I first met Lana Slaten the summer of 1988. I had just graduated from Auburn and was practicing at East Point Veterinary Hospital in Cullman. Dr. Terry Slaten (now Associate State Veterinarian) and his wife, Lana, had moved back to Cullman from West Point, MS. Dr. Slaten began practicing with Dr. Steve Murphree at Cullman Veterinary Hospital.
Dr. Scott White was a classmate of mine at Auburn and one of my closest friends. He was also a mutual friend of the Slatens and he suggested I might strike up a friendship with them since we had several things in common. One thing we had in common was that Terry and his wife had been part of the East Point Veterinary Hospital family before moving to Mississippi. I can’t say it’s true for every veterinary practice, but Dr. Tom Williamson and Dr. Tommy Little had a way of making everyone who ever worked for them feel like family. And when you moved on to somewhere else and came back, it was always like going to visit family. But that’s another column for another day.
The Slatens and I struck up a close friendship, and in October of 1988, Patti and I were married. After that, many of the weekends Patti and I spent in Cullman were shared with the Slatens. I went on after-hours farm calls with him. We spent a lot of time watching rented movies. Terry and I even went on a binge of eating prunes for a while because someone told me that if you eat prunes every day, when you die, they will have to take your heart out and make it stop beating because it will be so healthy. I guess we’ll never know if that’s true or not because our prune eating days didn’t last very long.
The one thing I remember about Lana is that she always enjoyed helping Terry with the cattle aspect of practice. From helping put on producer meetings to helping deliver calves, she enjoyed spending time away from her real job (the one that actually paid) helping with the cattle stuff. Her real job, by the way, was and continues to be registered nursing. I am thankful, at least some, she is a nurse because she was working in the emergency room the night I had my kidney stone. When you are experiencing the type of pain a kidney stone inflicts, it is a comfort to know the nurse who is taking care of you.
Back in the summer of 1988 and beyond, Terry and I would talk about our careers in veterinary medicine and where we planned to be years down the road. I would have never, in my wildest dreams, figured 22 years down the road he and I would both be working for the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries with offices only a few feet apart.
Anyway, the job situations have kept our families close over the years. And, over those years, I have known Lana to be active in the Cullman County Cattlewomen, the Alabama Cattlewomen and now she is president of the American National Cattlewomen.
I should have seen it coming when, while visiting them a few years ago, they were raising a baby calf in their basement. The mother wouldn’t have anything to do with the calf, so it lived with the Slatens for several weeks — first in the basement, then in the dog pen. When it was finally moved back to the pasture, it didn’t have any idea what a cow was.
At the induction ceremony during the 2010 annual convention of the NCBA in San Antonio, TX, Lana was elected the 59th president of the American National Cattle Women (ANCW). With that, Lana became the first woman from Alabama to ever be elected president of the association. Lana has served the beef industry and promoted cattlewomen in many ways including leading the Alabama Cattle Women as their president. Also, in 1996, Lana was the ANCW Region II Director.
When Lana was President of the Alabama Cattlewomen, she invited me to speak to the membership about issues the State Veterinarian faces. I was made an Honorary Cattlewoman, a distinction I do not take lightly. When Lana was Region II Director for the ANCW, I went to Chattanooga, TN, and presented what it was like to deal with a case of BSE. I also assisted in getting a "Food Safety" section put in the 50th Anniversary Edition of the Alabama Cattlewomen’s Cookbook.
It has been my experience women like Lana Slaten, who make up these organizations on the local, state and national level, are not only passionate about the beef industry, but are also eager to learn the facts about issues the industry faces. It’s just an observation, but when I have made presentations to cattlewomen, they listened closely, asked great questions and were really appreciative of my time. My hat is off to everyone who puts their money and time to work to play some role in feeding the world. And to my long time friend, Lana — Madam President, I know the ANCW is in good hands with you at the helm.
Now, if you will excuse me, I think I will have a glass of cranberry juice and eat a few prunes…..maybe the prunes later.