||February 9, 2006
by lyle e
Baxter Black: Cowboy, Cowboy Poet, Veterinarian,
Practitioner of the Ancient Art of Wordsmithery
by lyle e. davis
are those rare individuals who can skillfully blend these words, sentences,
paragraphs, stanzas, in such a manner that they can bring forth a smile, a
chuckle, a tear, or a recognition of truth.
Meet Baxter Black.
Cowboy, Cowboy Poet,
re-known practitioner of the Ancient Art of Wordsmithery, Veterinarian, husband,
father, neat person.
For years Baxter Black
has been recognized as the top Cowboy Poet of America. In heavy demand as a
speaker, he travels the United States and Canada, speaking to sold out houses as
he regales them with his sometimes off-beat, sometimes poignant, always moving
cowboy poetry. Throughout, it is clear that he has a keen grasp of the people,
of the circumstances that make up the often rough and tumble life of the cowboy,
the rancher, the country folk of this world. Whether his audience is comprised
of weatherbeaten cowboys and their kith and kin, or of the ‘sophisticated’ horse
set (called equestrians, in some quarters), all are fascinated with the way
Baxter Black captures their innermost feelings as he spins a tale in poetry.
There are many examples
of the Baxter Black touch.
Lice! The biting kind.
You see ‘em everywhere!
They’re thick as thieves
on cattle’s backs and crawlin’ in their hair!
And ticks the size of
Toostie Pops transfuse a cow a day!
And two can pack a
yearlin’ off or pull a one-horse sleigh!
A team of scabies mites
can slick a pen of weaners clean
And make you wish you’d
never heard of two-dip quarantine!
But sheep don’t get off
eaiser, there’s nasal bots and keds
Plus maggots from a
screwworm strike that every herder dreads.
There’s deer flies, blow
flies, horn flies, house, face flies, horse flies, warbles.
hookworms, lungworms, tapes. Nasty, horrid, horribles!
As if them buggers ain’t
enough, row croppin’ can be worse!
It’s hard to make a
cotton crop if bollworms get there first!
And if you think I’m
blowin’ smoke try growin’ grapes or pears
When aphids, thrips and
nematodes all take their rightful shares.
They took ol’ Noah at his
word, “Go forth and multiply!”
But man has stepped into
the breach and raised the battle cry!
We’re fighting back with
pesticides, with dips and sprays and dust.
With tags and bags and
fogging guns, “Insecticides or Bust!”
We applicate them airily,
we mix it from a sack,
We give it in a shot nowdays or pour it down their back.
We hire consultants left and right to give us sound advice
So we can fight this pestilence of worms and flies and lice.
We tell ourselves God gave us brains to halt their ill effect
And, though He made all living things He gave us intellect.
So, how come we can’t beat these bugs? Methinks we’ve too much pride.
Though God made us, remember He ain’t always on our side.
Great stuff. But poetry doesn’t always have to be in rhyme. Black captures the
mood, describes the scenery, in words with which we can all relate. And he does
it in prose every bit as well as with his rhyming poetry:
Corn Country Landscape
Corn country landscape - painted late summer - high clouds, heavy with moisture
waiting for afternoon to thicken and darken and start raising Cain.
You can see for miles. Brown, green, yellow patchwork pieces of a giant jigsaw
puzzle. Feedlots in the distance, their pens spread out like dark blankets on
the side of a hill.
On the horizon to the north and south I can count three spray planes circling
over the corn like buzzards. They are so far away I cannot hear them.
Closer I can see circle sprinkler lines leapfrogging over the tops of corn rows
taller than a pickup and thick as pile carpeting. The stalks stand straight and
They remind me of a crowd waiting to hear the Pope. An orderly group. Corn is
The fields of sunflowers are less organized. They are Wood-stockers, jostling
and stretching to get a glimpse of the morning’s performer.
Suddenly I pass a farmstead. Acres of lawn with a butchhaircut from the side of
the road to the first row of corn. Who mows all this, I ask. A windbreak. Deep
green paint by number rows of pine trees and junipers, beautiful, yet somehow
out of place.
