Though there were candidates for the U.S. Senate and Texas Governor in the room, much of the buzz Wednesday night at Odessa Country Club was for one local man.
“Richard Abalos is here.”
Abalos, a longtime Odessa attorney and Odessa College trustee, made it to the Ector County Democratic Party’s Fourth Annual Local Heroes Banquet after being released from Medical Center Hospital Wednesday morning. He had been hospitalized since Oct. 3 when a horse fell on him.
“It’s nice to be here with all my friends and my family,” Abalos said before the event. “I expect to see a lot of my friends here, especially my good Democrat friends.”
Abalos said he was unconscious for six days, broke five ribs and lost a kidney after falling off a three-year-old filly. He joked that the accident never would have happened if he were riding his trusty 9-year-old palomino.
“The weird thing about it is I never felt any of it,” said Abalos, who appeared thinner and frail, but spirited.
Abalos said the Democrats had been planning to honor him and wife Delma Abalos, an Odessa College professor and former Ector County Independent School District trustee, for months before his accident. And there was no way he was going to miss it.
“It’s important to have celebrations like this to celebrate our party and celebrate our ideals,” he said.
Delma Abalos said her husband worked hard to get back to where he could attend the event.
“To be honest, in the beginning we weren’t sure he was going to make it, but he was convinced that he would,” she said. “He did a lot better than anyone expected him to do.”
John Wilkins, banquet chairman, said the presence of the Abalos family added to the event, which drew around 280 people.
“We never expected Richard to attend because of his accident, but we’re thrilled that he’s here, and we hope he continues to progress and get better every day,” Wilkins said.
Richard Abalos’ condition didn’t completely spare him from the barbs of attorney Mike Atkins, who served as master of ceremonies for the “roast and toast” event. Atkins said he went to give blood after hearing of his friend’s accident was asked by a nurse if he had paid to have sex in the past year.
“You know, that’s going to disqualify 90 percent of Richard’s friends,” he said.
Lorraine Perryman, like Atkins a former Odessa mayor, paid tribute to the Abalos family.
“They have given back handsomely to Odessa and Ector County and they have received handsomely from Odessa and Ector County as well,” she said as the crowd rose to give the family a standing ovation.
But Perryman wasn’t so kind to former Ector County District Attorney Jack Tidwell, the night’s primary honoree. She took a shot at Tidwell while describing Abalos’ accident.
“He finally knew what it was like to come face to face with a bigger horse’s ass than Jack Tidwell,” Perryman said.
Receiving posthumous tributes Wednesday were attorneys Ruff Ahders and Bert Smith, who both died earlier this year.
The event was attended by a number of local elected officials, most coming from the Republican Party like current District Attorney Bobby Bland, County Attorney Cindy Weir-Nutter and several judges. And Senate candidate John Sharp, a former statewide office holder, and gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman, noted musician, author and humorist, briefly addressed the audience.
“As a former chairman of the Railroad Commission, I lived in Midland-Odessa for four years,” Sharp said, exaggerating slightly. “As a result of that, you’ve got a lot of good friends, and Jack Tidwell is one of them.”
Sharp said he’s “quit trying to guess” about when current Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison will give up her seat to run for governor against incumbent Gov. Rick Perry, thus allowing the race to replace her in a special election to officially begin. And he’ll be OK even if she stays in the Senate.
“I got to meet a lot of old friends,” he said.