sad, and he should be ashamed.”

No torching up in the forest — that goes for everyone

A year after renewing its order banning nudity, the Santa Fe National Forest sent out an April notice reminding residents that marijuana is “still illegal” on forest lands, despite the state allowing recreational users to spark it up. See, marijuana is a Schedule I drug under federal law and possession within forest boundaries is prohibited and users can be cited and fined.

But it turns out the ones who should have had their matches taken away were those in the U.S. Forest Service, which set northern New Mexico on fire — twice.

‘Tis better to have loved and lost than to have thrown a rock through the window of Independence High School

Back in March, a Rio Rancho man called police and told them he threw a rock through the front door window of the school “out of love.”

“When I asked him to clarify, he mentioned this ‘had been building up …’ as he met his first true love at the school ‘for the very first time,'” the officer wrote in the report.

He was charged with breaking and entering and criminal damage to property.

You are not free to pee about the cabin

A Southwest flight from Texas to California made an unscheduled landing in the Duke City in February after one of the passengers got up to use the lavatory — which was occupied — was told to wait by an attendant, and proceeded to urinate “in the corner of the aircraft.”

The move provided no relief, it appears, as the pee-petrator then became “hostile.”

Grounds for an uprising

Seasoned citizens of Albuquerque were poised to bust out their big-buttoned phones and blow up the City Hall switchboard after Tim Keller administration coffee bean counters suggested raising the cost of a cup of joe at senior centers by 20 cents as part of the fiscal 2023 budget. The move from 30 to 50 cents would have added a whole $6,000 to the city of Albuquerque’s billion dollar budget.

City Council youngster Pat Davis saw a potential blue-haired wave coming, maybe even a “nasty” one, and suggested the administration take up a collection elsewhere.

Senior Affairs knew enough not to roll out a new plan for burritos.

“I was not going to take on burritos — I promise you — because they’re one of the most popular things we offer your folks,” Senior Affairs Director Anna Sanchez said.

How sweet it is (to be trolled by you)

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in September helped celebrate the signing of the federal Inflation Reduction Act into law, accepting an invite to an afternoon of merrymaking and backslapping with other Dems at the White House.

As inflation limits who you can afford as entertainment, the event featured a performance by ’70s chart-topper James Taylor.

And that allowed Republican U.S. Rep. Yvette Herrell to cash in on Twitter with this: “While hardworking American families wish they ‘got a friend’ in the Oval Office, the White House throws itself a soft-rock party to celebrate 8.3% inflation.”

Wait! A Republican did win an election after all

Fresh off the touted Red Wave, which instead had the GOP waving goodbye to every statewide office as well as its only seat among the congressional delegation, some Republicans were calling on state party chairman Steve Pearce to resign or be replaced.

He was too busy to discuss such sentiment when contacted by the Journal, however, due in part to “Steve Pearce Day.”

Indeed, Hobbs Mayor Sam Cobb proclaimed Nov. 14 a day in honor of the Republican Party of New Mexico head and his service to the community, state and nation. Then, a few weeks later, the party’s central committee reelected Pearce to a third term.

The FBI said this gas can-carrying man robbed the Bank of the West east of Downtown on June 17, 2022. (Source: FBI)

Baseball, a gasoline can and two unconventional thieves

Authorities sent out some stranger-than-normal alerts in 2022. For instance …

In April, a guy must have balked at paying major league prices for suds and duds. He took the steal sign instead, climbing the wall at Isotopes Park, home of the Duke City’s AAA baseball team. “The suspect spent several hours inside the property and stole thousands of dollars’ worth of alcohol and Isotopes merchandise,” Crime Stoppers said.

In June — when AAA said the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas reached a record $4.831 in New Mexico — the FBI said a man carrying a gas can walked into a bank east of Downtown and robbed it.

The key to combating auto theft

The Albuquerque Police Department in April reminded residents that there’s a simple way to prevent your car from being stolen: remove your keys from it.

“The simple task of taking your keys with you whenever you leave the car could easily stop an auto theft offender from taking off in your vehicle,” Chief Harold Medina said in a department news release.

Think that’s dumb? Through mid-April alone, 268 vehicles reported stolen had keys left inside.

Message to our youth: The road of life is filled with twists and turns

A Rio Rancho driving school instructor was suspended from teaching for six months and told to undergo gender sensitivity training, anger management and a course on how to teach “in a more positive, conducive and professional environment” after multiple complaints.

In one instance — captured by audio apparently recorded by the student driver — the instructor can be heard telling the boy, “C’mon dude, you’re making mistakes after mistakes after mistakes.” The teen replies, “Yeah, this is my second time driving.”

Another adult wrote that her son had dreamed of this milestone.