A fresh tilled field pushes within a few feet of the road. It smells strong,
heavy on my lungs. On this humid morning it reminds me of chocolate cake.
I drop into a creek bottom. Cows of all colors lay like mixed nuts spilled on a
green carpet. Bleached round bales hunker along the fence row like melting
clumps of sticky candy. I follow the pretty three-line power poles festooned
with mushroom-like insulators. Proud they are in their orderliness, functional
yet outdated. The DC3’s of corn country leading me back up.
Two giant 8 wheel jointed tractors sit visiting with each other in a quarter
section field laying fallow. Resting? I don’t know, maybe just waiting.
More cornfield city blocks. Each row seems to have its seed company sign out
front like a mailbox. Mr. Garst, Mr. Pioneer, Mr. Producers, Mr. DeKalb, Mr.
Corn Tates, Mr. ICI.
The next town comes into view. A water tower and grain elevator.
The implement dealer has his monsters on display along Main Street. Like
elephants in the circus standing side by side, one foot on the stool, one in the
air, trunk raised. Lesser implements parked beyond like resting butterflies,
I turn left at the one stoplight. Coffee time.
These selections are from Black’s newest book, “A Cowful of Cowboy Poetry,” a
book that has been said to be mostly humorous, occasionally political and
Baxter Black can shoe a horse, string a bob wire fence and play country music on
his flat top guitar.
was raised in New Mexico, now he lives in Arizona. Since 1982 he has been
rhyming his way into the national spotlight and is generally conceded to be the
best selling cowboy poet in the world. He’s written 12 books, achieved notoriety
as a syndicated columnist and radio commentator. He’s appeared on The Tonight
Show and PBS to NPR and the NFR.
Black still doesn’t own a television, fax machine or cell phone. He continues to
focus on the day-to-day ups and downs of everyday people who live with livestock
and work the land. Invariably, when people who work the land and its animals
listen to Blacks poems, they shake their heads and say . . . “yep. . .he’s got
have quite a country poet in our midst. She’s Mary Glenn Adams, living in Poway
with her husband, Gene. She’s from the Deep South, a self-described
Yonder is her first book of poetry . . . and it’s got some winners. Witness:
Grandma and the Manure
The old cowboy sat by the fire
And spat a stream of juice.
With all his stiffness, aches and pains,
At times thought, “What’s the use?”
Just then his youngest grandson
Came in all flushed from play;
Asking if he was yeat a man,
Could this be his day?
Cousin Bill said he’d be a man
And he would know for sure,
When Granpa told the story ‘bout
Grandma in the manure.
The old man then smiled up at him,
Told him to sit a spell.
Told him to listen like a man
To the story he would tell.
He said as they were leaving church
On that their wedding day;
His bride stood in the buggy
To throw out her bouquet.
She aimed it at her sister there
With much force to be sure.
Instead she tumbled backward to
A pile of fresh manure.
The crowd around them gasped out loud
And had a laughing fit.
Then the bride, she got religion,
And yelled, “Oh, holy s**t!”
I thought it quite unwise to laugh,
And tried to hold my mirth.
I gasped and choked and sputtered,
Then laughed for all my worth.
Up from her fragrant cushion came
A look to give me fright.
She said to hold the laughter if
I wanted a wedding night.
I held my breath and darn near died,
Turned blue up to my ears.
I guess I learned my lesson well, been hitched nigh’ fifty years.
This all must be a secret now,
Just between us guys,
Cause if Grandma hears I told it
Will be my fur that flies.
There are a number of others, all good. Due to a lack of space we won’t be able
to carry more of her work in this issue, but we intend on running more in the
future. Meantime, if you’d like a copy of her book, at $11.95, you can order
directly from her at:
Baxter Black’s “A Cowful of Cowboy Poetry,” a book that has been said to be
mostly humorous, occasionally political and accidentally informative, is
available at $24.95 plus $3.00 postage. It should be available at your local
bookstore but if not, call his office at 1-800-654 2550, or you can order
through the website at www.baxterblack.com.