“After completing his first behind the wheel instruction … I was met with an anxiety riddled child,” she said in her complaint. “The first words out of my son’s mouth was ‘That was the worst experience in my life, I don’t ever want to go through that again.'”

For his part, the instructor — who was also accused of rolling down the window to yell profanities at Trump supporters during one lesson — described himself as a loud military veteran who can be tough.

“Everybody has a different style of teaching,” he said.

Horse-and-buggy thinking

As Bernalillo County IT experts fielded a high-priority ticket, attempting to get a handle on a January cyberattack that pulled the plug on BernCo’s computers, County Clerk Linda Stover summed up the situation as only Stover can: “We all ride the same horse at Bernalillo County. Until that horse gets going, we’re all kind of at the hitching post.”

BernCo brouhaha

Back in October, Bernalillo County Commissioner Debbie O’Malley didn’t take kindly to political maneuverings to fast-track the appointment of someone to a vacant Senate seat without allowing for more applicants, noting the seat falls primarily within her district. She called the effort “extremely disrespectful and rude.”

Commissioner Charlene Pyskoty, however, had the support of two other commissioners, giving her sway on the five-member body.

“The meeting was over and Debbie stood up and said ‘You’re a bitch,’ to Pyskoty, and then Pyskoty didn’t respond,” said Commissioner Walt Benson, who was within earshot. “Then she said, ‘Did you hear me?’ And I think Pyskoty said, ‘Yes, ma’am, I did.'”

A back-and-forth between O’Malley and Pyskoty’s aide then ensued, with O’Malley described as if she were taking part in a UFC weigh-in.

“What are you going to do about it?” she allegedly told the male staffer. “Come up here! Come do something about it!”

The commission at a subsequent meeting passed a resolution reaffirming respectful communication, and O’Malley apologized for her earlier remarks.

“I don’t think it’s excusable behavior so I do want to apologize for that,” she’s quoted saying in one news report. “I’ve been witness to lot of conversations where people have used foul language … I don’t make a big deal about it because, if we did, my goodness.”

Get along, little dogie

Cowchips returnee Couy Griffin had his day in court in 2022 — two, in fact.

First, back in March, after a two-day bench trial, a federal judge convicted the Otero County commissioner of illegally entering restricted U.S. Capitol grounds, but acquitted him of engaging in disorderly conduct during the Jan. 6 riot.

Then, in August, the Cowboys for Trump founder mounted his defense in a civil lawsuit seeking his removal as a commissioner under the argument that he violated the 14th Amendment that prohibits officeholders sworn to uphold the constitution from engaging in an insurrection against the U.S. government.

Griffin represented himself against a team of lawyers and just before the trial started the state district judge in Santa Fe ruled against him on a motion to dismiss the case.

Griffin said his motion was “full of the law.”

The judge apparently thought Griffin’s defense was full of something, too, which is why his title is now ex-Otero County commissioner Couy Griffin.

Hannibal Lecter never saw COVID coming

The trial of Fabian Gonzales went all “Silence of the Lambs” after the defendant tested positive for COVID-19, necessitating he watch the August verdict from a small, adjacent room separated by Plexiglas — conjuring images of when Agent Clarice Starling first meets Dr. Hannibal Lecter in a similarly enclosed cell. “Closer, please. Clooooser.” Gulp!

You take the high road and I’ll take the four more years

As the smoke cleared on the 2022 gubernatorial race, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham couldn’t resist twisting the knife in her Republican opponent: meteorologist-turned-candidate Mark Ronchetti.

“Now, I want you to know if it seemed like we were taking a minute or two or 10, it’s because I was backstage checking the weather,” MLG told giddy supporters toward the start of her victory address. “As you know, talking about the weather isn’t my specialty, and I admit that. But does anyone want to hear tomorrow’s forecast? … All right, here we go: The weather forecast for New Mexico is ‘Four! More! Years!'”

A tale of Tim’s city

Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis asked for an investigation into something he simply described as “weird”: a city-funded book about how Mayor Tim Keller’s administration handled the pandemic and social unrest in 2020.

Keller is credited with the intro and his wife the foreword in the book that features 36 photos of “The Metal Mayor” — that’s the title to the chapter about hizzoner.

Here’s what the book was not, Lewis said: “objective” and “journalism.” But he did say it was “one-sided.”

“It doesn’t give the true picture of what happened to our city during that time,” Lewis said.

The Mayor’s Office authored its response: “At best, these comments are a disservice to the local leaders, writers, and creators who worked hard to capture the unprecedented and critical times in our city. At worst, it’s another attempt from a former mayoral candidate who has been deeply biased against anything this administration does.”

So what did your average reader have to say about the book?

Who knows? There’s nary a review on such sites as Amazon.

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